Gerontological Research

For so long I’ve had my heart set on working in the mental health field and working with patients suffering from addictions. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve become so entrenched in the field of Gerontology. I was “inspired” as you could put it, by the events happening over the past year or so with my family and the topic of death & dying has really hit home for me. As most of you know if you’ve been following for a while now, my life was heavily influenced by the time spent down at my Grandparents’ house as a child. It’s fascinating to me when I read articles about the Grandparent-Grandchild relationships and how both parts of the relationship influence the others.

I’m taking a thanatology course this semester and it’s so fascinating to me (although the professor is a total ass-hat). So like I’ve said, because I’m such a nerd and actually really love research I’ve been doing a lot of reading of research articles involving older adults and complicated grief.

The more I experience grief (especially anticipatory), the more questions I have towards death & dying. The biggest question I have is how does an older person deal with the loss of their spouse or child? I think back to when my Grandma was my Grandma when I ask this question. I’m not sure if she ever talked to anyone about it, and being her Granddaughter she definitely didn’t talk to me, but after my Grandpa passed away I look back on that and wonder what her grief process was.

How common is it for older adults to live through the grief process?

How does experiencing the loss of a spouse change their views on death and dying?

So with all of this interest in Gerontology and Thanatology I decided to take action in pursuing this interest. I went in to my professors office hours yesterday and asked if they were looking for a research assistant for the fall. They informed me they would be and with that we began talking about my own research interests. At the end of our talk they informed me that they could definitely work with me and will keep me in the loop when a research question has been determined. I was thrilled. Not only do I love research, I will be able to dip my toe in the pool and see if maybe this field of research is worth pursuing.

I’m goin’ places folks!!

Hallucinations & Depression

Hey guys! So I know I haven’t written in a while, I’ve just been crazy busy with school, family matters and just life in general. I got an idea for a post today and I’m a little hesitant to write it if I’m being honest.

Ok so, I want to talk about hallucinations. I know, a little weird, but I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past couple of years and this aspect came to my mind so I figured “eh, what the fuck, let’s just write about it”. I’ve never really talked about this before, I don’t think any of my therapists really know about it so congratulations if you’re reading this you are the first people to hear about the most fucked up time in my life.

Hallucinating is such a weird thing to talk about, because I really didn’t know what was going on when it was happening. I think at this time I was really into my eating disorder, cutting, suicidal and drinking a lot when I went out(I know, not smart on my part since I’m on medication). I only had one hallucination, I think. I remember waking up one morning and I felt something digging into my shoulder blade. It was such a weird pain, and it felt like someone had scratched the shit out of my back the night before. I thought “hm this is weird” but didn’t think anything of it. That was how it started.



 

My hallucination involved a demon. I never saw it, but everyday for about a month or so I felt something clawing the fuck out of my back, and it was perched on me like you see a little kid holding onto a parents neck as they sit on their shoulders. I knew it wasn’t there, but I’d constantly reach for my shoulders, neck and back to try and get it off of me. It was terrifying, and I knew something was wrong with me.

Like I said, I never saw it but I knew exactly what it looked like. It was a black devilish looking creature with long pointy fingers. Their eyes were a dark red that either resembled blood or fire and its spine peaked out of its back every time it moved to adjust itself on me.

Day after day the claws dug deeper and I began hearing it tell me awful things, terrifying things. I was being prompted to kill myself, I heard it loud and clear as the demons head leaned down to whisper in my ear.



 

I don’t write this all out to sound like a freak or wanting sympathy; it’s a part of my past that I struggled with and in writing this I hope others can relate. Anyways….

Like I just said it’s in the past. I haven’t experienced this since it went away. Some call it psychotic depression, but I really don’t wish to place yet another label on myself. No matter though, with being fully in my life lately and things going incredible I wanted to finally write this all out.

Love you guys and I hope you all are doing well and have a fantastic weekend

Powerful photos of modern slavery — and human survival

ideas.ted.com

Even though many of us likely imagine that slavery is a relic of the ancient past, the practice is alive and well. Since 2009, photographer Lisa Kristine has been documenting those caught up in the barbaric trade. Her images are shocking, powerful, in-your-face. Yet they are also dignified portraits of those with no choice. “No matter how dire, how hard their experience of life has been because of their suffering as a slave, these people still have dignity, sensitivity, humanness and beauty,” she said on the phone from her home in California, shortly before another trip saw her head off to southeast Asia. “These images are not intended to be spectacles of horror; they’re intended to engage people in connecting so we realize we’re all brothers and sisters.” Here, take a look at 17 of Kristine’s astonishingly powerful photographs.

Here, watch Lisa Kristine’s TED Talk, Photos that bear witness to modern slavery — and three other TED Talks that…

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When Words Fail

What do you say to someone who’s hurting? Where are those magical words you can say to someone to help them get through something that seems so much bigger than them? For someone who loves to write & use words, not having the words to say is a hard place to be in. This past week a good friend of mine told me they had been struggling and in this current moment they are in a place to receive the help they need.

I remember all last week talking with them and seeing them slide fastly down that slippery slope; it was so hard sitting back and seeing the pain in their eyes, voice and words as we talked via text message. Being on the receiving end of that conversation was an uncomfortable place to be in. Usually I have been the one saying those haunting words, so to hear them coming from another persons mouth was difficult. As the days went on I began seeing so much of my past in them. The way news of something destroyed my life and sent me spiraling downhill I saw happening in my friend and it scared the shit out of me.

All I could do was voice my genuine concern, tell them over and over again I loved them and needed them to stay even though I knew because of the circumstances those words were falling on deaf ears. It wasn’t out of ignorance that they weren’t grasping the truth of my words, and I fully understand that. When you’re falling it’s hard to see the truth and feel anything that resembles love.

A while back in the treatment program I was in we had to do validation letters to those in the group after we each read where we were at in life & recovery. I always found it hard hearing the kind words those in group with me had to say to me, feeling like they were just following the therapists instructions and they didn’t really mean a lot of the shit they said to me. But when it came to reading my letter to the person it was addressed to in group, I meant every fucking word. I had found a community in which I not only belonged, but where I learned to love others in a real way. I think that’s what happens when you’re vulnerable with people, you begin developing a love for the others in the room that nobody can really explain. But I digress.

I know a lot of my friends have a hard time accepting the fact that compliments are real & heartfelt. So last week when I was voicing my concern, I’m not all too sure my friend was believing it. Sunday I’m going to visit them and I have a little gift for them. I tried writing a letter again; it’s always been easier for me to write everything all out than speaking the words. In that letter I write about how much I need them to stay alive & be in my life, how much I love them and care about our friendship. It’s all of the words I had in my heart at the moment, and I know those words can’t fix anything, but I just need them to hear it.

In reality I know there will never be any sentence of words strung together that will be able to reach into a persons heart & remove all of their pain & kill the demons; but I can only hope that if I continue using my words to express how important someone is to me that the words will stick in the back of their minds & when needed they can pull them out of the box inside of their mind & remember them.

Under Pressure

I really don’t know how I keep getting up in the morning and going about my day. Lately it’s been feeling like the pressure of perfect has been weighing down on me more and more, and I’m scared it might crush me this time.

Friday I had a meeting with my advisor about grad school and what I should do regarding what degree to go for. As a lot of you know I ultimately want my PhD in clinical psychology so I can work with mental health disorders and addictions. I already knew I had a perfectionistic attitude, but when he told me to keep it because most people who go to grad school in a PhD program have that attitude, I was kind of in conflict as to what to do.

My perfectionism has gotten the best of me time and time again, and I guess this is where compartmentalizing my life is going to come in handy. Since that meeting I have felt that pressure I’ve put on myself every semester come creeping back onto my shoulders. I’m finding myself in a panic knowing my grades need to go up or at least remain in the A ranges; I’m scared and stressed and for the first time in months feel as if though my whole future I had been planning for for over a year is no longer exactly attainable.

The Issue with the Modeling/Fashion Industry

I can’t help but to notice lately a shift in the modeling world involving a new acceptance of this “plus size model” concept. Don’t get me wrong it’s absolutely incredible to see it coming about, but I’m not all too certain their definition of plus size is any less stigmatized as being “thin”. Here’s what I mean:

There have been several articles I’ve come across over the past several months as I’ve been researching self-esteem in young adults and how they view themselves compared to others. Most of the time we tend to lean more towards the downward social comparisons, specifically targeting others who seem to be “less than”. But in the fashion industry, all too often we fall into the trap of upward comparisons, comparing ourselves to others who seem to be better than us, which leads us to feeling like we too must be up to their standards of beauty or intelligence (or really whatever measure you’re comparing yourself to them by). So with the trend of these plus size models coming more into the picture of what the modeling/fashion industry is trying to normalize, I feel like they are sending some mixed signals.

The fashion world considers the “average” woman as plus sized. Don’t believe me? When you google plus size models, a majority of them are what we see in our every day lives; I once saw a picture of said “plus size” model who wore a pant size of 6 or 8. How is that plus sized?! This is where I have beef with this concept. A size 6 or 8 pant size is not your average size 0 or 1 that a model is normally, so they get placed into a category of plus sized.

It saddens me to see the need to still label and categorize people based on their appearance. The idea of a “normal” model or size is such a body type that a majority of us in the real world will never be able to accomplish in a healthy way without the use of extreme dieting or developing an eating disorder. So normal, at least what the modeling/fashion industry is trying to convince us of, is a size zero while plus sized is anything above a size 4 is absolutely disheartening.

Spark of Hope

“Every day is a new opportunity to change your life and be who you want to be.”

-Demi Lovato

Yesterday is gone, and we can’t walk around our whole lives looking for an opportunity to right any wrong we may have done yesterday. I try looking for new opportunities each day to grow from the person I was the previous day. The mind is a powerful thing, and if we choose to decide that we want to make a change it can be one of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves. One thing I dislike about making a New Years resolution is that many of us feel inclined to wait until the next year to begin our new journey. When the sun rises in the morning so does the chance for new opportunities for your life to start again.

 

Goal: let go of your mistakes, and look at each morning as a gift to restart your life. Today is the 1st day of the rest of your life, if you want it to be.

Prochaska’s Stages of Change & How it’s Relevant to Recovery

As a psychology major I have been loving research papers of studies done by others. For a while now, before I even entered into Research Methods & Statistics courses I have had a favorite study that has been of great interest for me: Stages of Change and Decisional Balance for 12 Problem Behaviors. I found this study after being suggested I read it by the person who is in charge of the IOP program I was in; it came about because I wrote a research paper on the differences of outcomes between residential treatment & an Intensive Outpatient Program for my English 105 course when I first went back to school last year.

Mainly because I have so much respect for the woman I interviewed and because it was so relevant to what the paper would be discussing, I took to the interwebs & found said research article. Reading the work of Prochaska made so much sense to me and was so relevant at that time in my life, and still is today.

Basically Prochaska says that when one is stopping an addictive behavior they go about it through stages (which isn’t all that shocking as a lot of psychologists have theories of stages in their works); yet with Prochaska those stages are more concrete instead of abstract. His seem to be (in my opinion) more measurable or observable.

Precontemplation

Contemplation

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Over the past year or so I have heard those stages be discussed numerous times in psychotherapy group and I always struggled with pin pointing where exactly I was at that time. It was until recently that it really became clear to me that recovery & the motivation to do so really does “ebb & flow”. What does that mean? Think of a wave in the ocean as motivation. When you’re riding high on motivation it’s incredible, yet something can happen & you lose the motivation, thus crashing down into the ocean at the bottom of the wave you were once on top of. But rest assured, there will always be a new wave & your motivation will come back.

Since starting outpatient I don’t know if I ever was in precontemplation. I feel like I entered into the program in the preparation stage (seriously considering choosing recovery in a short time), but as we said time & time again in that program, “life happened” and I would find myself back in contemplation (considering making a change, but still holding off on said change). Prochaska’s 2nd & 3rd stages were the main ones I stuck to for the first 6 months or so I was in the program. It’s easy to dream of change, but when push comes to shove, I wasn’t all too open to experiencing that discomfort & anxiety.

I think the 4th stage, the action stage, tends to scare the shit out of a ton of people. It’s then where you actually have to do the terrifying, uncomfortable, anxiety inducing work that is mandatory if a real & valid change is going to occur. It’s in the action stage where a lot of us with eating disorders struggle with the voices telling us we can’t do it. I know personally, the action stage has sent my motivation for change in my eating disorder in a fucking tailspin so many times I lost count. I always seemed to get to a certain point & I would give a big middle finger to the treatment team & recovery process & quit. Where did that get me? Abso-fucking-lutely nowhere my friends. In fact, weaving back & forth between action & contemplation only made my stay in the program months longer than it had to be.

The maintenance stage is something I find hard to identify if I am in or not. For Prochaska, maintenance was defined as a period of 6 months or so after action is 1st taken & requires a continuation of change. Maybe it’s just because I am harder on myself than need be, but I’m not perfect & recently I’ve been slipping a lot. So does that negate all of the work I am doing & thus as a result places me back into the action stage? I don’t know.

But I do know that the very idea of being in the stage Prochaska would consider to be maintenance scares the ever living life out of me. I can’t imagine at this point in time being 100% symptom free for longer than 6 months. That’s a lot of skeletons in my closet I’d have to let go of, a lot of lying I’d need to come clean about and the biggest variable holding me back: a lot of fluctuation in weight that I am proving I cannot handle.

So yeah, maintenance stage is fucking terrifying. But taking this back to Prochaska, his theory makes so much sense. I have witnessed it time & time again, this ebb & flow of these stages, in not only myself but in the lives of my friends I am going through recovery with.

Taking a Risk

Hey guys! So I’ve been wanting to get back into music, song writing & simply playing my guitar for a while now. This morning I began typing out words, not expecting to get anything really (I mean I only had 2 cups of coffee lol) but I think I came up with something (yay!) . For some reason sharing this is the most vulnerable thing I can do, even sharing my story & writing out these posts are cake compared to sharing my writings. I hope this risk is worth it & you all enjoy it!

Here are the lyrics:

Do you know, what it’s like 
Drowning in this ocean that started out as rain drops?
Cause I, yeah I
Am in need of a life boat
To pull me up to safety.
Come quick. 

The waters turning violent,
A storm heading my way.
Erasing all the silence
Thunder echoes loud like every word you say. 

Send out an S.O.S to get me out of here.
Rough, rough waters are all I see
I forgot how to swim, throw me something to hold on to
And now everything I loved
is turning into everything I fear. 

**Disclaimer: this isn’t even close to being finished but I just wanted to share what I had thus far**

Feel free to comment below on your thoughts about this!! Have a great day you guys & stay strong!!

Spark of Hope (February 3rd)

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”

-Buddha

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly focusing on a time that is not the present. I day dream of the future, mainly the “what-if’s” and finding myself in a panic with thoughts that something will go awfully wrong to throw off my plans I have; or I’m reminiscing of the past and all of the places I made mistakes and beating myself up over being human and perfectly imperfect. But one skill I’ve learned is the ability to be mindful. There’s a therapy style known as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and one of it’s skills is the use of mindfulness. At first it seemed so odd and a foreign concept to me, but the more I practiced, the more I appreciated the present moment. Living in the present has a better chance of changing your future than worrying about the future.

 

Goal: Try focusing on today as it happens. If negative thoughts occur, acknowledge that they are just thoughts and they have no power over you. If the past comes creeping in, tell yourself that it no longer matters because it is not relevant to the place you’re in today.