Health & Healing

Challenge (almost) complete, but not over

I started a 29th blog post yesterday. However, I was running late on getting it done. Then, I got a call from a family member facing a minor crisis. wp-15644976270724186864348788725799.jpgWhile helping to resolve the crisis, I dropped my phone on a four lane, very busy, street and watched several vehicles run over it.

It’s still powered on and functioning internally, as near as I can tell, but the screen is totally shattered. The only reason why it’s even still on the device is a testament to the kind of screen protector it had on it.

I wasn’t ready to upgrade the phone. However, I’d already planned on leaving Apple behind. After an hour and a half at the Sprint store, I wound up with a Pixel 3a XL. So far it’s pretty intuitive to use and it’s soooo lightweight compared to the iPhone X I had. I’m pleased about that.

I’m super bummed at this point, though, because I’m not sure if my phone was automatically backing up to the cloud. Nor do I have a clue as to how to download all the pics and things from the cloud. There’s an iCloud sync app I’ve downloaded, but, for some reason, I’m not allowed to use it until Friday, August 2nd. Oh well, I can be patient.

In other news:

I’m super happy to report that when I got home Sunday night, after a busy weekend, I checked the mail and found an acceptance letter from the Peer Support Specialist Training I applied to a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty sure I was going to get in, but, it was such an exciting relief to actually read the words!

Now comes the hard part…figuring out what to do next. The initial training ends on December 6. That certification, in and of itself qualifies me for an entry level position. Do I try to find a short-term job that will only be 3-7 months long, which is unlikely. Or, do I find a job, knowing that as soon as I graduate, I’ll be looking to move on into a Peer Support Specialist role? That doesn’t feel good to me. Kind of unethical. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I just had an idea! I can register with a temp agency and do some office or customer service work to tide me over while I get my training done.

Glad that’s figured out. Moving on.

This is my last post of the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge. I managed to post 29/30. So, all in all, with everything else I’ve had going on, that’s a pretty good record. In the past, I would have counted that missing one as causing this whole endeavor to have been a failure. But, that isn’t true, is it? I did good.

On Sunday night, we discussed the difference between a destination mindset vs a journey mindset.

The way I would have previously seen less than 30/30 as a failure, is a destination mindset. Meaning, achieving the goal of 30 posts in 30 days was the mission and the only thing that mattered. It’s a very limiting mindset, isn’t it? It’s rigid and perfectionistic. It’s self-defeating. At least, for me, these things are true.

What’s the alternative? What is the journey mindset? It’s a way of thinking and being that makes the things experienced and people encountered on the way the point and purpose of being on the path to reach a destination.

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This mindset enables the one on the journey to stay present in each moment, learning and growing, as well as achieving the end result of arriving at a destination point. It is a mindset that inherently causes one to realize that there’s always more to explore and experience. It also instills the ability to see the value in savoring the moment instead of just getting through it in order to get to the next moment.

For me, this month’s UBC has been a journey. I’ve experienced a lot of growth inside of myself. It’s grounded me, causing me to stay present and connected to the moment I’m in, because I had to pay attention to what was happening in order to write about it. It stretched me to explore things I never would have chosen to do on my own, in my egocentric life. I got the opportunity to make some new friends and learn to look at some different viewpoints.

I’m not sure what kind of writing schedule or routine I’m going to set for myself now. I know I need to figure it out. It will happen. I’ll be staying in touch and updating probably once a week, if not more often.

Thanks for journeying with me.

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Healing Expressions: Restorative Art

Yesterday, I was blessed with the privilege of attending a Therapeutic Collage Workshop, offered by Therapeutic Arts Facilitator, Lani Kent, of Healing Expressions, located in Vancouver, WA. Going into the workshop, I wasn’t sure how doing collage can be therapeutic, but, when Lani shared her story and her process, I saw how it can be another way to express and explore experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It can give the unspoken and unspeakable a voice and be a powerful part of one’s healing process.

Lani’s art both speaks from and to the soul. You can view her gallery here. You can also find her on Facebook.

img_7297When we arrived to the workshop, we were greeted by Lani and chose our seats. Each setting had a folder and a small gift packet with a Blessing Card attached to it. Each table had small displays of Lani’s collage art.

She had a very long table almost overflowing with magazines and had lined the perimeter of the room with more of her collage work.

After she had shared her story and experience with Restorative Art and how it had helped her on her personal journey of healing and recovery, she invited us to wander the room and select any of her pieces that drew our attention, in either and inviting way, or even one that repelled.

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At that point she gave us instruction and time to reflect. Then, she explained how to go about the process of collecting the elements we would use in making our own collages.

I confess that I just started tearing into magazines and collected way more than I could use. I collected so many possibilities, that I probably only had time to cut out elements from 1/3 of the material I had collected. I suspect that I have enough leftover magazine pages to make several more than the two I did make.

We were encouraged to write the date and what we were experiencing during this time period, whether it was about what we were doing with the collages in that moment or in the greater context of our lives. Lani counseled that we may not know or fully understand the meaning of our collages, at first. That we may come back to them multiple times throughout our journey and learn more about ourselves, from ourselves, in this way.

As I said, I did two. I’m only going to show one, here. The other one requires some processing and unpacking with my therapist. Both of them do, actually. However, I think the symbolism of the one I’m posting here is probably a very universal theme. Though, when I researched the symbolism I learned some deeper meaning and insight into what this could be saying.

Please let me know how this speaks to you, if it does

Incongruity

It seems that my ability to write and post on the weekends is consistently challenging. Today, instead of my Peer to Peer class, I was gifted with the opportunity to attend an art therapy collage class, followed by lunch with the friend who had gifted me with the opportunity.

I’ll be sharing more about that in the next day or two.

In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with one of my poems from a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy.


Incongruity

The incongruity in between
how I see vs how I am seen
is too great to fathom,
an impenetrable chasm

My lens has been distorted,
the images contorted,
stretched beyond my limit,
formed by my inner critic.

Meeting and getting to know you,
questioning all I thought I knew,
an unknown truth being revealed,
my heart growing, being healed.

New beliefs being conceived.
A wider world being perceived.
Connected across distance,
a gift of your existence.

©️ 2017

Now What?

I’ve spent the past six and a half weeks focusing on prerequisite to job search activities:

Additionally, since I’m trying to get into work I’ve never done before . . . or haven’t done in 25 years (Really?!?!? That much time has passed?!?!?), I’ve applied for two different training opportunities, one which I didn’t get and one which I’m waiting to find out if I get in. I’ve also completed a Volunteer Orientation with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and am scheduled for my first volunteer shift for next week.

In the midst of it all, I’ve been attending a Peer-to-Peer class by NAMI, a REST/DBT class, and other classes and groups taught/hosted by my mental health provider organization (which also happens to be where my application for training was submitted), and attended my 1:1 counseling sessions. I’ve also been taking care of some physical health situations and have been to the doctor a couple of times, acupuncture once, and have my very first chiropractic appointment, ever, later this morning.

There are only two things I haven’t done yet, and one of those is scheduled for this afternoon, Career Exploration. The other, Google training, has been put on the back burner, for the moment, while I take care of some other things that have to be scheduled when that class is available.

Why do I need either Career Exploration or Google training, since I know I want to go into Mental Health Peer Support? For one, I need to know more specifics about transferable skills, more in depth understanding of duties/responsibilities, and what I can expect in regards to compensation. I have a basic, functional understanding of Google Gmail, Docs, and Sheets, however, I don’t really know how they, and the other Google applications work together for business purposes. Like the MS Office classes I took, I figure it’s good information to have, even if my future job isn’t directly related to office work.

Additionally, I need to get a “survival job” ASAP! My electric bill is almost two months behind and my internet bill is almost three months behind. My youngest daughter’s father may or may not be able to cover those expenses for me. Even if he does now, his circumstances have changed to where it’s not a viable long-term solution to getting the bills paid anymore. Even if I get into the training I’ve applied for, it won’t be complete until February or so, then I have to register with the State of Oregon in order to be legal to work. That’s about six or seven months until I MIGHT have a certification.

At any rate, the point is that in six weeks I’ve done about everything I can do, on my own, to get ready to actually look for a job. I’m still not fully ready to actively search for a job. I need to actually work on getting my resume set up for the career I want instead of the kind of work I’ve done in the past. I need a damn good cover letter.

I need interview clothes. I haven’t been employed for over seven years. So, what few clothes left over from my previously employed time are at least 10-15 years old and more than a little worn. A majority of the clothes I’ve acquired since then are mostly hand-me-down, hand-me-overs and beyond casual. The newest clothes have been bought with summer comfort in mind: several spaghetti strap camisole like tank tops and a pair of denim shorts. I don’t have any interview dress shoes. Again, worn out, out dated, and unprofessional describe the shoes I own.

If I can’t afford to pay my bills, I can’t afford to go shopping. Which means, I need to access more services to obtain these necessities. That means I have to find organizations and programs that offer funding to do these things. Funding requires proof of accountability. So, in order to move forward, it’s time to stop being the Lone Ranger and get more help.

Which brings me back to what’s next after completing the NCRC?

It turns out that “membership has its privileges.” Now that I have that certification, I have been assigned a WorkSource Employment Specialist. I have to be in communication with her at least weekly and meet with her on a regular basis. At each meeting, I have to complete and Opportunity Plan.

It’s basically an action plan worksheet. There’s a minimum of one thing that has to be done in each of four categories: Skill Building, Job Search, Networking, and Self-Care.

The benefits of working with her and in this program are:

  • I get a monthly bus pass for the duration of my job search and for three months after employment.
  • I get a small clothing allotment ($100)
  • I have access to Dress for Success – which actually opens a whole new level of pre-employment services, including actually getting a small, employment oriented, wardrobe for interviews and post-employment and a more focused and intensive week of job readiness classes that will help me even more with the resume, cover letter, and interview preparation.

I’m most excited about getting access to the Dress for Success program! However, in order to get the referral to them, I either have to have an interview or attend a Job Fair. When I met with the Employment Specialist yesterday, she didn’t have any Job Fairs scheduled for the near future.

I’m afraid of losing momentum.

Last week, when my daughter was sick, I didn’t leave the apartment to do anything other than check the mail, if I even did that. As the days went on, I felt the depression trying to assert itself. The apathy started rising it’s ugly head. Inertia started taking hold. I basically did NOTHING.

So, I’m concerned that I may relapse with my mental illnesses, if I lose the structure I’ve been building up of having something to leave my apartment for, each day, that is moving me toward a future I want to have.

I’m happy to report that, while preparing this post, I found a Job Fair, left a message to register, and shot my Employment Specialist an email, requesting a referral to Dress for Success.

Much Ado About Nothing Major

If you’ve been reading along, you know that I took the NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate) assessment yesterday. It’s a certificate that lets employers know that you have basic workplace skills to understand workplace documents, mathematics, and graphic representations of data. Each of the three assessments can achieve rating levels from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Whichever of the three has the lowest rating, determines your overall rating. So, a platinum in reading, a silver in math, and a bronze in graphic literacy will yield and overall rating of bronze.

As previously discussed, my perfectionistic nature isn’t happy with the idea of having the lowest score determine the overall outcome. You may also be aware that I was super worried that my math score would drag me down. So, I was incredibly anxious about taking the math assessment.

The assessments are proctored and each one is 55 minutes long with 35 questions. On the math assessment, I guessed at two and ran out of time before finishing the last one or two problems. I assumed that meant I had gotten a low score.

Apparently not! I scored PLATINUM!!!!

I also scored Platinum for reading. The score that dragged me down was Graphic Literacy. I got a Gold rating for that one. So, my overall rating is Gold. Evidently, I’m not suited to be a chemist, medical researcher, or engineer. I’m good with that.

I have to admit, though, that in addition to feeling quite ecstatic about my results – I couldn’t stop smiling for at least the first half hour after finding out my scores – I’m also feeling a bit sheepish.

Why?

Well, I’ve known about the NCRC since 2013, the first time I thought I was ready to reenter the job market. I doubted myself and got overwhelmed by life and didn’t follow through on taking it then. In 2015, I started the process of getting ready to go back to work then, again, and avoided it completely. I could probably have taken it six weeks ago. However, I was so full of self-doubt about my math abilities, that I avoided it.

That pesky perfectionistic nature, that all or nothing attitude has been holding me back.

I’d like to say that this revelation means I won’t give into it’s immobilizing effects again. But, that’s probably not true. What is true is that I can start questioning the self-doubt when it rises its ugly head in the future. I can ask myself if I’m worried about doing something imperfectly or if I’m holding back because I genuinely don’t have the knowledge or skills to attempt it.

Another thing I can do to combat the perfectionism is to evaluate whether the goal I have in mind or the result I want requires the level or even the thing at all that I’m working so hard to be as perfect as possible at.

For instance: A Peer Wellness/Support Specialist doesn’t really need advanced MS Office 13 skills. Yet, I pushed myself to attain advanced certificates in Word and Excel. That job also probably doesn’t require algebra or geometry. Therefore, it would have been no big deal if I had gotten a lower score on the math assessment.

It seems that I have a lot of unpacking to do around the perfectionism. It will give me something to work on with my therapist when next we meet.

Is there an area in your life where perfectionism could be holding you back?

Ramble on

A lot’s happened over the past two days and even more is happening today.

On Monday, I attended the orientation session for the Health Careers NW study. It’s a federal research study to determine if providing vocational training in healthcare fields and employment support for low-income people receiving public assistance can help them attain a greater degree of financial self-sufficiency…uhmmm yeah!

In order to move forward with that process and when I, eventually, obtain a job, I’m going to need to show my Social Security Card. I don’t have it. Rather, it’s (hopefully) lost and buried somewhere in the depths of a very large box full of boxes and bags of papers…and by very large, I mean a moving box sized to carry several oversized pillows and lightweight items.

Trust me when I say there isn’t enough time or physical space for me to go through it and continue doing the job readiness, mental health recovery, and physical health activities I’m doing.

So, the Employment Specialist who has been working with me through the Social Security Administration’s Supported Employment Demonstration (a different federal research study to determine if people who have been denied Social Security Benefits for disabling conditions can successfully be transitioned back to employment with Employment Supports, Mental Health Case Management, and Physical Healthcare Supports…uhmmm yeah, again!) has been helping me get to and from some of these employment readiness activities I’ve been doing. She went to the orientation with me.

We decided to try to get to a Social Security Office afterward. However, she was on a tight schedule and had already agreed to take me to a store where I could exchange my empty 5 gallon water bottles – it’s too hot to go without decent water. The first place we went was out of water. So, we had to go to a different store.

While walking into that store, I tripped on a curb and went down on my left knee, then rolled onto my back. I managed to avoid going down too hard, thankfully.

By the time the water got replaced, it was too late to go to the Social Security Office. So, we agreed to go Tuesday…fully expecting at least an hour wait. Lo and behold, we got there and I had less than a 20 minute wait! 😮

I had tried to sign up for the NCRC, which I talked about here. However, I couldn’t just sign myself up. So, I called and spoke to the gal who’d led the Health Careers NW orientation on Monday. Now, I have four hours of testing to do today.

Not looking forward to it.

I tried to do math prep yesterday. I realized that geometry will kill my math score…which will kill my overall rating, since the lowest score determines the final rating.

The perfectionist in me is quite unhappy with that thought. However, the realist in me knows what’s what and that, ultimately, geometry is not a part of my career path and that my other abilities will speak for themselves when the time comes.

So, I decided not to make myself crazier with the math prep.

Later, I had a Volunteer Orientation at NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s a nationwide, peer driven organization offering support, education, and community engagement for those experiencing mental illnesses and their families. Since I want to get into peer work, this is my next logical step.

There are several opportunities for me here: teaching classes, as long as I’ve already taken them myself; Community engagement – speaking at schools, organizations, and businesses about my lived experiences as both a person living with mental illness and a parent/family member of others who have experienced mental illness; operations support, which will have me exercise my office and writing skills.

I start next week. My first volunteer project will be working on updating the local resource guide. The current one is two years old and things change.

I’m really excited about this next phase.

On my way home, I experienced another knee injury. I’m afraid this one was a bit more severe than the first. I’m really hoping that the pain subsides without me having to make another medical appointment.

What happened?

A slightly out of it man got on the bus, chose not to sit down, and neglected to hold himself steady. So, when the bus started to move, he came toppling down onto my lap like a felled tree, his shoulder gouging into the top, inside of my knee, above and to the side of my kneecap.

That’s the leg with the nerve entrapment in my foot and the same knee I’d fallen on the day before. So, now I have some radiating pain going down into my foot. Yay.

Since I’m hurting, sleep is elusive. Which means, I’ll be going into my tests sleep deprived and in pain.

Wish me luck.

Who knew I was a perfectionist?

Not me.

How can I possibly be a perfectionist? My life’s kinda, sorta, really a mess. I mean, I regularly accumulate two or more weeks worth of laundry to put away. After all, I spent Sunday morning folding and putting away three bags of clean laundry and still probably have three loads worth to still put away. (Who knew I had that many clothes?!?!?) I have bags of non-perishable groceries, purchased IN FEBRUARY, which still need to be put away.

Pretty much every surface above the floor is occupied with stuff. Papers are EVERYWHERE: loose on various pieces of furniture, in boxes, in bags, in boxes of bags…And notebooks, lots of notebooks. Every therapy group and class has a notebook, as does my Peer-To-Peer class, and I have a full notebook of all my job readiness stuff – the most organized thing in my life.

My adult kids suspect that I may be a paper hoarder.

Maybe they’re right.

Or, maybe, just maybe my therapist is right. Maybe I’m a perfectionist.

I have difficulty with little goals. You know, the little daily goals that list makers have. Tasks that need completing in that day’s 16, mostly functional, productive hours.

Little goals never seem like enough. For me, that is, not for others. I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal. Unfortunately, if it looks like I’m not going to be able to complete the big goal, I get overwhelmed and shut down. I’m fairly certain that’s why I haven’t written anything longer than short flash fiction or a blog post. The thought of curating and editing what I’ve written on the blog feels monumental and overwhelming, on several levels.

It’s always been that way academically, too. Good enough is seldom good enough for me. In retrospect, it’s partly that mentality that precipitated me running away from home when I was 16, which you may or may not have read about here and here. Since I’d missed 1/3 – 1/2 of the first term of my Junior year, I was convinced that there was no way I could catch up and earn the grades I would need to take advantage of the potential scholarships which had been implied with the recruitment letters I had received from Whitman College, Harvard & Radcliffe, and the combined branches of the military (I was offered my choice of ROTC scholarships).

All or nothing. All too often it has turned to nothing.

I realized yesterday that particular attitude is manifesting again in my job readiness process.

There’s a thing called the NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate).

The NCRC is a multi-functional, Nationally Known and recognized credential designed to document the current essential skills of job seekers and students. A Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificate can point to a specific industry and/or job type that is translates into a “right fit” for an employer.

There are three assessment tests: Reading, Math, and Locating Information using graphics, ie. maps, charts, and other visual representations of data. There are four levels of achievement: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. I’m fairly certain I could earn Gold or Platinum for Reading assessment. I might be able to do Silver or Gold for the Locating Information assessment. However, I’m pretty sure my math skills are rusty enough that I could only score a Bronze for that assessment. Pesky fractions and geometry!

I could handle all of that, except, it’s a 3 for 1 kind of deal. What that means is that there’s one overall score/rating. It isn’t an average of the three. It isn’t the middle score. It certainly isn’t the top one. Nope. It’s the lowest one. So, if I score a Platinum rating for Reading, a Silver for Locating Information, and a Bronze for math, my overall rating is Bronze. The thought of that makes me cringe. I’m better than that, dammit! (or so I tell myself.)

The assessments are offered twice a month. Which means there have been at least two or three opportunities to take it that I have passed up, in favor of other job readiness activities which may or may not hold universal weight with potential employers. I haven’t taken it because I wanted to figure out how to brush up my math skills first.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation for Health Careers NW. “Health Careers NW is a WorkSource program that provides coaching, training and job placement support to low-income adults interested in a career in healthcare. . HPOG is a study funded by the federal government which is being conducted to determine how these training opportunities help people improve their skills and find better jobs. which is a potential opportunity to get training funded and employment supports.”

During the orientation, I found out that there aren’t any child care funds available. However, the person giving the orientation suggested that obtaining the NCRC certification opens to door up to travel funds and other benefits. It also might make child care funds available. When I raised my objection regarding the probability of me getting a Bronze for Math, she told me that it doesn’t really matter what the level is, what matters is getting the certificate and that any assessment can be retaken.

I still have an internal resistance to doing this. HOWEVER, I’m going to see what I can do tomorrow to register for the orientation and assessment sessions on the calendar for Wednesday. After all, it probably holds more weight than the Google applications computer course I’m signed up for and can take at any time.

So, as I stated in a prior post, I’m going to Just Do It!