Last Updated On December 22, 2017

 

where the tree tops glisten

 

 

December 13, 2017
Hello my little ribbon candies of endless sweetness, welcome to day 13.

Today’s theme is memories. Memories can be hard. Even good memories can dip into bitter territory very easily. And as we pass through winter solstice, I feel like the longest night provides a thinner veil to our pasts and ample opportunity for our imaginations to take flight. Memories feel more visceral and relevant right now, which is fine and workable but also it can leave us vulnerable to post traumatic stress.

I find my memory is working overtime and I’m dredging up stories I haven’t thought about in a long time. The other night I remembered my college internship at a dayhab program for the elderly with alzheimers and/or dementia. The transition upon entering the program space was fraught with anxiety. The relinquishing of coats was so difficult for them and the routine was painfully new every day. They worried about where they were, how long they would be staying, and whether they would get their coat back. The staff did their best to orient and comfort them, but it was hard and the coats were squirreled away as soon as possible in the adjoining room so the patients wouldn’t be continually reminded and triggered by their presence.

One woman was a ball buster and she used to make the rounds trying to rile up the other patients by starting rumors about how the staff was stealing their coats and selling them for a profit (she always said it this way, emphasizing the PROFIT part, as if that made it even more scandalous than stealing coats from old people and not making money). I tried to convince her otherwise and she called me a bitch. I was so hurt, I felt like that was the worst insult (isn’t that funny?! I was so young!).

Another woman would spend a good twenty minutes sobbing that her mother was going to be so upset and disappointed in her for losing her coat. I held her hand, her knuckles were like marbles. She was in her nineties but for that twenty minutes she was back in her childhood, miserable and ashamed.

For most of the residents, memory had become this terrifying tar baby that would not let them go, they became entangled and helpless. No amount of rationality or discussion improved their experience, when they were in it, they were IN IT and all we helpers could do was ride it out with them, give them positive regard, keep them safe, and welcome them hardily on the other side.

I am not a therapist or a doctor and I fully recognize the value of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy modalities (and other western medicine stuff) to alleviate all kinds of mental health issues but I do think that as witnesses and human beings, our strategy with these folks was pretty solid and compassionate. I also remember times when the patients had moments of freedom from their affliction. They usually revolved around some kind of sensory experience, either beckoning them to the present or sometimes to an anchor past that reminded them briefly who they really were.

Even the most reticent joiners would clap and stomp their feet to music from the big band era. The sensation of finger paints and the smells of cookies baking would bring relaxed smiles and deep breathes.

On this the thirteenth day of advent, I invite you to:
Offer yourself positive regard as a matter of course, of principle, because you are a professional.
Be your own abiding company, no matter how perseverative and annoying you might be right now.
Keep yourself safe.
Be kind to yourself upon re-entry.
Treat yourself to something that reminds you who you really are.
Enjoy a sensory experience that brings you back home.

I know this is a lot, I hope it is helpful. xoxoxoxox

 

Last Updated On December 22, 2017

 

where the tree tops glisten

 

December 13, 2017
Hello my little ribbon candies of endless sweetness, welcome to day 13.

Today’s theme is memories. Memories can be hard. Even good memories can dip into bitter territory very easily. And as we pass through winter solstice, I feel like the longest night provides a thinner veil to our pasts and ample opportunity for our imaginations to take flight. Memories feel more visceral and relevant right now, which is fine and workable but also it can leave us vulnerable to post traumatic stress.

I find my memory is working overtime and I’m dredging up stories I haven’t thought about in a long time. The other night I remembered my college internship at a dayhab program for the elderly with alzheimers and/or dementia. The transition upon entering the program space was fraught with anxiety. The relinquishing of coats was so difficult for them and the routine was painfully new every day. They worried about where they were, how long they would be staying, and whether they would get their coat back. The staff did their best to orient and comfort them, but it was hard and the coats were squirreled away as soon as possible in the adjoining room so the patients wouldn’t be continually reminded and triggered by their presence.

One woman was a ball buster and she used to make the rounds trying to rile up the other patients by starting rumors about how the staff was stealing their coats and selling them for a profit (she always said it this way, emphasizing the PROFIT part, as if that made it even more scandalous than stealing coats from old people and not making money). I tried to convince her otherwise and she called me a bitch. I was so hurt, I felt like that was the worst insult (isn’t that funny?! I was so young!).

Another woman would spend a good twenty minutes sobbing that her mother was going to be so upset and disappointed in her for losing her coat. I held her hand, her knuckles were like marbles. She was in her nineties but for that twenty minutes she was back in her childhood, miserable and ashamed.

For most of the residents, memory had become this terrifying tar baby that would not let them go, they became entangled and helpless. No amount of rationality or discussion improved their experience, when they were in it, they were IN IT and all we helpers could do was ride it out with them, give them positive regard, keep them safe, and welcome them hardily on the other side.

I am not a therapist or a doctor and I fully recognize the value of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy modalities (and other western medicine stuff) to alleviate all kinds of mental health issues but I do think that as witnesses and human beings, our strategy with these folks was pretty solid and compassionate. I also remember times when the patients had moments of freedom from their affliction. They usually revolved around some kind of sensory experience, either beckoning them to the present or sometimes to an anchor past that reminded them briefly who they really were.

Even the most reticent joiners would clap and stomp their feet to music from the big band era. The sensation of finger paints and the smells of cookies baking would bring relaxed smiles and deep breathes.

On this the thirteenth day of advent, I invite you to:
Offer yourself positive regard as a matter of course, of principle, because you are a professional.
Be your own abiding company, no matter how perseverative and annoying you might be right now.
Keep yourself safe.
Be kind to yourself upon re-entry.
Treat yourself to something that reminds you who you really are.
Enjoy a sensory experience that brings you back home.

I know this is a lot, I hope it is helpful. xoxoxoxox

Last Updated On December 22, 2017

where the tree tops glisten

December 13, 2017
Hello my little ribbon candies of endless sweetness, welcome to day 13.

Today’s theme is memories. Memories can be hard. Even good memories can dip into bitter territory very easily. And as we pass through winter solstice, I feel like the longest night provides a thinner veil to our pasts and ample opportunity for our imaginations to take flight. Memories feel more visceral and relevant right now, which is fine and workable but also it can leave us vulnerable to post traumatic stress.

I find my memory is working overtime and I’m dredging up stories I haven’t thought about in a long time. The other night I remembered my college internship at a dayhab program for the elderly with alzheimers and/or dementia. The transition upon entering the program space was fraught with anxiety. The relinquishing of coats was so difficult for them and the routine was painfully new every day. They worried about where they were, how long they would be staying, and whether they would get their coat back. The staff did their best to orient and comfort them, but it was hard and the coats were squirreled away as soon as possible in the adjoining room so the patients wouldn’t be continually reminded and triggered by their presence.

One woman was a ball buster and she used to make the rounds trying to rile up the other patients by starting rumors about how the staff was stealing their coats and selling them for a profit (she always said it this way, emphasizing the PROFIT part, as if that made it even more scandalous than stealing coats from old people and not making money). I tried to convince her otherwise and she called me a bitch. I was so hurt, I felt like that was the worst insult (isn’t that funny?! I was so young!).

Another woman would spend a good twenty minutes sobbing that her mother was going to be so upset and disappointed in her for losing her coat. I held her hand, her knuckles were like marbles. She was in her nineties but for that twenty minutes she was back in her childhood, miserable and ashamed.

For most of the residents, memory had become this terrifying tar baby that would not let them go, they became entangled and helpless. No amount of rationality or discussion improved their experience, when they were in it, they were IN IT and all we helpers could do was ride it out with them, give them positive regard, keep them safe, and welcome them hardily on the other side.

I am not a therapist or a doctor and I fully recognize the value of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy modalities (and other western medicine stuff) to alleviate all kinds of mental health issues but I do think that as witnesses and human beings, our strategy with these folks was pretty solid and compassionate. I also remember times when the patients had moments of freedom from their affliction. They usually revolved around some kind of sensory experience, either beckoning them to the present or sometimes to an anchor past that reminded them briefly who they really were.

Even the most reticent joiners would clap and stomp their feet to music from the big band era. The sensation of finger paints and the smells of cookies baking would bring relaxed smiles and deep breathes.

On this the thirteenth day of advent, I invite you to:
Offer yourself positive regard as a matter of course, of principle, because you are a professional.
Be your own abiding company, no matter how perseverative and annoying you might be right now.
Keep yourself safe.
Be kind to yourself upon re-entry.
Treat yourself to something that reminds you who you really are.
Enjoy a sensory experience that brings you back home.

I know this is a lot, I hope it is helpful. xoxoxoxox