Monday, October 26, 2009

i love the sea and the sea loves me

If you know me, you know of my love for the ocean. If my poetic streak would flare I would write an ode to its unfathomable greatness.
I can now say I've encountered the North Carolina's Atlantic and am still smitten. I met my brother and his house mates at the outer banks- one of the "must see" attractions of NC. The outer banks consist of overgrown sand bars, overly developed with many skinny houses on stilts. Except the last island, ocracoke, which is just sand, ocean and a little fishing village, for us there was no other option.

For the first time, while driving there, I saw glimpses of the south I had created in my imagination. There were blossoming cotton fields and tobacco leaves fading yellow in the sun. picture little kids barefoot in overalls holding kittens ( no really) in front of houses overgrown with ivy. Dilapidated mansions, crumbling from their grandeur, spotted the fields along side rows of trailers. I had to take a ferry on the last leg and saw a dolphin fin ( the dolphin was under water) I have no photo to collaborate or second eye witness, but a fin I saw. other randomness: they have flocks of pelicans that dive into the water for meals, an impressive sight, given their size.
I forget how good it is to be with people who know you, and care about you. Cj and his groupies live deeply connected and with so much care and love for one another.

It was revitalizing to be included in all the lov'n. We camped strolled, built fires, played in the nightly bio- luminescence ocean, swam, and net fished ( above photo).
Michelle and I tried it in the ocean (its meant for a calm bay), and had little success besides entertaining the beer bellied fisherman near by. In the bay the next day, with netting success, we reveled and gawked over all the sea creatures we could capture. Cj's website, has it well documented. We watched in awe and shock as a crab (who had vengefully attacked Cj moments before) cut a fish in two and ate it.
Two weeks later I returned to the ocean, with a group of strangers. Yup, I broke all the rules, I talked with strangers, got into a car with strangers, and let them take me away for the weekend. I did it all for the sake of community. :)
If nothing else my vagabond state this past year has stripped me of any fear of people I don't know. I can gather the life story of a rock and love doing it!
Luckily I had some nice people to talk to and wasn't left talking with rocks. The group was made up of other young adults who were connected with a church I had been visiting and the weekend was focused on learning about community. The Church is going through a lot right now and in general is a little...hmm. lets say pastel, ( not nitty gritty or in the grime of living, too much suburbia for my taste) but it's heart is in the right place. I met many people with different passions, and felt welcomed.
Its all about picking quality strangers :)
It was quite a treat to be swimming, sunning and playing beach volley ball in late October. I'm sheepishly looking forward to a mild winter; I'm growing broccoli and spinach outside still!

The time in between the ocean visits have been about finding my rhythm and role in my internship and with all the people I have been meeting. Currently I'm looking for a job, as my internship is free labour, and I like clothes, gasoline, and food too much to survive without money!

The leaves here are GORGEOUS. I have never seen colors quite like them before, its hard to believe they exist in nature. I'll try to capture some photos.

May you all have a chance to embrace a loved one in the crisp fall sunshine, sip cider and watch leaves drift ( i want a photo if you are able to do it all at once)!

Cheers Loves!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An ode to Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.”

Ah, 'tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature's undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn's sadness
In their longing tenderness."
- Mortimer Crane Brown, Autumn Dreams

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hot chocolate vs the avalanche

My internship has been getting underway, each day building on the one before. I like the hospital setting with all the people, possibilities and bustling. 25,000 people work at Duke hospital, to give you a sense of its size. If I try multi tasking while walking I quickly find myself exploring new units, wings and floors, as I try to wander my way back to where I was going.

I hesitate to say much for reasons of confidentiality about my internship. If you were locked on a psych ward ( or your loved one was) what would you feel comfortable having the social work intern posting about it on the world wide web?
I'll try to paint a generalized picture of what we do. I think i can best describe mental health struggles as an avalanche. Some people have the resources, skills and people to see the warning signs and avoid getting caught in an avalanche, others get caught in small snow banks, but have family, Drs and tools to get out, or be quickly retrieved when crisis overtakes them .

I spend my 30 hours a week, listening to many people discuss, share observations and solutions of 18 patients who have been catapulted, swept out of the control and safety and buried in an avalanche ( in some cases for years) of the most terrifying, debilitating crisis of life.

If they have made it to us, the adult acute care psychiatric locked ward, they have tried to kill themselves and failed, or are acting in bizarre enough ways that their family, friends or law enforcement fear they are a danger to themselves or others. This sounds intense and dramatic, and in one sense it is that extreme. But by the time they reach us they are sedated, or soon will be, so mostly the patients spend their time eating, watching TV, attending activities- taebo, crafts, life skills groups ect... and sleeping while on the ward.

I see us as trying to find them admist the snow of jumbled, tightly packed, sometimes vast field of symptoms and variables. We poke, questions, analyze and try to create an air hole so they know which way is up. The goal of their stay is for the treatment team to find a medication that can give them enough of their mind and function back to make them capable of being in society and making sure they have someone on the outside who can continue to assist them once they leave.
We stabilize, not heal. We do not delve into thier past, do therapy, or discuss the pros and cons of thier choices and its outcomes. Someone else comes in and does DBT ( a form of therapy directed at changing behavior). Duke is known for its advances in ECT treatments ( electric shock therapy) so they are sometimes sent for this. If we do our Job, we offer an airhole, a way to know which way is up, a glimpse of hope when it seemed the crushing weight of the mental illness that coccooned you into this state, is all life will ever be.

As my supervisor puts it, if we didnt do this who would?. It sounds like a disservice, when someone is suffering so much that all we do is offer meds, but in reality, this is a solution they can afford and maintain.
I have very little contact with the actual patients at this point. I go in and listen to the Dr's and med students when they interview them daily, I help contact resources in the community that can be helpful for them when they leave. Some stay for a day, others for a month, rarely more than 3 weeks. Average is about a week and a 1/2.

It would be easy to be depressed seeing such hopeless, hurting people and knowing my role, or what I can do it so minimal given the size of their struggle, but When we are dealing with these basic of life issues, the need for love and the way to provide it seems pretty clear. I see my role as kinda like the one who hands out hot chocolate to the rescue team on the avalanche rescue, it doesn't do much directly for the one we are searching for, but every small things can make a difference. What I have to offer them is a smile, support to the nurses- the ones digging in the snow day in and out, while the Dr's observe and direct, make suggestions and with the client's offer eye contact, respect as people even in their crazyness.

If I wanted the glory and control, I would have become a psychiatrist, ( ive defenintly been contemplating if Ive made the right choice in this mileu) but I know i make some pretty good hot chocolate, and its not what I do, but how and why I do it, that can make all the difference in the world.