Sunday, September 27, 2009

Me vs. Food

So, I have been ranting about work over and over again lately, so today I will take a break and rant about something weight.

(Oh no, you say, not this old rant again! But yes, here it comes again!)

Last week I went for my annual physical and got up on the scale and, just as I feared, saw the largest number I have ever seen. And no, I won't share that specific number with you. As we all know doctor's scales always seem to add a few pounds, and I had my shoes on, but even minus a few pounds the number is still way higher than it should be.

I wasn't completely surprised, as my bathroom scale was telling me a similar story a few days before. The doctor didn't comment on my weight gain, which now I wish I had asked what I weighed when I was in last year. I am guessing it's close to 10 pounds, maybe a little less.

As I sit and contemplate how I gained more weight, the obvious answer is that I am consuming more calories than I am burning. Duh. End of story. During our recent week off my husband and I ate out quite a bit (I guess so it would feel more like "vacation"), and everytime I turn around it seems like it's another wedding, shower, family party or other get together that involves eating and eating and more eating. And I just have no will power it seems. I never really have. I just love food and love to eat!

Looking back, I have always been the kind of person who went through phases of being slightly more chubby and then slimming down and losing weight, usually without consciously trying as a side effect of stress, anxiety, or being really busy. I have always been the kind of person who loses their appetite when feeling really anxious, preoccupied, or worried. However, I am also the kind of person who tends to eat emotionally, usually when depressed, stressed, or bored. In addition, now that I am married it seems that I just feel more comfortable and lax so I hardly think twice about skipping workouts and eating a few extra cookies, chips, pasta, or pizza. Add that with working (and thus eating) late three days of the week, family showers and parties like every other weekend, plus having an occasional soda, iced coffee, latte, and you have a pretty good recipe for extra calorie consumption.

Of the less important things in life, few can be more frustrating and discouraging than finding that your pants that were once loose now fit and pants that once fit are now getting tight. I face the reality of needing to make a much more conscious effort to make some changes or buy new pants.

Because I love food and love to eat, strict or strange diets are probably out (Master cleanse anyone? ick!)Probably the easiest steps I can take are to cut down my portions, plan ahead and bring my lunch to avoid fast food runs while working, and simply keeping better track of what exactly I eat and drink. Oh, and exercising more of course! I obviously need to either step up my work out or just go more consistently, or more ideally, both!

I will keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I am not a dentist!

In reaction to my state of stress and burn-out, I have submitted at least 7 online resumes/applications in the past 3 days. I honestly don't know if that sounds like alot or a little. I also am not sure if it an effective way to cope as I fear that it will just add to my tension and frustration--you know, the waiting for replies. Lately I had been lucky to get a decent rate of replies from applications, but things get stalled there and phone interviews don't turn into face to face interviews, or first interviews don't turn into second interviews.

I think my technique is wrong. I heard on the John Tesh radio show (seriously, if you don't listen you should! it's really educational) that you should only spend about 40% of your time and efforts on online job hunting and the other 60% on networking--calling companies and/or people about potential jobs, looking for personal referrals, as they say these days that's how people are getting hired. I probably have done about 95% online hunting and 5% networking. Things that make your go hmmmmmmmm....

In slightly related news, there is the ongoing saga of the family who keeps telling my supervisor and now the psychiatrist that they want a new therapist, but to my face they are singing a different tune. To me they said they thought changing therapists wouldn't really help because the girl doesn't want to be in therapy anyway and they don't think will talk to anyone. I tend to agree with this statement. She's been in therapy for over a year and while sometimes she is more agreeable than others, most of the time she's either quiet or loudly whining and groaning. And keep in mind that she is 17. She is actually a beautiful girl, apparently very smart, but she also has some pretty serious mental health problems that she doesn't want to deal with. And I have been what I feel is very accomodating to this family, have tried to engage this girl, so at this point if they want someone else to take a crack at her, I say go ahead. I just dread the thought that it will turn into a BIG DEAL with my supervisor and all of the potential fall out. Plus I can't help but to take it personally, when I know that my supervisor even said they told her that I was just "so nice and kind", but long story short they want someone more "strong and firm" who can "make the client talk." Because that will definitely help. Urgh!

This is another point of contention with me working with kids...when I get the parents dragging their kids to therapy who really want their kid to be in "boot camp" because they need their child to "learn discipline and respect." These parents are looking at me as the therapist to be more like a drill sergeant or probation officer. I think I need to give parents a disclaimer in our first session that I am neither; it's not my style, my theoretical orientation, or personality. I have learned to be confrontive at times, but still my idea of being confrontive is still pretty "gentle." I am naturally just a soft spoken person, and my style of therapy is more of the "how did that make you feel" approach. And, to boot, I am short, 5'4" in heels if I am lucky, which makes me pretty much the opposite of intimidating. I also have often told parents I am not a dentist so I don't pull teeth--that is, if a kid doesn't want to talk or isn't going to I can't force them to drag it out. I give them lots of patience, understanding, prompting, and plenty of opportunities to talk, but if they can't or won't I am not a dentist, magician, or mind reader.

So, that being said, I will try to keep my head high and roll with the changes, as the wise members of REO would say.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So yesterday I was in a pretty negative place regarding my job, career, employer. It's interesting how all those three words seem synonomous, but they really aren't the same things at all.

Anyway, today I woke up feeling a little more positive, even though I work 1:00pm to 9:00pm today and somehow have overbooked my schedule. I was in a slow line at the grocery store this morning and started contemplating my complaints about my job. Several different realizations developed.

I have pretty much been complaining about my job since I graduated from grad school. I have periods of time feeling a little more settled and secure, but even when I was working in Central Illinois I was job hunting for something "better."

I think of people I know-- my parents, my husband's parents, my friends' parents--and wonder how many of them worked for years, maybe decades, at a job they didn't like or even hated, just to provide for their family, pay the bills, maintain insurance, put food on the table. I think of my dad, who, at 66, still doesn't seem to know what he wants to be when he grows up. He worked many different jobs over the years, I know he sometimes did jobs he didn't enjoy but he did it to provide for his family. I think of people working in factories, working overnights, working at whatever job they could find. Not because they loved the work but because they loved their people at home.

Somehow, over the years, the myth emerged that a happy and fulfilled person should love their job. Yet I think of the people I know and how many of them truly love what they do for a living? Not too many. Or perhaps they love what they do but not where they do it or who they do it with. But day in and day out they go to work and deal with it. It's the hard thing to do, but it's the noble thing to do too.

So maybe it is completely unrealistic that I will have a job I love or love what I do. Truly most days I have liked doing counseling with children and adolescents. I think lately it's just been overwhelming and hit a point where my frustrations are just boiling over. I think this stems from lately having to deal with a few too many crises and not enough feeling extremely helpful or effective. Oh yeah, and yet another instance of a family member of one of my clients questioning if I am "effective", which makes me question my abilities all over again. Somehow I forget all of the clients I have worked with "effectively", who have made changes and have gotten better...

Meanwhile, I will continue to job hunt and just try to muddle through. I know in the long run it is the noble thing to do.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Burn out

So, as all good things must come to an end, I begrudgingly went back to work last Wednesday.

Upon my return I feared masses of voicemails and emails and old fashioned mail full of demands and commands and questions needing answered, but I was pleasantly surprised to have only 6 voicemails, thirty some-odd emails (mostly being stuff I could delete--mass all staff emails or invitations for trainings or meetings I don't need to attend but seem to go to everyone--), and a non-overflowing mailbox. Also somehow I seemed to have more cancellations than usual, so Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday ended up being pretty slow days, client-wise. I did have a mass of overdue and soon to be due paperwork to catch up on, but my motivation has been at a record low, so I have been filling up my time doing a little bit here and there and spending the rest of my time surfing the net and catching up on all those odd errands that I put off doing because I was too busy.

I had hoped that a week off would have me returning to work feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. But this is not the case. In fact, after coming back my spirits seem to be lower than ever. Not only do I dread coming to my office, dread meeting with my supervisor, dread working three evening shifts, and dread being on-call, but I realized that I am losing my passion for working with children and adolescents and am feeling burned out.

I was always warned of the high rate of burn out in the child/adolescent arena. I have fought it for five years, telling myself those wise things that previous co-workers told me ("anything you do is therapeutic with a child", "for some of these kids, you are the only person they have got to talk to", "sometimes you are part of the baby steps toward their progress, maybe they don't get it this time, but maybe they will next time", "you are walking besides them during the tough times in their life").

After you've worked with children and adolescents for awhile, you truly understand why the burn out rate is so high. Half of them don't want to be in counseling, but their parent/guardian is making them. The other half don't agree on what is the problem, what are the goals of therapy, or how to best deal with the problem. Their parent is probably telling me that their child has "anger issues" or a "bad attitude" or "no respect." The kid is probably saying they "hate their parent/step parent, parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, that no one understands them, that talking to someone doesn't help." Upon further inspection, almost always there are underlying problems going on. The kids I work with rarely have lived a "normal" childhood. Many are raised by a single parent, some by grandparents. Many had parents using drugs or alcohol when they were conceived or when they were young. Many moved once a year every year of their young life. All of this impacts normal child development, the development of healthy attachment, the healthy ability to regulate emotions and behavior. The child gets older and starts having "problems." We end up labeling the symptoms as a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, a behavior disorder, an adjustment disorder. Depending on the family's level of understanding and insight, they might be able to recognize the underlying issues and actually address the root of the problem. But for most this is not the case. They focus on the current problems, focus on the need for medication, focus on how therapy is absolutely necessary or isn't helping at all. Few parents/caretakers take any responsibility or role in the process of change. They want me to fix their kid. And they don't understand when I don't. They don't understand that change can be a slow process. The almighty State of Illinois and it's lovely Medicaid system also doesn't understand that change is a slow process. Teach coping skills, get them in, get them stable, and get them out. All of these pressures. Little positive reinforcement. They leave me feeling like "what's the point, what good am I doing to anyone here?"

I used to get enough positive reinforcement with the occasional hug, the occasional "thank you", the knowing in my heart a child benefitted from something we said or did together, even if their parent, guardian, or teacher didn't agree. But lately it's not been enough. I feel drained and less and less hopeful about continuing on in this field, or at least in the child/adolescent arena. At least with adults they have to answer for themselves. I need a change and need it badly. I can feel myself not caring and not doing my best, which isn't fair to my clients. I keep searching for a new job, but no luck. Not in this economy, where jobs are being cut every day and social services have lost funding.

Maybe it's time to change fields, but that would likely involve quitting work or going part-time, more schooling and taking out student loans. Not the best plan when you have a mortgage and bills and your husband is also in the social service field (meaning we are both overworked and underpaid!).

Until now I just have to get by a day at a time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

As my vacation ends...

In less than 24 short hours, my vacation will be over.

I absolutely HATE going back to work after having an extended period of time off. I dread it. Of those experiences that are, relatively speaking, pretty minor annoyances to bear (as I am lucky enough to have paid time off to enjoy) I feel it is just one of the most awful feelings to endure. I hate the feeling of not knowing what the masses of voice mail messages, the overflowing email and real mail inboxes will bring...and just going back to the day to day drudgery that I was SO looking forward to avoiding for an entire week.

Most of the week has felt like one long leisurely Saturday, which, for the most part, is a good thing. Lots of me and my hubby lounging around, watching t.v. or movies, playing some computer and board games. Lots of going out to eat, which I love to do (probably a little too much). Did I mention that the weather was perfect? Sunny, cool mornings and nights, dry air, highs in the 70s.

The week was broken up by a visit from my good friend and her boyfriend. We ventured into the city for some of the typical Chicago tourist attractions. We arrived too late to get into the Field Museum, but we did make the Art Institute and absorbed a good deal of the second floor, including some Monets and Van Goghs, and ventured to Millennium Park for some pictures of the Bean (which I didn't even realize existed) and to take in some free jazz.  
Looking up inside the bean
Ah, so quickly time goes by.
And I feel some regrets, that we weren't more productive or didn't do "more", whatever that would be. We had some hopes of going to the zoo or the pool, neither materialized. I hoped to make a trip home to the 'rents, didn't make that either.
Here's some updated pictures of my flowers
As I watch them grow, bloom, flower, and fade, I am sadly reminded that summer is nearing its end. At least the next season is fall--I love fall.
And I can't wait for more time off.