Social Work Practice
Intro. to Social Work
TWO. MORE. DAYS.
If ever I’ve felt like my head is on the chopping block, it’s now.
It’s 4:33 a.m. Josh is sleeping softly. The fan is gritty and loud but it’s nice and cool in my office area here (I know you’re reading this Almonds and snickering that I use the word “office”- it’s an office, dammit! One man’s corner is another man’s office…) and I’ve been contemplating my future, as always. I’ve been researching work-at-home (WAH) jobs for hours.
So now I find myself at an interesting fork in the road: probation officer vs. medical transcriptionist/transcriber: There are pros and cons to each. While the idea of working in probation, particularly in juvenile delinquency, is appealing, so is working from home. I already have a medical training background (Phi Theta Kappa/Ivy Tech) and am used to working in my pj’s already. (Which is absolutely awesome, I might add.) I spend long hours at the computer- nothing new- and am a disciplined workhorse. I could do either or.
But the thing I really need to consider most is that I’m still not 100% migraine free. When I get one of my killer migraines, it takes me down like a burning plane for 2 to 3 days. Can’t walk or move around, have to avoid bright lights and loud noises, and the accompanying nausea is the worst. Is it likely that any potential employer is going to want to give me two and three days off to recover? Each time? Like, every other month or so? I don’t get them often anymore, thanks to my proactive, homeopathic treatment, but when I do, they’re unforgivable. I’ve had a few bad ones in the past two months. This is something that I have to consider.
This makes working from home a much more practical and reasonable solution. I’ve only got a few more months to solidify my plans and I want to make sure they’re the right ones. I’m going to keep my specifics under lock and key, but I’ve already been accepted into a great college in Washington today. Spoke to an adviser, registered, sorted out the financial aid and bing-bang-botta-boom– I’m in!
My medical transcription (MT) program is an ADHI approved school. It’s not a drive-thru cheapo certificate. it’s a 43 credit hour $4,000 program that partners with Career Step, one of the best MT programs in the country. The best part is that I qualify for financial aid so the entire thing is FREE (for me). Sweetness.
I may interlude and scamper on over and pick up my MT certification (backup plan at the very least- a great sleeper “didn’t see this coming” killer stay at home career at the greatest) before jumping right in to begin working on my BA in Criminal Justice. Before I look too far down the road, I want to start with my MT certification. The worst case scenario is that I might’nt get my BA or return to school at all, but between the MT work (even part time) and doing a few school readings here and there with my children’s book, it would be enough supplemental income to be comfortable. Whichever I choose, I’ll still get the next two months off. That’s like winning the lottery to me. 🙂
There’s a chance I’ll make plans to be a plumber, skydiver, sword swallower, or BMV worker tomorrow or next week, but for today, this is what I’m going to do with my life.
Think I’ll put on a strong pot of coffee and get to work on my Biology research paper. I’ll be researching and writing about whether or not it’s ethical to give children with ADHD mood altering and psychiatric medicine who may not understand the possible long-term repercussions. Don’t even get me started…
(Four days to go!)
Five days until school is out. Woohoo!
I swear I’m so tired of talking about school. But, since I’m already on it, let’s update.
Still to go:
1 videotaped diagnostic interview
1 biology Biome assignment (due today)
3 5-10 page APA research papers to write in 3 different classes
1 video presentation on Autism
Piece o’ cake. I could do that in my sleep by now.
I’ve decided to change plans. Again.
I’ll be taking the whole summer off and taking lots (and lots) of pics. I can afford to take the summer off without working- it’s going to be pure Heaven, I tell ya. And after the year I’ve had so far?
I got it coming to me I think.
It’s 4:27 a.m. and I’m wide awake. There’re only three weeks left in the semester and I’m running out of time fast. I still have 4 major research papers to write (APA, of course), 30 hours of practicum/intern/volunteering at the psych ward and youth shelter, a diagnostic interview to videotape, and an oral presentation on Autism to prepare and record. (Not to mention 6 more exams.) My accumulative GPA is 3.65: not too shabby.
I tried sleeping but darn it, I have a career to plan! Besides, I have an executive decision to make: transfer immediately over to Indiana University Bloomington to begin working on my B.S. in Criminal Justice, or stick it out for the summer semester at my current university, Vincennes, and receive my 2nd degree- an A.S. in Social Work. I’m 97% finished, according to my audit, which means if I take only 3 more social work courses this summer- I’ll have my 2nd degree.
Granted, little can be done with an A.S. in Social Work (apart from residential counseling, youth director, case manager in a group home or Substance Abuse facility, etc.) but I do also have the degree in Behavioral Sciences too, along with the CPC in Substance Abuse. Technically, it’s 5 academic years combined.
My short term primary objective is to become a probation officer, and possibly, parole- ultimately. (Perhaps 3 years in probation working with juveniles, then a transition over to parole so I can take a few years experience with me.) I’m really wanting to stay in the area of juvenile work: I’d rather work with impressionable, responsive, and “workable” adolescents who haven’t already been hardened by poor choices and criminal deviance. However, my dilemma is that most probation office facilities require a bachelor’s degree. I have the equivalency, and I’m sure I could sell myself in the area if I tried, but I really think I do need the Criminal Justice training. I’m not entirely loving “Social Work”, and so I’m tempted to simply transfer over to IU Bloomington so I can begin working on my Criminal Justice degree over the summer. But that means tossing my A.S. in Social Work when I’m 97% finished!
I suppose I’ve ramble-typed enough to have worked this out: I’ll remain at Vincennes for the duration of the summer and complete my Social Work degree. In the meantime, I’ll have registered at IU Bloomington and will be ready to go this fall.
I still have my heart set on Forensic Psychology, but for now, a B.S. in Criminal Justice is what I need to focus on. I’m hoping to be able to integrate photo therapy into my work (down the road) and do more school readings with my children’s book, but I have to keep my irons in the fire down to, oh…say FIVE or so.
I’m considering taking my Abnormal Psychology chapter test on Theories, Perspectives, and Models but I s’pose that can wait until the morning. I’m so super excited these days! I’ve waited 20 long years to be able to go back to college, get a few degrees under my belt, and start my career. My kids are mostly grown (17-24), so I’m allowing myself the luxury to focus on ME now. This has all been carefully planned for a very long time and it’s exciting that I’m finally actually doing it.
Only two more years!
Along the way I’m going to join and pick up certification in IAAP (Indiana Association for Addiction Professionals ) & ICAADA (Indiana Counselors Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse). My Substance Abuse professor suggested that I join these two organizations. I’m not necessarily going into the Substance Abuse/Intervention field, but I think more than a Criminal Justice degree is necessary if one wants to be an effective probation officer. Many juveniles will have already experienced drugs and alcohol by the time they’re 13. Juveniles that are sent to the probation department? Their experiential substance abuse percentage is closer to 100%. I want to have a few extra tools in my belt: a solid substance abuse education and credentials are essential when working with juveniles.
Juveniles + substance abuse = probation
adults + substance abuse = parole
substance abuse – college education = homelessness, jail, criminal behavior, etc.
It’s only a matter of time before a juvenile experimenting with substance abuse ends up homeless, in prison, or on parole. There’s a very strong correlation between juveniles who are on probation and substance abuse. I want to do what I can so that he or she doesn’t end up going down that road.
And now I’m off to bed.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering what a cell looks like during its anaphase cycle of mitosis, this is it:
Centromeres: whole black peppercorn
Spindle Fibers: uncooked pasta
Chromosomes: Ramen noodles soaked in Srirracha sauce
Microtubules: whole green tea
Grade received: A
So early this morning, as I was serving Josh some creamy oat meal and coffee, I asked him if we could start planning our Puerto Rico vacation. I’ve calculated that it’ll cost around $1,000 each for a 5 day getaway stay in a private chalet in the El Yunque rain forest in the jungle. A round trip flight for two is only $800- insanely cheap. The chalet is $150 per night- again, insanely cheap and we’ll be 15 minutes away from a private waterfall lagoon in one direction and a white sanded beach filled with tiapas kiosks in the other. PARADISE.
The only problem I see here is that I’m about 30 lbs. heavier than I’d like to be, so…I have to kick my sick sugar habit and start working out. I absolutely HATE to “work out”. It’s so freaking boring. The fact that I’m a former athlete and trained intensely every day (for years) helps; I’ve got some killer muscles in my legs, etc. from being a cross country runner, but I’ve been a bit of a slacker for about 25 years.
I’m going to start today. An hour per day, 5 days per week. By the time Josh and I are on our private lighthouse beach in Caja de Muertos (Dead Man’s Chest), I’m going to have a super sick body. Because I’m a former athlete, my muscles are well formed- they’ve just been asleep for awhile but it’s time to wake those suckers up!
I’m feeling pretty excited these days. Apart from a video recorded diagnostic interview and a handful of research papers (and finals, of course) I’m pretty much wrapping this semester up. I’ll be able to have a month down in May (in between semesters), so the entire month will be spent picking blanket fuzz out of my hair, eating
Ben and Jerry’s rice crackers while watching the ID Channel and catching up on reading my MGM era biographies. Heaven? I think so.
I’m off for a morning photo shoot with my Super Tak (SMC Super Takumar 135/3.5) for my first spring shoot.
Life is pretty damn sweet right about now.
And here’s why!
Helios 44-2 film lens + Canon Rebel XSI
I’ve decided to write this post about a sensitive subject matter that is both confusing and often misunderstood. While I’m not a doctor, I do have my degree in Behavioral Sciences (yea! I can say that now!) as well as my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and, I’m currently working on my Masters’s in Psychology of Addiction and Counseling and have spent a great deal of time studying OCD and other psychological and emotional disorders. I’m not merely spouting theoretical book noise, however, I’ve been an OCD sufferer from the time I was a young girl. These days, my symptoms are almost always dormant, due to aggressive home therapy (and homeopathic medicine which is somewhat controversial) but it works for me, and that’s what’s most important at the end of the day. I do what works for me.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t find any posts about tongue or cheek biting. Nor could I find any five years ago. Only recently, I’ve seen more and more posts about people who bite their tongues until they bleed, etc., most are asking questions and wonder if it’s a form of OCD or other psychological disorder. I can answer that.
Yes. It is.
When I was a young girl, maybe 7 or so, I developed a horrific habit of chewing the flesh on the insides of my cheeks- ripping off the cheek flesh and spitting it out. It’s really quite a disgusting habit! My habit was still in its infancy, unfortunately, and gradually, I began to chew on the sides of my tongue- often not satisfied until it bled and my tongue would swell. I didn’t dare speak to a therapist about it. I knew she would think of it as a psychological disorder and the next step would be medicine from a shrink. No thanks! I don’t think the solution for every problem that manifests is pharmaceutical medicine. There must be other ways.
Taking medicine for an uncontrollable habit is merely putting a band aid on an amputated limb. It does nothing to get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, a psychiatrist will prescribe a medicine for OCD or other tricky disorders all too quickly, without really breaking down the matter and getting to the roots of what is really going on. It should be understood that tongue-biting isn’t a “cause” but a result of a cause. It’s the effect.
I needed to get to the root of why I was ripping at my tongue, and why I was causing my own muscle to bleed. When the pain would begin to set in, I’d gently scrape my teeth over my tongue, causing a “sweet” kind of pain. It was like pain on pain, and it brought about a euphoric feeling. It was only when I began studying Substance Abuse at my university that I realized what was really going on.
Children spin around as toddlers to get dizzy. The child is literally trying to get high! It’s a human curiosity and it’s in every one of us. Do we all act upon it? No. But we all have the built-in curiosity and capability to settle that curiosity by trial and error. I experienced heightened trauma and abuse as a child. I never really made a connection between the trauma that was inflicted upon me involuntarily, and the trauma that I voluntarily inflicted upon myself thereafter.
Somehow, in my mind, I felt that I needed to punish myself. I’m not talking about consciously, but subconsciously. And also, the physical pain distracted me from the emotional pain. Again, much of this was taking place on a subconscious level, which is why I would find myself doing it over and over, absentmindedly.
Eventually, after much introspection, I came to realize that biting my tongue in such a way, put me in the same category of self-mutilators. I didn’t want to accept it for many years, but it is the exact same thing. Cutting one’s arm with a razor or cutting one’s tongue (or cheek) with the teeth is still cutting just the same.
I used to think it was self pity. And then I believed it was guilt. From there, I made connections psychologically. Over the years I’ve discovered that it’s a multi-tiered disorder. It’s not just one thing that is causing a person to self-mutilate, but a combination of physiological, socioeconomical, biochemical, psychosocial (the list goes on) factors that when combined- cause an explosive reaction that results in pain, and the desire for pain.
To better understand the depth of this disorder, one should consider what’s going on in the brain every time a biter rips off the flesh, or, a cutter cuts him or herself. Our brain releases neurotransmitters called endorphins. These are the feely-good chemicals that act as natural painkillers. They actually mimic opiates such as morphine and codeine. Stress and pain are the two most common reasons that these endorphins are released into the bloodstream. Once the endorphins are kicked out, a series of natural biological responses occur immediately following: feelings of euphoria, a regularity in appetite, enhanced immune responses, and a release of sex hormones. Who would have thought pain could do all of that?
Upon learning this, I have a new theory as to why cutters cut and biters rip off their tongue and cheek flesh: it’s not simply OCD, or self pity, or guilt (or anger, etc.), it’s much deeper than those things: It’s a drug addiction. Inflicting pain triggers the exact same endorphins that morphine, codeine, and other narcotics/opiates do! Once these chemicals learn their neural pathways repetitiously, they take on a life of their own and without the consent of the host, they begin to call the shots.
There is a difference, however in degrees of this “drug abuse”, between cutters and biters.
Cutters are ritualistic. They prepare for their cutting and even just the very thought of their utensils and other preparatory goods will trigger the release of those euphoria-inducing endorphins. The adrenaline kicks off a bit, and the sympathetic nervous system goes into fight-or-flight mode. The heart beat speeds up, breathing becomes quicker, the pupils can either dilate or shrink, depending on the level of adrenaline, the palms may get sweaty- there are very physical changes that take place in cutters. Secrecy is a large part of their preparatory ritual. Contrary to what many people think about cutters trying to “get attention”, it’s quite the opposite. It’s not a “cry for help”; they’re often very secretive about their cutting.
Biters (of the tongue and cheeks) however are not ritualistic in their behaviors. I am a biter. (I would know.) Cutters have times throughout the day and night that they prefer to cut. Sometimes, it’s because of environmental factors, such as people being home or not, etc. Usually, they’re more systematic and methodical though. Biters don’t have to “plan” for biting. If the stress level rises, the tool is right there! The teeth get to work at once, nibbling first- scoping out the territory to find a good soft, painful, “raw” area to traumatize. And so it begins. The teeth start to dance in a bit of a frenzy, darting here and there, finding more flesh to attack- taste buds are mercilessly ripped off in pieces, or in whole- and then the host realizes what’s happening and the guilt comes in. The biter stops, and swears to try and stop for good. But by now, the endorphins have already been sent out and the mission has (temporarily) been accomplished. The “drug” has been partaken and the person has gotten his or her “fix”. Literally. Just like a junkie.
And so it must be treated like a substance abuse issue also. It’s not merely a “psychological disorder”, like OCD. It’s very much a biological/physiological disorder and should be handled as such. There absolutely will be withdrawals if a person tries to stop “cold turkey”. Perhaps not seizures or other dramatic withdrawal symptoms, but changes in appetite, sleep, stress levels, hormone levels, attention and focus, irritability, and other areas will absolutely be affected.
I wouldn’t recommend prescription medication in treating this type of disorder. Why treat a “neurochemical drug disorder” with drugs? I would recommend replacing the cutting/biting activity with other activities that release the same endorphins: laughter, sex, exercise, ginseng, vanilla scented aromatics, dark chocolate, a firm massage, and music- to name a few.
What’s helped me tremendously is pausing for a moment, when I realize my thoughts are going in that direction, and cleaning out my mind- immediately- taking a few deep breaths- calming myself, and I’ll “regroup” my thought processes. Usually, the # 1 trigger of biting/cutting is stress. I can’t really speak for cutters, as I’ve never really been a “cutter”, but the cutting/biting process is the same, so I would assume that cutters are triggered by stress as well. Even if it’s not an overt and obvious stress, stress is most likely the culprit.
There’s truth in the adage “mind over matter”. I was able to give birth to four children calmly through my determination and solid mindset. I had very little pain medication (I chose to have my 3 girls “all natural” so that I could be bonded with them in the pain process) and didn’t scream at all. I controlled my mind and told myself that the pain was “nothing at all”. And, through deep meditation and control, I was able to give birth without screaming and wailing. So, I do believe the same can be achieved by simply taking a moment, pausing- and telling myself that “biting isn’t the answer”.
At that moment, I can redirect my “biting thoughts” to the source of my stress. After locating the source of my stress, I can then reroute my energy to do what I can to eliminate the stress, rather than cut my flesh with my teeth. In this way, I’m laying the axe to the root and over time and with practice, will become more successful and efficient at eliminating the biting(/cutting) altogether.
It has to be a conscious effort. And it has to be a cold, hard choice.
But these simple “mental exercises” shine the light on the problem area, allowing the person to see what is truly going on (and where), so that he or she does not continue to drone on in the same methodical disease-driven behavior, and to proactively and consciously choose a healthier path- one step at a time.
Footnote: Just as there are various degrees and types of substance abuse, there are various degrees and types of cutting/biting. One person’s combining factors may not be another’s. Each person must identify his or her own stressor/s and work to eliminate the source or sources of those stressors. If the person feels that he or she is the source of his or her own stress, then rather than eliminate the source- try and peacefully merge to coexist harmoniously with oneself.
I hope this was of some help to some of you biters and cutters out there. Your mind is a very powerful machine. You absolutely have the goods to turn this thing around, and I wish you all the best. x
Helios film lens 44-2/Flooded field/manual/natural lighting
Upside down reflection-taken yesterday