Sunday, November 2, 2014

11/2/14: And Also...

Along with the self of the therapist work that's been consuming my life, we've been living a life of craziness lately--more than ever if you can believe it!  Dave's managing the iPad project at the MTC and it's led to 12-14 hour days pretty frequently for him and little to no time to just relax and hang out with each other.  He goes to bed around when I get home at night and leaves before I wake up so it's a lucky day when we actually see each other long enough to hold a conversation. Hopefully things will slow down for him here soon so we can enjoy thanksgiving with my family up here!!! YAY!

My semester has just felt insane for some reason as well. I was about to say that on paper my life doesn't seem that crazy, but then I started counting up the hours and it's definitely crazy. There's about 14 hours of class, 15 hours of work(research), and then 10-15 hours of clients a week. So without accounting for homework in there that's already 43 hours. So it's crazy. Not as crazy as Dave, but still a bit much--especially when it's taking an emotional toll as well.

Next I was going to talk about a PhD, but after listing the craziness of school right now that seems sort of insane. But we've both had some pretty amazing spiritual experiences lately giving us very firm guidance about when to start a family and the PhD has never felt out of the picture for me, so I'm going for it.  I have no idea how it is going to work in the plans, but this was more of a spiritual decision than logical. My application is due Dec 1st (I think..) and I'm working on it. I'm not sure which professor I want to work with and that's been part of the stress of this semester, but I think at least one of them will take me, haha. There are some studies I'm more interested in than others, but at this point, I just want a PhD, so I can get excited about whatever research they want me on. The professor I originally wanted to work with is sending me to an externship in Salt Lake next week to learn more about and start getting certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy. I. AM. STOKED. I love EFT and want to become good at it (it's hard because you have to be soft and slow things down a lot--2 things that are not my forte...), so this is amazing he's paying for me to go get trained. And I feel like if he's spending the money to send me, I have a pretty good chance of getting into the PhD program to use the skills in his study.  Crossing my fingers!  It would mean three more years at BYU, and 1 year longer than Dave. He'll graduate in about 2.5 years. But we're okay with that :)

Um...what else? I'm loving and hating therapy. For the first time it feels like "work" to see clients instead of fun. I think I'm just getting a little burned out trying to balance it all. But once in a while I have awesome things happen like a couple bringing me a card on our last day together with a picture of their family and telling me to never forget how much I've changed their lives and especially their kids' lives :)  Sometimes it feels like I'm hitting my head against a wall with my clients, but other times it's the most exhilarating thing I've ever felt. It's amazing to watch clients' lives transform before my eyes.  I obviously love it enough to go on with a PhD, right?

Dave is really loving his research for his dissertation. It's much better than his classes, but he's getting close to being able to be done with classes and just do his dissertation :)  As long as work calms down and he can stay in school...just kidding, but not really...

I think that about sums it up right now for us. In other news, here's our life through the lens of my iPhone!

Trying to eat healthy lately!  We're doing a fitness program at BYU together to help us be
 accountable to being healthier.  It's going...alright...but that's my fritatta breakfast I've been making!
Tastes better than it looks :P

Fishing with Dave and Corbin!

I needed Fall decorations because I was feeling like our house was too bland.  

Fall decoration :)

And the wreath that I've been looking for forever!  It looks great on the blue door I think!

11/2/14: Self-of-the-Therapist--Family Style...

I don't think life as a therapist is ever going to be easy.  I think I had this naive hope that there would just be a huge start-up cost of figuring out my own issues and working through them and then from there it would be easy.  I mean, I understood that it would never be easy to listen to people's most difficult struggles in life and it would never be easy to stick with them even when everybody else had abandoned them.  But I think I hoped that the emotional journey would at least slow down at some point.  But maybe that's part of what's made the last few months so difficult--they were unexpected.

The rest of this post is sort of a compilation of a lot of the self work I've been doing this semester and it's personal and also irrelevant to most people, but I wanted to be able to put into words for my family what has been going on for me all semester and why they've been peppered with questions nonstop since September.  Feel free to keep reading, but I don't expect most people to get all the way to the end :)


So, we're in a few classes right now that have really delved into our families of origin (the family we grew up in) so we can relate to our clients better.  The first project was about facing our adolescence and understanding the parts of us that haven't healed yet from the pain (because any way you put it, adolescence is painful--from school, to work, to home, to extracurriculars, to social lives, etc.).  I thought I would go into this project and it would be a breeze.  "No problem", I thought, "I had a pretty happy childhood/adolescence!"  I didn't expect to start writing my paper and feel emotionally transported back to the stress of high school and navigating the social dynamics there, and I definitely didn't expect to feel so sad about realizing, once again, that I'd struggled with bouts of minor depression when I was younger and that none of us really knew what it was at the time.

So that first project brought up some pretty strong emotions for me, but the hardest part wasn't the painful emotions themselves--it was my questioning them.  Was this really how I felt when I was younger?  Am I imposing my adult self onto my child self right now?  How do my parents see how this all went down?  Siblings? etc.  It was kind of like a knife to the heart to realize that I didn't even trust my own experience of things, and I didn't know why it felt like a knife at the time--I just knew it did.  Needless to say, that presentation was severely interrupted by tears upon tears and I think my professor just gave me a pity grade because you couldn't really understand what I was saying at all when I was presenting, haha.  There were just a lot of powerful, raw emotions I had never addressed before that were coming out before I was ready for them.

So I sort of put this project out of sight out of mind when it was over because I didn't really want to think about it again, but I did go back to therapy to start working through it all with someone.  (This was important because I can't really help my adolescent clients if I'm too scared to go near my adolescent self emotionally.)  But then in another class shortly thereafter I had another family of origin presentation to do!  This one was more from the lens of gender and ethnicity in my family.

I already knew I didn't trust my perception of things from my project before, so this time, I sent an email out to all my siblings and my parents and asked them the questions I had to answer for my presentation--How were women treated in your family?  How aware was your family of privilege?  Did you experience any oppression due to gender or ethnicity? etc.  I was pleasantly surprised by the responses of my family and also intrigued by the fact that everyone had a slightly different experience of things.  I think I obviously expected this, cognitively, but somehow I still felt like my perception was the "wrong one" and reading everybody else's would clear it up for me.

Only my two oldest siblings and my parents responded because I think my other sisters didn't really want to engage long enough to come up with well-thought out answers (I don't blame them).  But I was surprised to see that my experience was most similar to my brother's and then not completely different from everyone else's, but there were subtle differences, and certain things that stood out to each person that the others didn't even mention.  My mom wanted to read everyone's responses at the end and I was nervous to let her because everyone had written knowing that I was the only person who was going to see them.  But they all said I could share them so we all read each others'.  When my mom was surprised by some of the things we'd said about emotions being handled at a pretty cognitive level, she explained to me that with 6 kids (5 girls) it was a necessity to keep things even-keeled--especially when she was pregnant for most of that time.

Her comment really caused a break through for me.  Not because I needed to understand why emotions were handled the way they were--I was kind of already past the point of curiosity on this front--but because when she said that, I realized my immediate reaction was to get defensive and invalidate her experience.  I hadn't ever understood before that to feel like my experience mattered, I needed to invalidate everyone else's.  I mean, I had understood this last year after some feedback I'd gotten from friends and supervisors and I had put it into practice obviously a lot with my clients and with my friends and things, but I had never applied it fully to my family because I hadn't even realized it was happening in that realm of my life.  I think I've been fighting so hard to prove that my experience matters in my family that I've been shutting everyone else's out.

It was a really liberating moment to realize that before I can validate my own experience I have to validate other people's.  It helped me 1) recognize maybe why I'd had such a hard time accepting my emotions surrounding my adolescence, and 2) actually listen to what my mom was telling me about her experience because I was listening to understand, rather than to retort.  It's mostly liberating I think because now I don't feel like I have anything to prove to anyone.  I can live my life how I want to live it and I can think and feel what I want.  It's okay if someone else has a completely different experience.  That's because everyone is different and sensitive to different things.  They don't have to be right or wrong, and neither do I.

^^Reading that last sentence it sounds so obvious and simple, but I can't figure out how to convey the import of that realization for me.  Life affects everyone differently.  It doesn't mean someone is right or wrong.  This was huge.    


Just in case anyone but my family actually did make it to the end, I just want to clarify that nothing really bad ever happened to me in my childhood or family.  I had a ridiculously blessed and privileged life with little to no trauma and amazingly committed and talented parents, as well as connected and engaged siblings.  Which is why I'm able to focus on such seemingly tiny things like validating my own experience--I don't have trauma I'm trying to work through simultaneously.  And for that I am incredibly grateful.  So please don't walk away from this thinking there was some huge thing wrong with me or my family.  It was just day to day stuff I'm talking about here and just differing experiences of it.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

To Dave...

Well, I've been pretty MIA on the blog lately because of a few reasons; 1) We've been in and out of family vacations all over the country, 2) I've been busy trying to finish this huge paper before Fall semester starts so every time I start to write a blog I'm wracked with guilt, 3) I usually feel like writing, and then when I sit down to do it, I'm over it, and 4) There just hasn't been that much to write about.  But today is Dave and my's 2 year anniversary.  It seems like such a tiny little number when I write it down after seeing so many couples who are decades into their marriages in the clinic, but still, these 2 years have been packed with more joy, pain, growth, learning, and love than any other 2 years in my life so far, so I think they're worth celebrating.  Of course, our relationship wouldn't have been possible without my incredibly loving and supportive husband, Dave, so this post today is a letter to him.  (I figured I'd get his anniversary card and my way overdue blog post done in one go--two birds?)

Dear Dave,

       Happy anniversary!  2 years, can you believe it?  Sometimes it feels like it's been lifetimes, and other times it feels like we were just living in Condo Row watching White Collar together, doesn't it?  I never used to believe it when people said, "I'm more in love with my husband every day..." or "We're so much more in love today than when we said 'I do'".  I thought these were just sappy romantic phrases they used to convince themselves that they were happy with their lives.  But I get it now.  I mean, I really get it.
      Getting engaged to and marrying you two years ago made so much sense when I made those choices.  Everything was so easy with you and I just felt like with you by my side I could do anything in the world.  But I didn't realize yet what that meant for the rest of my life.  I think that Heavenly Father knew how lucky I was to be married to you and he's now requiring more of me than he's ever required before because he knows that with you, I can handle more than I was ever capable of before.  (What a compliment to you from Him!)  Sometimes as a couple we hate this, of course, because it means a lot of outside stress on our relationship that we could obviously do without, but I think we're both growing together as people who are going to become better able to be the hands of God and serve his children than we ever thought we would.
      I'm forever grateful for your incredible (sometimes unbelievable) work ethic.  I don't get how you can work a full day at the MTC, come home and grab a quick bite, then work at least another half day well into the night on school or your start-up projects.  However you do it, it's allowed me to feel stable and secure in our finances and our future.  I never worry that you'll be able to provide for us and a future family, which is pretty amazing, because I worry about everything, haha.  Having the financial security we have right now and you being able to keep moving up at the MTC has also been a lifesaver with all the medical expenses that are just through the roof right now, and I love you for never making me feel bad about incurring them.
     Sometimes I think about the way we function and I'm just baffled by how strong you are.  Literally.  I don't understand it.  On days when I'm too beaten down to get out of bed, or I'm hopeless about the pain ever going away, or the program has just become too much for me to handle, you're able to keep your spirits high and lift me up as well.  Again, I don't get how you do it, but I don't know what I'd do without it.  You have a gift for helping me see the good things about life and pushing me to keep going with hope for the future.  I can't wait to see that gift put to use with our kids.  I'm so glad they'll have a rock of positive support and love to come to when they're feeling down.
     I love that you love to teach.  Whether it's teaching your siblings to fly-fish, teaching me how to do things on my computer, teaching lessons, or wherever you use that talent, I love it!  You're so generous with wanting others to succeed and you're so patient with people when they don't quite get it.  You have a gift for making learning interesting and fun, and it's so obvious to me why you want to go into that for your career.  It's fun to watch you be so passionate about how others learn and how you can make it the best for them.
     Of course there are other things I love about you, but these are the few that have been rolling around my head for the past little while.  The biggest one, as always, is your commitment.  There have been a lot of reasons and excuses for you to walk away from this relationship the past two years--whether emotionally or physically--and you never have.  You've stayed on days when I've done nothing but sleep because I'm in pain, you've stayed on days when I didn't have the emotional or mental capacity to listen to you at the end of my day, you've stayed on days when I wanted to give up, you've stayed on days when this chronic pain seemed to be ruining our lives, and you've stayed on days when I thought I was completely unlovable and someone would have to be crazy to stay with me.  Your sweetness and tenderness with me during my hardest times have helped me truly believe that I'm worth loving and that life can be a beautiful thing, regardless of whatever trial we have at the current moment, especially when we lean on each other.
     I don't think I believed people before when they talked about falling more in love with their spouse everyday, because I didn't understand that to weather life's storms and come out happy, you have to lean on your spouse and let them into the most vulnerable parts of your soul so they can help you heal them.  And after having such an intimate experience with each other, how could you not be more in love in the end?  So I can honestly say to you today, "I fall more and more in love with you every day since we got married.  I never could have imagined the kind of love I've experienced with you, but it's so much more than my imagination was capable of!"

I love you, sweetheart.  Thank you for always standing by me and loving me more than I ever could have believed.  Happy Anniversary!!

Erin :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

6/9/14: We're Still Alive...I Promise!

I've been needing to write for a while now, but it feels like there's so much to say and yet, so little at the same time.  So I've put it off.  But I can't sleep, and I need the catharsis right now, so here I am attempting.


Well, I'm now more than halfway through my master's program at BYU and it feels like it's flying by.  I've done almost half of my clinical hours and seen my clients do just about everything from dropping out of therapy early, hating me, depending on me way too much, and even starting to stand on their own two feet again and face the world without the help of therapy.  Obviously, the last scenario is the most rewarding for me to watch, not only because it reaffirms my self-doubts about whether or not I'm helping people, but because it's really inspiring to watch someone change before your eyes and build their own strength to the point of independence.

So as far as therapy-land is going, I'm still loving it.  My favorite clients are my families (so either kids with their parents, teens with their parents, or adult kids with their really old parents).  There's just so much going on in the session and it's amazing how quickly the change happens when you have parents who are involved and just want to love their kids and do their best.  I like working with couples as well, but their cases are a little discouraging sometimes because their marriages have fallen so far and a lot of them are here as a last resort so I just wish I knew how to help them better.  And as always, individuals are sometimes great, sometimes mind-numbing, depending on the client.  But I still want to do this for the rest of my life, so in my book, that's a win! :)

I'm seriously considering BYU's PhD program in MFT which would mean another 3 years of school here.  But they pay for it plus a generous stipend, I already know all the professors, and one of them is doing a research study about women's health issues and how marriage and family therapy can help with it.  He actually works on it in conjunction with the doctor who manages my chronic pain, so I'm very interested in joining his team.  It's hard to know if it'll be the right thing for us, but I feel pretty good about it and will hopefully be applying this Fall to start next year after I graduate.

As far as Dave and I, Dave got a promotion at work so that was a really huge blessing for us--the timing couldn't have been better--and he's happy with all his responsibilities at the MTC.  We are slowly chugging along on the house with paint and crown and trim.  We're almost done with all the upgrades we think we'll do, we just need to get the motivation to finish it!  We're hoping to be fully finished by the time Fall semester starts up again (I'll believe it when I see it...).  Dave's still liking his program at school and gets to take independent research credits this Spring/Summer, so it's like a pseudo-break in the sense that he doesn't have to physically be in class during the week, but just needs to do independent studying on his own for his dissertation.  He's still enjoying what he's learning, so that's great.  We realize we're both pretty lucky to have found things we're passionate about to be spending so much time and energy on :)

This past semester was really insane and we hardly saw each other because I came home around 9 pm almost every night, and he left around 6:30 am every morning.  We're enjoying the slow(er) pace of spring and summer so far because it means we actually get to see each other more than 1 hour a day, haha.  But even with all the craziness, the sheer mental and physical exhaustion, and the frozen lunches and dinners, we're really happy with our life.  We both love what we do, we live in a great house, we have a great ward, and we have family right here in Provo with us.  We just have to remind ourselves of all of that once in a while when things go haywire ;)

Here's a bit of life from the lens of my iPhone...

We still love our planter we built from the ground up :)
This was a bold risk for me!  But I love the blue and think it turned
out great. 
It just makes the house look more finished, I think. 

There will be another post dedicated to this picture,
but these were a concrete and very poignant
reminder to me that Heavenly Father is aware of me
and my pains and struggles.  A testimony that he
 uses angels to comfort the weary and strengthen the weak. 
UVMCO had their concert dedicated to America!!  While the
narration was a little strange, the music was incredibly
moving, and I've loved every minute of being in this
choir this semester!

Um...I live on these things...

And Dave lives on fishing, but I went with him and my Dad this time
and I caught some beautiful fish!

Puzzles are my current escape.  Since I can't solve my clients' problems,
and I can't solve the chronic pain, it's my reassurance that at
least some puzzles have answers.  

On a lighter note, I cut my hair last week!!
And I especially like it curled!

And I just want to go back here.  I spent the week in CA last week watching the kids of one of my favorite families ever for a week while their parents were gone.  It was a lot of work, but I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2/9/14: Special Guest Post by David...

Recently someone asked me, "What is it like being married to a marriage and family therapist student?” 

Tonight on a flight to Seattle when I saw Mt. Rainier gracefully emerge through the clouds I finally found my answer. I hate it. H.A.T.E. And by hate, I might mean love.

A few years ago I climbed Mt. Rainer via a technical route that includes a few hundred feet of ice climbing. Because of the many dangerous crevasses I was in a rope team with three other people. Unfortunately, two of the three people on my rope team decided to be tourists and take pictures every few minutes. Every time they stopped, the rope connecting us would go taut and I'd come to an abrupt halt. This constant, violent jerking strained my body more than I was prepared for. 

At about 5:00 a.m. at 13,000 feet above sea level, I was succumbing to altitude sickness.

In that moment I hated everything I was doing. It didn't matter that the sun was just starting to rise and the entire mountain reflected a transcendent palette of pinks and purples. It didn't matter that I was just 1,000 feet below the summit of one of the most technical routes on Mt. Rainer--the largest mountain in the continental US. 
I hated all of it.

When we reached the summit everyone else was shedding jackets and celebrating. Instead, I pulled my big red down jacket from my pack, threw it on, and shivered violently--not even able to stand. 

About 11:00 a.m. we were finally back to base camp, more than 12 hours after we'd left. We packed our tents up and started the slog back to the ranger station about 6,000 vertical feet below us. By 6:30 p.m. I was stuffing my face with the best tasting pizza I had ever had. 

But at this point the two tourists and I had a decision to make. Did we start the 14 hour drive back to Provo, or find a hotel somewhere? I was beyond broke and had a flight to catch in less than 48 hours. So, motivated by destitution, and fueled by more Mountain Dew than I will ever admit, I drove the three of us 14 hours back to Provo, through the middle of the night, after climbing for 20 straight hours, while the two tourists snored soundly. 

34 nearly sleepless hours later I was back in Provo HATING everything I had just done. 

Strangely, the next day as I was on a plane headed to the east coast I was already dreaming of climbing Rainier again. I'd seemingly forgotten how much, in the moment, I hated everything about the experience. Suddenly it was one of the most incredible moments of my life!


Being married to a MFT student is something similar. On days where she had a good session, Erin's excitement is uncontainable! After a day filled with sessions that 'didn't go that well' she gets down on herself. While I try to be supportive, I'm learning I'm not that great with the whole 'emotion' thing. Fortunately Erin's life is consumed with helping people feel; connecting with their emotions. Being married to her means I don't get to just be "mad." I have to be one of the what she calls primary emotions--"disappointed", "sad", "scared", or "hurt." At first it all felt very artificial, but now I realize how emotionally bereft I can sometimes be.

A huge focus for Erin's program is "self of the therapist." For her, that means being acutely aware of her own issues and weaknesses so that she can learn to not let them interfere with her therapy. For me, it means that at least weekly she comes home with probing questions about herself, me, and our relationship.

I knew when she was accepted into BYU's program that in a way I was getting accepted too. As part of Erin's program she started going to individual therapy. Soon after, WE started seeing a therapist. Being honest, I hate it. But I hate it in the same way that I hated my experience on Mt. Rainier. In the moment you can't picture anything more repulsive, painful, demanding, or discouraging. And then you realize that you just paid a lot of money for that "privilege"! 

But somehow when it's all over you realize just how transcendent and elevating the experience was.

I have a profound respect and admiration for everything that Erin is doing. Every day she is pushing herself to overcome weaknesses and better connect with her emotions so she can help others do the same. Frequently she feels like she hasn't made any progress. The truth? Being married to her I can hardly believe the amount of change I've witnessed in the last few months. It's a big part of why I hate being married to an MFT student. Watching her work so hard pushes me to work on my own issues. I can't just "coast" for a bit, and I hate it.

Sitting in the Seattle airport, all I can do is dream about climbing Mt Rainier again. I think I might actually love being married to a MFT student,  I wouldn't trade it for anything. I look forward to the coming months while Erin is in school because we're closer than we have ever been. My love for her is deeper and my respect and admiration grows daily. 

So I guess when people ask me what it's like being married to a MFT student I should just give them the short version and say, "It's awesome."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2/4/14: 80 hours--Learning to Find Joy in the (torturous) Journey...

Sometimes I think God is just waiting until I have two solid feet on the ground and I'm feeling pretty stable with life and then he says, Now!  Throw something new at her!.  I'm being slightly facetious, of course, but this last week felt like one of those times--apparently I'm not allowed to just float along or be complacent with my progress as an MFT right now.  If I'm not growing, something hard happens to ensure some personal growth.  I sort of have a love/hate relationship with this new pattern in my life because I like growing and becoming a more complete person, but it's also painful and if I had a choice, I think I'd settle for complacency once in a while.

This last week I hit 80 hours and started to really feel my hope in my clients disintegrate.  I thought if I was a better therapist (or knew what the heck to do at all), they would be improving faster and they'd have some chance of getting better.  As it was, I felt like I was impeding their personal growth and they had no hope for recovery if they stayed with me.  They're all so motivated and they're working so hard, but I just can't give them the tools they want and need.  I told my supervisor that I didn't think I was really cut out to do this because I haven't seen my clients improve very much yet and she decided this was a moment for some self-of-the-therapist work (of course...).

She asked me why I expected my clients to improve after 2 months when they've been struggling for 5-10 years on average with what they're coming in with.  I couldn't answer her, except that I just wish I could help them get out of their pain as fast as possible.  She dug deeper and told me that I am too achievement oriented.  For example, I'm taking extra clients to finish my hours early, I want to be a great therapist already after only about 10 weeks, I want depression and anxiety to just disappear as soon as clients decide to come to therapy, I expect the outcome of something I'm working on to be excellent--regardless of how hard it is to get it there, I'm not happy unless I'm working towards a goal and making good progress, and I can't feel good about myself if I feel like I'm not living up to my standards for myself or succeeding at my goals.  She concluded by telling me that until I figure out how to relax and enjoy the journey, I won't be able to help my clients very well.  I need to be okay with ambiguity, okay with this all being a process, and okay with things not getting "fixed" immediately.

Little did my supervisor know how deeply this runs for me.  I mean, I literally feel helpless and hopeless on a daily basis about my chronic pain and I'm frustrated that there doesn't seem to be an answer or a fix to all of this.  I just want it to be black and white.  Either you can make the pain go away, or you can't.  Either I can have kids or I can't.  Either I'll be dealing with this my whole life, or I wont.  I'm tired of the ambiguities.  I'm tired of the endless doctor's visits and tests.  I'm tired of being tired.  And I want it all to come to a nice neat conclusion tied with a bow.  Unfortunately, this seems like it's a lesson I need to learn--that life doesn't come with nice conclusions tied up with bows.  And that's okay.  

Every day I'm learning more about myself, my husband, my relationships, my family, more than I even care to learn, to be honest.  And I think that's what life is about.  It really is about the journey, as cliche as that sounds.  It's not about the destination, because there is no destination in life.  There's just trial after trial and joy after joy and it's all meant to be enjoyed :)  So that's what I'm working on this week--trying to find joy in the journey, in spite of temporary bouts of hopelessness.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1/21/14: Our Life Lately...

So I haven't really done any catch-up blogs lately, and I'm sitting here bored out of my mind in class so I figured I'd give a brief recap of the last few weeks at our house.

Christmas Sunday we stayed in Provo so I could conduct the Christmas Program by the choir in sacrament meeting.  The choir did a beautiful job and I was really moved by spirit I felt.  It was the highlight of my Christmas season up to that point without a doubt.  It might have had something to do with the relief I felt with it being over with, though...

We went home to California for Christmas and it was crazy busy like always, but really fun to be with everyone.  It was my family's turn for Christmas so we had a ton of people at the house and it was slightly chaotic.  My parents were saints to let everyone stay there in their house!  There wasn't much downtime, but I needed a break from school so badly that just being away from clients, classes, and the cohort was glorious regardless of what else was filling my time.

We had everyone over for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and Emma's farewell brunch the following Saturday so there was lots of cooking, cleaning, .  It was way fun to see everyone and I was so sad to head back to Provo (and sad that our truck broke down on the way back, of course...).

Once the second semester started, we hit the ground running and haven't stopped since.  Dave's working on a huge project at work doing about 50 hours a week, and his classes are tough this semester too because they're advanced statistics and another theoretical class.  Our schedule basically goes like this:
6:00am-Dave wake up and head to work
8:00am-Erin wake up and get ready for school/clients
5:00pm-Dave come home from work
5:00-9:00pm or midnight-Dave do homework and continue to work on work project
7:30 or 8:00pm-Erin come home
8:00-10pm-Erin do homework
10:00pm-one of us go to bed
12:00am-the other one of us go to bed.


So now we're understanding what people mean when they say they barely ever see each other.  We feel like we're living that, but luckily, we both really enjoy what we're doing.  We're just a little busy and tired with everything.

This last week we had my old roommate Courtney over for dinner (she just got back from her mission), had Emma and all my family over on the Tuesday night before she left for the MTC, had my cohort over on Thursday night, and had my cousin Corbin over on Sunday for dinner.  Our house has never been cleaner!

On top of everything we've been doing, I've managed to finish a second draft of my thesis, Dave's been fishing 3 times in the past 2 weeks, we've cooked at least 3 meals a week (our New Year's Resolution), stayed healthy so far, and managed to keep our heads above water.  I'll check in to let you know how we're doing after another week of this crazy life!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

1/18/13: How therapy has affected me thus far...

"Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don't go there alone."--Augusten Burroughs

This is exactly what comes to mind when I think of my experience of offering therapy so far.  I've completed about 35 clinical hours now of my own--almost 60 if you include my observations of others' cases--and it's been a little rough, to say the least.  

I never thought I was all that sheltered or caught up in my own little happy bubble--but man, was I sheltered and caught up in my own little happy bubble.  As soon as my clients started opening up about their past traumas, severe struggles with self-esteem, unbearable pressure on themselves to perform, and basically all that is wrong with the world we live in today, I went home and told Dave, "I think anyone who goes into this field with even an inkling of what they're getting themselves into must be a masochist."  And I meant it.  As much as we're supposed to be able to compartmentalize work and home to keep them separate, some stories are just going to stay with you.  How can they not?  And sometimes it's not even the stories that get to me.  It's the pain, the hurt, the sadness, the grief, and sometimes even worse--the apathy.  I just hurt for these poor people who's lives have been so traumatizing that they've had to resort to turning off their emotions to be able to function.  

Don't get me wrong.  I am absolutely loving it.  There's something incredibly rewarding about shutting out my own life for about 10 hours a week to solely focus on someone else's pain and really empathize with them and help them heal.  (Except, I have yet to feel like I'm actually helping anyone heal..)  I find it easier than I thought I would to empathize with my clients and enjoy listening to them and talking with them.  My favorite is when one of them says, "I don't know if I've ever thought about it like this before, but..." or "I never realized how much..." or something else that helps me know that at the very least I'm helping them explore parts of themselves that have been ignored their whole lives.  

But with the good also comes the bad.  Some nights I come home and I just want to curl up in bed under the covers and have Dave hold me because I'm afraid to bring children into a world like this.  Some days I can't think of anything else except how desperately I want my clients to realize how strong, competent, and innately good they are.  Sometimes when I'm driving home I just have to cry, because I don't know what else to do with the powerful emotions I feel after a particularly painful session.  And sometimes I question whether or not I can handle this roller coaster ride for the rest of my life.  

I think it's good that right now as I'm just starting out I'm so strongly affected by my clients' struggles.  I think if I wasn't there might be something wrong with me.  But I'm really hoping that sometime soon I figure out how to take care of myself in a way that will help me stay emotionally healthy and positive about life in spite of all the bad I see.  

My supervisor was watching one of my sessions the other day and she told me that I needed to stop skirting around my client's pain.  I needed to get them to feel it, be there with them, and just let them stay in it, feeling whatever emotions came.  I told her I didn't really want to, because it was just too hard for me to go there.  It was too painful.  So she gave me this analogy.  She asked what the main character did in What Dreams May Come when he found out that the love of his life had been sentenced to Hell while he was in Heaven.  He journeyed all the way to Hell to save her and while he was there he experienced the grief and loss she herself experienced before they could be reunited and travel back to Heaven together.

So basically, that's my job.  I see people stuck in the torment of their own hell, go down and be there with them there for a while, and then try and pull them out of it.    

Now, that makes it sound like I'm super important and without me these people would be stuck forever.  That's not my point at all, and that's definitely not true.  I just mean to illustrate that I'm beginning to understand what it means to truly empathize with people in their darkest moments and still maintain the positivity that comes with knowing that there's something better out there for them to experience.

As hard as it is on me right now just starting out, I know that this whole process is making me a better person and has the potential to make a difference in the lives of so many people who didn't deserve the bad that life has thrown at them.  And I know I'm in the right place because I can just feel it, but I needed to process some of my emotions about my experiences so far through writing today.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Broken in Baker...

So I've decided that if I try to catch the blog up linearly it'll never get done.  So I'm going to start with the last 3 days or so, because I don't want to forget the feelings and experiences we've had this weekend. (This is now almost two weeks ago...)

About a week ago Dave and I were trying to decide which day we should drive back to Provo after spending Christmas in California.  We knew it had to be Thursday or Friday because there was going to be a storm coming and we wanted to miss it.  For some reason I was having a really hard time deciding which day we should leave.  I felt like we should leave on Thursday, but I also wanted to stay the extra day with my family and enjoy California for as long as possible.  We kept putting off the decision until Wednesday when I felt pretty strongly that we needed to leave on Thursday even though I didn't really know why.  
So much in the back!!
We were hauling a bunch of old furniture my parents were giving to the kids up here in Utah in the bed of the truck.  It was loaded to its maximum capacity without a doubt (imagine Tetris with couches, chairs, and tables).  Since we left on Thursday we weren't worried about the storm hitting us because it wasn't supposed to come to Provo until Friday night, and we were planning on getting to Provo on Thursday night.  Since we were so confident in our timetable we decided to leave the furniture mostly uncovered so we wouldn't have to deal with flapping tarps for 10 hours on the road.  

About an hour into the drive (Victorville) I heard a funny noise and asked Dave about it.  Now, you have to understand that I'm the type of person that freaks out about every little noise I ever hear in a car.  Since my mind always jumps to the worst case scenario we tend to just ignore my fears when we're in the car together.  But I kept hearing the noise and asked, "Are you sure we shouldn't be worried about that?".  Dave assured me that this was just an old car and old cars have "character" in the form of weird noises.  

One hour further into the drive (just outside of Baker, now) we heard a cyclical swooshing sound that sort of sounded like a flat tire.  We definitely payed attention to this noise.  We slowed down and moved over a couple of lanes just in case, and as we were gliding to the right we heard a huge "CLUNK!" that sounded like something metal hitting the bottom of our car.  We pulled over to the shoulder and slowed to about 25 mph.  We continued to drive at this speed until we could find an exit to get off on.  The next one was Zzyzx Road so we pulled off and tried our brakes to see if it was something going on with them.  The wooshing sound became more distinct as the brakes were engaged and we thought we were zeroing in on the problem.  We wanted to see what would happen if we tried to come to a complete stop so Dave tapped the brakes once more and the car skidded to a screeching halt right in the middle of the Zzyzx Road offramp on its own.  Awesome.

At this point we were at a loss.  Either our brakes had seized on us, our transmission had died, or something else we didn't even know about was going on...We got out (in the middle of the road, mind you) and looked at the car.  You could see the black skid marks on the road from where the brakes had kicked in of their own accord.  We called our car insurance and asked for a tow which wouldn't be there for another hour and a half, unfortunately.  We then proceeded to troubleshoot the problem.  We called my parents and my grandpa who once was a mechanic in the military.  Dave and them all had a fun time trying to find the problem while cars (and SEMI-TRUCKS!!) were squeaking by us on the shoulder since our car wouldn't move forward or backward and we were literally right in the middle of the road.  woops.

It turns out Dave had worked on the car a few months ago and removed and then replaced the front right wheel.  I don't know much about cars, but I've heard the same words thrown around all weekend so I'll try to do my best to describe what happened.  The caliper in the wheel has two bolts that hold it in place and apparently these two bolts were missing on our front right wheel when Dave looked under the car so the caliper had come loose and jammed itself in the wheel well causing our wheel to get stuck and refuse to budge.
This was taken under the car behind the wheel well...
The blue stuff is the lock-tight.
At this point Dave had to admit that his workmanship was probably the culprit...a very humbling experience indeed...The bolts had been tightened to spec, but Dave just used the same bolts that he'd removed and the lock-tight which comes on new bolts was missing.  (Lock-tight is some sort of glue/thing that makes sure the bolts won't come out?)  See the picture to the side.  Anyway, without the lock-tight, the bolts will work themselves loose over time (4,000 miles to be exact...) and it seems like that's what happened to us.  Luckily, the bolts came out clean and the threads in the holes were still perfectly intact, our rim hadn't been damaged at all minus a scratch (a miracle!), nothing else was damaged in our car, and once we replaced the bolts we would be good to go.

Just to prove I was actually there...and smiling!
Poor Dave.  Or should I say "poor Dave's pride".

Look how low the back of the truck scary.
So we got towed to a mechanic (the only mechanic in about a 100 mile radius) and we nervously eyed the furniture now precariously bouncing up and down while sharply angled toward the road during the entire tow-ride.  Luckily we were just 2 miles or so outside of Baker so it didn't take long to get there. 

The mechanic was really great and stayed open pretty late.  When he looked at the truck he told us our assessment had been correct and we just needed the two caliper-retaining bolts and we'd be on our way again.  We called around to all the shops in the area ("in the area" being a 100 mile radius, of course), but these bolts were specific to a '97 Ford F150 so no one had them except a Ford dealership all the way in Victorville.  They were going to close in an hour so there wouldn't be any way to get the parts until the morning. 

Aside:  At this point it had become crystal clear why I'd felt like we needed to leave on Thursday instead of Friday, and we were grateful we had.  

Good 'ole Will's Fargo Motel :)

So we looked around for a hotel (who are we kidding? Motel) and there was just one still in business.  The mechanic was really nice and drove us there since it was dark, cold, and we had to bring our big suitcases since we didn't have overnight bags or anything convenient like that.  The motel was incredibly creepy and sketchy, but it had a king bed (win!), so it could have been worse.  It was relatively clean and had a heater so I was happy.  And as a cherry on top, March of the Penguins was on CNN on the TV in the room!

We spent the evening eating dinner at Denny's forever to use up time, trying to get my hot spot to work in the motel so we could check the weather to make sure we'd still beat the storm the following day, calling my parents and convincing them that there was no need for them to drive up and come rescue us, and watching March of the Penguins.  It was actually pretty relaxing knowing that there was literally nothing we could do except rest until the next morning.


Come next morning I was not feeling as relaxed as the night before.  I was a little more anxious to get out of Baker and get on the road.  I was worried about the storm and didn't want to have to worry about stopping mid-drive to tarp all the furniture because the snow might ruin it.  I was also having bad feelings about how early the mechanic had told us we'd get the part that morning.  His son was supposed to be coming up from Victorville with it around 11:00am so we would be on the road by 11:15 hopefully.  

All this happened at Denny's the next
morning, mind you...
We called the Ford dealership like 5 times that morning to ask whether or not the parts had been picked up and when they hadn't been picked up by 10:30 (remember it's an hour and a half drive from the dealership to Baker still) we decided we needed to figure something else out.  Dave had the thought to ask the dealership if they might directly deliver the parts for us and so we called them yet again to ask, but they said no.  Baker was too far for it to be worth their time.  We pushed a little and told them we'd pay them for the time and gas if they could get it to us and they said, "Well, I'm not really doing anything around here, so let me ask a manager if it's okay."  He came back and told us if we'd pay $20 for the delivery he'd be on the road as soon as we hung up!  We were ecstatic!!

Turns out our motel was right across from the
famous thermometer, we couldn't see it the night
before in the dark.  
We called our mechanic and told him we were having the parts delivered directly and he didn't believe us.  He said they had never delivered before so there's no way they'd deliver 2 $10 bolts all the way to Baker.  But we had faith in the dealership :)  We headed back to our motel for a quick rest before we had to check out and then walked the mile with our suitcases and backpacks in hand down to the mechanic shop.  The parts were delivered within about 5 minutes of us getting there and our mechanic's jaw dropped as he uttered a curse word under his breath.  He actually didn't believe they were going to come until he saw it himself.  

Once we got the part, the job took a total of 5 minutes.  That was what we waited all night in Baker for.  $20 worth of parts, and 5 minutes of labor.  We checked the tire pressure, made sure our straps were secure, and we were on our way!  And only and hour and a half later than we were hoping.  If we hurried, we'd still beat the storm!

I don't know if I've ever made that drive with so few pit stops.  Who knew my bladder was so capable?!  We were very go-go-go as we were racing the storm, but we made it in time to get home and unload all the furniture into the garage before we saw any weather.  It was an absolute miracle.

On the road again, finally!! 

Throughout the whole experience with our stay in Baker, both Dave and I couldn't help but comment on how certain we were that Heavenly Father had been watching over us.

 We were so grateful we'd left a day early so we didn't feel overly stressed about the timing of everything.  Looking back at the series of events, it makes no sense how we made it all the way to Zzyzx road if we'd been missing that bolt for 2 miles already.  We should have come to a skid in the middle of the freeway and been in a much more dangerous situation.

It doesn't even make sense that both bolts both came out so cleanly leaving the threads in perfect shape in the holes.

Our mechanic told us that we were so lucky the bolt hadn't torn a hole in our rim and we were grateful that we could drive home with just a $20 dollar fix plus labor.

The Ford dealership that would never even deliver from Barstow to Baker was willing to drop everything to deliver our parts to us from Victorville as soon as we asked them to.

Somehow we didn't hit any bad weather during the entire drive up from California to Provo.

Miraculously; none of the furniture was damaged or even scratched during the entire ordeal.  We could not believe that after all of that it was all in perfect condition.

Overall, it was yet another testament to me of Heavenly Father's love for us and how much he truly does care about each and every one of our pains and struggles.  It's been a year of a lot of physical pain and emotional struggle for me and sometimes it's easy to feel forgotten, but how could I ever deny such an explicit example of his watching over us?

Overall, we were pretty grateful to be home safe and sound after the entire ordeal, but we knew we'd been blessed with a little (a lot of) extra help :)