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 is...so 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 :)