Working in Mental Health Must be Crazy.

I generally don’t tell people my profession right away. If they ask what I do I say “I’m a nurse,” that’s usually enough. If they ask further I say I work in mental health. If they ask further I say “I own my own practice.” I try to keep it short and simple.

People’s general response is “Wow that must be crazy,” or they ask what kind of people I treat, like the people I treat are some sort of sideshow freak. I always respond that I treat many different people. Again to just close the subject.

A couple reasons: I don’t think discussing my work is appropriate in most situations. All of what I am told is confidential and protected. I work hard to protect my client’s privacy. Basically any discussion about them could be perceived as disclosing too much.

I don’t know what everyone’s story is. I could say that I treat a lot of sexual assault victims, and trigger the person I’m talking to who may be a survivor of sexual assault.

I don’t want to hear about everyone’s story. If I’m at the grocery store or at the gym I don’t want to know your mental health history. I just want to exist in the world in that moment without bearing other people’s shit.

So yes. I can be rather closed off about my profession. Not because I’m not proud of it and the work I do. Because I am. I love my work. I love that it’s unpredictable. I love that my long term clients trust me and look forward to seeing me. I love getting referrals from my clients because I know they trust me to see their friends and family.

It’s like parenting. The days are long but the years are short. I have some long ass days. Days I want to cry, scream, and everything else. I hate insurance companies. I hate that they dictate care and reimburse crap. I hate chasing people for money and/or getting screwed and never paid. Because it is my livelihood and it pays my mortgage.

I started keeping a video diary at the end of my days.

Yeah as soon as I figure out how to upgrade my plan that’s happening. I was watching some of them tonight and it’s hilarious. Also sad.

Here’s my point to this rambling blog post. I love working in mental health. It is fucking nuts some days. I’ve had knives drawn in my office. I’ve held people as they cried. I’ve been screamed at, sworn at, quietly glared down, and mildly stalked (yes there are levels). I’ve also been the first one to know about a pregnancy. The first one to know about a marriage proposal. The first one who a person comes out to about their sexuality or gender identity. I’ve watched people literally transition from one gender to another and everywhere in between. I’ve forged relationships with clients who have a deep mistrust of mental health practitioners and I’ve discharged clients and been fired by clients.

I’ve seen people through marriages, divorces, children, high school, college, and first jobs. What’s crazy is not my work. It’s not my clients. What’s crazy is the stigma that still exists around mental healthcare.

What’s crazy is not my clients. 

My clients constantly amaze me. People who make generalizations about mental healthcare do not understand that nothing separates them from my clients. Nothing. I’ve treated the poor, the rich, the middle class, white, Black, gay, straight, old, young, and everything in between.

The need for therapy or psychiatric medication doesn’t make some one crazy.

Denial that one is in need of therapy and/or psychiatric medication defines crazy.

To all my clients and everyone courageous enough to seek mental health treatment for yourselves I see you. I admire you. I don’t think you are crazy. I think you are some of the bravest people I know.

 

 

 

 

Twins First Haircut…And Homophobia

Brought my sons to the barber for the first time. Up to now it’s been me pinning Jackson to floor attempting to do a fade up the side of his head. Usually it all ends up shaved off because he moves so much and screams and cries.

I’ve had my sister do it, but I still have to hold him down, and he still screams. My wife and I talked and we thought he’d be better behaved in an actual barbershop. With men. Because like it or not that boy is drawn to men.

Figures he got stuck with two Moms. Declan could care less. About his hair being cut, men, women, etc. That makes him sound like the easy child. He’s not.

So I went to a barbershop in a town nearby. It was walk in only and I called ahead to make sure they were good with twin toddlers. We walked in and there were two rather large and bulky barbers and a shop full of men either getting cut or waiting for their turn.

The owner turned on the big screen mounted up on a wall and went to Starz. Of course Declan saw Frozen and said “Elsa Mama!” The barber laughed and we settled on Toy Story 3. Clearly Frozen was too girly for the manly barbershop.

As we sat and waited I took in our surroundings. American flag. Normal. Sign saying “Here we say Merry Christmas, we stand for the Anthem, etc.” and then I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. We were not on safe ground.

Americana and patriotic stuff is fine. Right winged signs about being Christian with no understanding of white privilege and the whole kneeling for Anthem situation…yeah I was guessing lesbians wouldn’t be welcomed.

It was my wife’s birthday. She wasn’t there with us though. She was working.

The boys are super empathic. I was trying to act normal but looking back I realize I was being more talkative and overly friendly. Sharing that I am a nurse.

I like to win people over before my boys start talking about their two mom’s. The barber was an EMT married to a nurse. Score. Then the birthday was mentioned. My boys were super excited to celebrate my wife’s birthday that night.

They talked all about Mommy’s birthday. The barber’s both said “Happy Birthday” to me. Because that’s what cis-het-males do. They assume every one is like them.

I didn’t correct them. And though I know the boys understood everything. For the first time in their little lives they didn’t correct them either. They just listened as I was wished Happy Birthday. They always correct people.

“She not Mommy. She Mama!” is a phrase I hear daily. “We have TWO Mommy’s” is another one.

But they didn’t this time. Writing this I have tears brimming in my eyes.

I didn’t feel anything at the time except anxiety. Fear. But I had a smile plastered on my face and was chatting. I never chat. Declan looked at me when I said “Thanks” to them as they wished me a Happy Birthday. But for once in their three and a half years of talk talk talk they did not correct them.

The barbers brought up the birthday at least three times. Each time acting as though it were mine. I never corrected them and neither did the boys.

They are too young to have an actual discussion about what happened in there. They were both just proud of themselves for sitting still and not crying. But they knew.

Somewhere in their little brains they knew. Mama is scared and we are not going to talk about Mommy.

I will never know if the barber’s are supporters of #45. I will never know if they are accepting of two mom families. I likely won’t go back even though they treated the boys wonderfully.

I should have been excited and happy to be getting their hair cut for the first time. But I was scared. I felt distinctly unwelcome and that I had to hide who my family is in order to remain safe.

I may have been wrong. But when I walked to my car there was a truck with a confederate flag hanging off the sides.

A liberal left swinging person may have noticed the signs hanging on the walls. They may have thought a quick thought about not discussing politics. But if they were heterosexual/cisgender/white that’s likely all that would have gone through their head.

For a minority woman who is not heterosexual every worst case scenario went through my head. From simply being kicked out to being harassed or assaulted.

I felt the instinct to befriend them so that if the boys did let on that we were a two mom family they might like me by that point and not be too harsh. My kids, for possibly the first time, noticed that I was distinctly uncomfortable. And didn’t discuss Mommy at all.

This is not the future I want for them. Yet in our current climate this is my family’s reality. Check your privilege. Because you have it if you are cis and heterosexual.

And if you own a business…I’m cool with the whole Republican dogma being your political system.

I’m not cool with homophobia and intolerance. So maybe throw up an equality sticker next to your American flag so I can relax. And so my children can know their Mama is relaxed. That this place is safe. That we can be ourselves here. Because to feel distinctly unsafe…that is called walking in the shoes of a minority in a country where we are devalued and discriminated against on the regular.

Why we can’t be friends and it’s not “Just Politics”

I’m going to say it again for the people in the back.

If you voted for #45 we are not friends.

There are a few reasons for this.

  1. You may have noticed I’m married to a woman. By voting for #45 you voted knowingly for possibly the most homophobic administration in modern times. Example: 2004 Mike Pence voted AGAINST the employment non-discrimination act. 2014: Supported and lobbied for a bill adding a ban of gay marriage to the constitution of Indiana. 2012: He refused to go on record stating he would support a child be raised by a homosexual couple. 2010 he voted against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He spoke in 2018 (the first sitting VP to do so) at Values Voter Summit which has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This Summit had speakers who believe being transgender is a sin, and who preach for conversion therapy. Trump banned transgender individuals from the military. In a tweet.
    1. Within two HOURS of #45 taking office all mention of the LGBTQ community was removed from the white house website.
    2. They have nominated two of the most anti-LGBTQ justices to serve on the Supreme Court.
  2. I am a woman. Also hoping you’ve noticed this. See here and here for how I feel about this.
  3. I am a small business owner. And no. Not one portion of his tax laws helped small businesses. It helped large corporations.
  4. I am a mental health nurse practitioner. See here.
  5. I am the descendant of immigrants. And for Christ’s sake. He’s married to one.
  6. I don’t believe that sexual assault should be normalized. I don’t believe we should have a sitting president who doesn’t believe in climate change. I believe in an educated America.
  7. I am pro-cop. That may be the only spot we agree on.
  8. I am not pro-guns. In fact I think they should be banned. All of them.
  9. I am not ashamed if you call me a snowflake. Because it only takes one snowflake to start an avalanche.

This does not mean I won’t be friendly. I will. Most likely. But that does not mean we are friends.

Because you have managed to put in office people who can and want to do damage to my family. They want to strip anti-discrimination laws from our books. That is not okay with me. I am a minority. I can now be discriminated against more freely, more openly, and that jeopardizes my safety but more importantly it jeopardizes the safety of my children.

I may have been able to look past this before kids. But I can’t now. Because they are my everything and when some one messes with them, even indirectly, I can’t move past it.

I know who you are. I know by the way you maybe avert your eyes when I make an anti-#45 statement. I know because you post memes about every one getting along in the wake of a horrible election. I know because you whine about “But I didn’t like Obama, so you should be fine too…”

Obama was never trying to strip rights from any one. He was trying to expand them.

#45 is trying to strip the rights of my immediate family and my extended Queer family. He is trying to normalize discrimination and hate.

I know you. I see you. And no. The meme’s won’t work. Unapologetically no. This goes beyond politics. Politics shape policies and laws. Laws are used as weapons against minorities. I am a minority. You have endangered me and mine. Own it.