Just In Case Anyone Wondered

I figured I would answer a few questions for my readers, ones that might give you more insight into me as a person, not just a mom, blogger or whatever else.

I can’t change my permanent tan, as I call it, but then why would I want to? Being biracial has allowed me to be funnier, open-minded, opinionated and to be okay with not being like everyone else. I haven’t been since I was born.

I’m 37, so this puts me in a weird spot. I’m old enough to remember not being able to play at a friend’s house because their parents didn’t want a biracial kid in their home, but not old enough to have truly appreciated punk rock and be able to have a category to check for “race”. Those older than me had to pick and that’s somewhat traumatizing within itself.

So if you were wondering, I’m good. I’m proud of being biracial. I have a wicked sense of humor and love of makeup from my mom’s parents and I look like my Granny on my dad’s side. I have curly black hair that people would pay great amounts of money for.

I’ve passed this on to my kids, who have different types of curly hair and have my eyes.

Just in case you were wondering, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

That’s it. That’s the post.

Keep reading, I’m not done.

As many of you know, I live in Louisville, KY, the center of protesting over Breonna Taylor’s murder.

I fully support them and have donated to bond funds and Black Lives Matter in my city. If it weren’t for RA, I’d protest myself. Instead, I’ve been signing petitions for justice and telling people what I think.

All the cops involved in Breonna’s murder need to be fired, arrested, charged and convicted, preferably in that order. Same goes for George Floyd’s killers.

It’s going to be a long road, but Breonna and George will hopefully get justice. Unfortunately, there are others that deserve justice for the same reason- being murdered by a cop.

If you were wondering, my job is fantastic and I love it. I’m still debating the Public Health idea but ugh, my therapist is on medical leave and I haven’t gotten that far with her replacement.

Yep, I’m still in therapy. Every week.

Just in case you wanted to know, my publishing schedule is all over the place and I’m aware.

Ugh.

I’ve put a few posts on the backburner as drafts. Writer’s block is a thing, as is flares and life itself. A couple of recent posts, like this one, popped into my head out of the blue. I kind of like those better.

I’m working on a post a week, but we will see.

In case you were wondering, RA still sucks. I am currently at the end of a flare, which completely wears me out, mentally and physically. One day, it took all the energy I had to stay awake.

This describes the quarantine/social distancing we have been dealing with. I have no clue what I am doing- some days are structured, some aren’t. Like everyone else, all I can do is my best.

Pics are from my personal Facebook and Pinterest.

2020 Mid Year Update

It’s been a YEAR and we are six months in.

Kids are going to need a whole book for learning history from this year. Forget a chapter.

As I write this, we are in a pandemic that has changed how we live. Most states shut down, including Kentucky. Our governor, Andy Beshear, was not playing around when he set guidelines.

We are slowly reopening but have no idea on what happens when school starts.

In addition to that, people in cities around the world have gathered to protest (and riot) police killing people, mainly Black people.

Breonna Taylor and Geoge Floyd became nationally known because of their deaths. Breonna died in Louisville and the city went OFF.

What do I think?

Black lives matter.

I’m a black woman and it’s a shame that racism still exists in 2020. The police have done terrible things to people and it needs to stop. Something has to be done.

Breonna, George and many others deserve justice.

The Big Three

Physically:

I’ve had a couple of migraines, but I’m used to them.

RA still sucks. I have an appointment with my rheumatologist next week. My last one was a phone call. I’m not sure if I’ll actually go into the office or not.

I’m resting more because I’ve come to realize I need it. Part-time work is all I can physically handle. If it weren’t for RA, I’d still be working full time.

Sobriety:

I’m over three years sober. I don’t count days because that’s kinda hard for me, but as of 6/4, I have three years, five months and three days.

This helps me greatly at my job and it allows me to help others.

Emotionally:

I’m still in therapy – via my laptop for the foreseeable future. It’s going well and I’m working my way through things.

I struggle so much with not having a poker face through everything. It’s okay to show emotions, but it’s something I am not great at.

My meds are working. The only side effect is that I sweat a lot. It beats the other side effects I’ve had.

What’s Next?

I’m still not sure.

I’m thinking of grad school- but a MPH, which is a Masters of Public Health. This would allow me to possibly become a medical researcher, and I would love to do this research in suicide prevention. I’d specialize in firearm suicides. I’d also be able to teach community-based classes on mental health.

The kids, of course, are out of school and we will have the most fun we can. The kids did okay with NTI, but none of them want to do it in the fall.

I met Trenton! I got to see him for the first time today- he was born in April right in the middle of the pandemic. He’s absolutely adorable and he even smiled at me.

We are doing the best we can in this weird and scary world. Stay safe!

Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker

Note: There is this gorgeous law (HIPAA) that prevents me from using real names in this post, and so I will use an asterisk when needed to indicate that names were changed. I will also not use the actual names of the facilities I worked at for similar reasons, because I’m not trying to get sued. I’m a blogger and behavior health technician, not a millionaire.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. This post is dedicated to my former co-workers (especially my Resource Team friends) and mental health professionals everywhere.

It’s a rough profession and deserves a lot more respect than it gets. It’s also very rewarding, which is one of the many reasons why I am glad that I chose psychology as my field of work.

A Few Definitions

I know not everyone understands these terms, so here are some definitions to help you out a bit:

Mental Health Technician/Mental Health Worker/Mental Health Associate: these are all pretty much the same, depending on where you work. I’ve been called all three.

1:1: a patient that requiring someone is with them at all times, whether they are asleep or not, sometimes both. This can get very tedious, and sometimes you have to stay within arms’ reach of the patient for safety reasons.

Code: this is not the code you see on TV. This code is for physical backup when things get out of hand, mainly when a patient is being aggressive, destructive or a combo. These are called for a variety of reasons, but these are the two most common ones.

Resource Team- an amazing team of people trained to work on every inpatient unit in a mental health facility. They are responsible for knowing everything about all the units, and they catch hell for messing up. It’s a great team to be a part of because they stick together and you never know what will happen next or where you will be. It’s also very stressful.

Checks/Rounds: ensuring patient safety by visualizing patients every 15 minutes.

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(I’ve seen C.Diff, and it’s ugly, especially in non-verbal kids. YIKES)

Let me set up the story for you…

In June 2007, Spalding University granted me a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology. Many don’t know this unless you ask, see it in my author bio or on my resume.

It took me five years, a change in major (my first major was in apparel design and merchandising- fancy wording for fashion design), school and two kids, but I finally graduated. I also completed a mandatory 100-hour practicum.

I was not prepared for my first job out of college. I had gotten a job as a Mental Health Technician at *Clear Lake Hospital and I was a bit nervous but ready to start my career.

I started the week after I finished classes. (I walked June 2, but still to finish my last class, which was sheer torture.) I did fine in orientation but was not happy when I found out that I was placed on the geriatric unit.

What?

This facility didn’t let you pick what unit you went to, but I had hoped I wasn’t going to get put on a unit I didn’t like.

I was not thrilled about being placed on this unit, known as the *Willow Tree Unit. I wanted to transfer immediately, but there was a policy preventing me from doing so for 6 months. I decided to wait it out.

Two months into that wait, I discovered that I was pregnant with Lily. My OB/GYN told me that I would be better off where I was because the pregnancy was not an easy one from the beginning.

A different unit would be a faster pace and could result in more issues with my pregnancy. I decided to stay put so that Lily would have a better chance of being okay. I ended up liking the *Willow Tree Unit.

The staff was nice- I was the youngest tech on first shift. Once word got around that I was pregnant, the nurses and other techs took care of me.

One afternoon, my shoes became untied and I couldn’t reach them because my belly was huge. I burst into tears and one of my fellow techs tied them for me. She understood the struggle- she’d been in my spot two years before.

I didn’t get to finish out the pregnancy on that unit- I went into preterm labor at 31 weeks (on Cameron’s 3rd birthday, of all days) and my OB/GYN told me that I would have to stop working or go on light duty, basically a desk job.

I chose the desk job because we needed the money. I went to medical records for all of five weeks or so. The ladies there were nice and began a betting pool on when Lily would show up. Lily shares a birthday with one of the ladies in the office, which everyone found hilarious.

Thanks to Kentucky state budget cuts, the *Willow Tree Unit was closed down while I was on light duty, and when I came back from maternity leave, I was sent to an acute care unit. I was better suited for that unit and stayed there until I left in June 2008 for a counseling position in Indiana.

The Real Fun Begins

In late 2010, I was ready for a new and closer to home position. I found another Mental Health Worker position at *MidRiver Regional Hospital. This time, I was able to pick where I wanted to go, because it was in the application. I would be on the Resource Team. It sounded very interesting and kind of fun.

I was absolutely right. Orientation was a bit boring- but that’s where I met Josh (Jake’s older brother) so I call that a win. I had to shadow for a couple of weeks on each unit- a couple of days with another worker, and then I was unleashed.

The very first day was a day that is forever etched in my mind- I was on *2West, a unit that was then used for kids from 12-18 with autism and other developmental disabilities. It was super loud, wild and some of the kids were way bigger than me.

What did I sign up for?

I took a huge deep breath, looked at my assignment sheet and kept going.

I spent two years on the Resource Team. It was a lot of fun- full of laughs, friends, and a few mishaps. I’ve run after people that eloped, including one that I chased across a busy street along with another worker. The kid ran off at a hospital and we did catch her. I’ve been punched in the head. I even caught a stereo cord to the face.

I was with a 1:1 and the patient was very upset about her Justin Beiber CD was repeatedly skipping. I told her that maybe it was time to try a different activity, and tried to unplug the stereo. She picked it up, then dropped it, and when I went to pick it up, she hit me in the face with the cord.

A code was immediately called and I was taken off the floor. I was taken to the main nursing office to get my face looked at.

I called Matthew to get me from work, and he took me to a nearby hospital- I ended up with three liquid stitches. You can barely see the scar today. I took the next day off because my eye was so swollen that I had a hard time seeing out of it, and let me tell you, tetanus shots are not fun.

As for the patient, she was so upset when she found out what happened to me, she became hysterical. I was one of her favorite staff members. She had to be medicated to calm down. She apologized the next time she saw me.

While I was working at this facility, things were not that great at home. Julian wasn’t diagnosed until late 2011. I was struggling a lot internally with both anxiety and depression. You can read about those events in A Letter to my Anxiety and Depression and Looking At the Bright Side

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I was able to lose myself in my work. I loved being able to help others and work with great people. We had a lot of fun on the good days and on the not so good days, pull together and make things work. That, to me, is the definition of teamwork.

In March 2013, I had a mini-stroke. My neurologist suggested afterward that I needed to start looking for ways to lessen or eliminate stress in my life. By this point, I was ready to leave the Resource Team- it was getting too stressful for me. Some people leave after months, some people stay the entire time they are at the facility.

I started thinking about which unit would be a good fit. I was pretty much done with adults- that was where the bulk of my work had been, and I needed something different. I had realized that I really enjoyed the kids on *2West and the staff was great.

I’d volunteer to go there when other people didn’t want to go- it was a rough unit. I didn’t really enjoy cleaning poop off walls (who does? I can’t make this up, it really happens) but it had become my favorite unit.

It took a few months of waiting, but a position opened up. By then, I had met Jake, and that was his home unit. I applied, interviewed and got the full-time Mental Health Associate position. My Resource Team friends were sad to see me go (my friend Scott begged me not to go), but they were not surprised to hear where I was going.

It turns out that going to *2West was the best career move I’ve ever made. I loved it.

Those kids were not always the easiest to work with- I’ve been kicked in the eye, had my hair pulled out in clumps, broken my big left toe twice and in the same way. It still doesn’t bend correctly. I’ve seen all kinds of naked kids. I’ve left work scratched and bruised from multiple holds. I’ve gotten sick from these kids- strep throat can go through 20 kids fast.

I also learned a lot- how to sign (some), how to learn about a kid even when they are non-verbal. I learned that some families are worse than you can imagine and even the ones that look great are horrible.

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Autism is not seen as often in girls, but when it is, it tends to be severe. One of my favorite kids was a tall, thin girl named *Michelle. She was a runner and I got lots of exercise running after her in the halls. She was also non-verbal but showed her feelings by squeezing your hands.

She squeezed my hands every day to say “hello” and “goodbye” but if she was angry, she would pull on your arms while squeezing your hands. She was so much fun to work with. When she left, she bent down to hug me goodbye, and both *Claire (her behavior analyst) and I cried. That’s a very unusual thing.

Taylor Swift sing-a-longs were a regular thing and so were movie days on the weekends. We tried to make things as fun as we could for the kids. We took them outside and let them play as much as they were able to on the playground. We got the kids out of bed, fed them, got them through their days and back into bed- for some of them, we were more of a family to them than their own.

*Mason was a kid who saw us exactly like that. I met him while doing checks and he was in the shower singing “Baby Got Back”. He was hilarious, and once beatboxed to me about needing toothpaste.

However, he came from a family that didn’t treat him well, which contributed to some of the reasons he came to the facility. Once, I was planning an outing with another associate, and he asked us to take him and the other patients to a strip club. That did not happen, but we laughed hysterically after he left the room.

These kids were so funny, smart in their own way. I couldn’t have asked for better co-workers. Some days entirely sucked, but it was still a fun adventure.

My last day there was September 2, 2015. I left after being told about Jake’s death, and I came back two days later to get my things and leave my nurse manager a note telling her I wouldn’t be back.

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning Jake, Austin, Scott (not the one mentioned earlier), Cisco or Colleen. I lost these co-workers while working with them or after and each loss was a bad one. They left behind families that loved them and patients that they touched. They worked hard (Cisco got electrocuted trying to keep a patient safe) and had a lot of love for their patients.

I’m retired from this line of work- thanks to my RA diagnosis. My rheumatologist would go ballistic. I am left with so many memories and friends. That’s what work and life are all about.

All pics are my personal pics except for one pin on my Pinterest board. Pinterest

Views from Inside

Everyone knows there’s a pandemic going around. It’s everywhere- news, internet memes, etc.

I’m not sick. Neither are the kids or Matthew.

This is good.

Quite a few people have not been so lucky.

The Kentucky Perspective

Kentucky hit the governor lottery when Andy Beshear got elected. He hasn’t been in office a full year, but here he is smashing the handling of a global pandemic like a rock star.

He let the state know that he was not here for people not taking this seriously. There’s a daily update on the news at 5 p.m., including weekends. I’m either at work (more on that later) or starting dinner so I am kinda able to watch most nights.

There is a group solely based on Beshear memes on Facebook, which I am in and love. The memes are fantastic.

School is closed for the rest of the year. This was decided yesterday but nobody is surprised. I probably wouldn’t send the kids if they did go back because I am considered higher risk.

Thanks a lot, rheumatoid arthritis.

The state is pretty much closed. Courts, non-essential stores, daycares, all of that. It’s a weird time to live in, for sure.

A New Man to Meet

My best friend, Ashley, had her first baby on 4/8/20. I am so happy for her, but was also sad that I couldn’t be there as planned. She and her husband, Patrick, kept me updated. She sends pictures everyday. Trenton is adorable.

I need the social distancing thing to be over… I have a tiny baby to meet.

Mom’s Side of the Story

I’m working part-time at a sober living house in Indiana. I’m a behavioral health technician. It’s super easy and I really like it. Plus, it pays great.

Clearly, if I’m not working I’m at home with the kids.

The school system that my kids attend is the largest in the state. There’s around 101,000 kids enrolled. They didn’t do much for two weeks while the website was created and work was developed. They will be doing non-traditional instruction until the end of May.

It’s been an adventure, to say the least.

Lily was devastated to find out that they will not be going back to school. She cried because she misses her friends and teachers. I gave her a hug and let her talk.

Julian and Cameron aren’t really upset. Julian will be finishing the 8th grade without a ceremony – his school is mailing him a t-shirt and his certificate.

As he put it, “I can’t miss what I’m not there to do.”

My deep thinker.

Cameron wanted to complete his time in machine tool class, but he can make the time up next year. He’s pretty thrilled about not having to get up early.

A Bit Scattered

It’s been a bit of a change to be at home all the time. I’ve been coloring and doing crafty things. I’ve also watched a lot of Hulu and Netflix shows, like many others.

The kids read, draw, play uno, and lots of video games for the boys. They also watch a lot of tik tok videos.

We also talk more and have gotten things cleaned and organized around the house.

Julian, Lily and I have done appointments via telehealth. That’s gone pretty well.

We’re trying to make the best of the situation.

How are you handling life during a pandemic??

Behind the Name 

I have a lot of new followers and I’m pretty sure not everyone gets the idea behind the name Shortstack Blogs, “One Day, One Blog at a Time, or even my Facebook page, which you can find at ShortstackBlogs

Field trip

Field trip with Lily

The Facebook page is pretty ordinary- Meredith is my middle name. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I’ve actually hated it as long as I can remember but in this case, it flowed and I ran with it.

The title of my blog comes from sobriety and blogging coming together. If you’ve ever heard of any kind of recovery phrases, I’m willing to bet that one of those is “One day at a time.” This phrase is tattooed on the inside of my left wrist.

I live this way because I know the feeling of planning out the rest of your life and then having it fall apart. I have spent almost four years putting myself and my life back together. I’ve literally had to do it one day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time.

One day at a time
“Shortstack” is a nickname. I’m 5’2″ and Jake was 6’3″. I don’t remember how this got started, but we had a long-running joke about our height difference and this was one of his nicknames for me. (I’m used to getting jokes about my height from pretty much everyone I know, including my own kids.)

His brother Josh still gets me every chance he gets. My blog was created partially to spread awareness about mental health issues, and Jake’s death was the background for it. As my therapist would say, it’s turning something awful into something good. The other part, of course, is to tackle the fun and sometimes not fun part of parenting.

One of my life’s greatest lessons

I am being myself everyday, no excuses.

The name behind the blog is as important as the blog itself. 😀

I have been raising money towards a book getting published. If you would like more info, please go here