Book Review: “Fall to Pieces”

I love to read memoirs. For some reason, I really enjoy reading memoirs of those with addiction, and this was before my drinking became a problem. I’ve read “Life” by Keith Richards, which was fantastic but took three weeks because it’s over 500 pages.

I’ve also read Nikki Sixx’s book, “The Heroin Diaries”. It was a bit wild, but still very interesting. I’m just waiting for a member of Fleetwood Mac to come out with their memoirs. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I”ve read “Fall to Pieces” before, but it was a bit different re-reading it this time. This book was written by Mary Forsberg Weiland, the first wife of Scott Weiland.

He was the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots, one of the best rock bands of the 90s. If you’re too young to know who this band is, you might want to go on YouTube. They were a great band. Scott died in December 2015, unfortunately from an overdose.

Book cover

The book opens with a very descriptive explanation of her childhood in California, a bit in New Jersey after her mom’s remarriage and, of course, when she met Scott.

Mary also became a model while moving around and became quite successful while still a teen. She also met her best friends during this time. She became friends with Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have remained friends for many years.

It wasn’t until I read Scar Tissue, his autobiography, that I understood all the while Anthony was being my true friend, his own soul was being badly shaken.”

This stood out. We don’t always know what our friends are going through, much less anyone else. People hide things but still make things look at least bearable. I’ve been there for my friends through their own issues but yet struggling through my own.

The story of her relationship and later, marriage, with Scott, is so well detailed. She tells of the good, bad and in between. They were together off and on nearly a decade before marrying, and they had two kids together- a daughter and a son.

During this time, Mary drank and used a lot of substances. She knew it wasn’t the best way to live, but it took multiple attempts to finally stop using.

Mary also has had a long battle with bipolar disorder, possibly beginning when she was a teen. It’s hard for her or anyone else to know. She wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, and this is well documented in the book. She struggled to accept this diagnosis along with being an addict.

Many people with either issue do. I will say she is being treated and is sober, but I won’t spoil the ending for you on how she got there.

Mary shared a quote from a community college class:

“In recovery, we look for progress, not perfection.”

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This is very accurate. Nobody is perfect, and anyone recovering from any kind of addiction certainly isn’t. Progress is what counts the most. It is not close to easy, and anyone who tells you it is- they are not entirely correct.

One of my best friends, Tyson, once asked me if I was okay while sitting at dinner and the talk to turned to beer for a while. I wasn’t a fan of beer to begin with, and he knows this, but he was making sure I wasn’t thinking about having a drink.

I wasn’t, but I am very grateful that he asked. It took a year before I could even go into a sports bar. “One day at a time” is the best quote I have ever heard that applies to recovery.

As many of us know, Scott and Mary did not work out (the section about the end of their marriage is a sad one) but they were able to co-parent, at least as of the writing of this book. I’m one of the millions of fans that were saddened to hear of Scott’s death. He was incredibly talented, like many others, but yet, he had an addiction that he was never quite able to end.

Pic courtesy of Google

Ocean pic

Benefits of A Family Vacation

Having a family is fun.

There’s first steps, summer activities, sports, band, kids making friends and a lot more.

Let’s back up to summer activities and discuss vacations. Many families go on vacations at some point. Some wait until the kids are old enough to remember them, some start going right away. Vacations are usually fun but can have a bit of mishap involved- which make for good stories.

What We Can Get Out of a Vacation

Our family has gone on two major vacations, and we are considering another over Summer Break, likely to Washington, D.C. Both times, we let the kids have input on what they wanted to do. Julian didn’t want to do anything educational, but he was overruled.

He’s really out of luck if we make it to Washington, D.C. (He has already said he will sit in the hotel room and watch YouTube while we go to museums- so he thinks.) Planning our trips was pretty fun. If your kids are old enough to do so, this can allow them to feel included and build excitement for the trip.

How you get there can be part of the fun. We chose to drive to St. Louis and Daytona Beach- for the five of us, it’s a lot cheaper. I’m the only one who has ever been on a plane. I don’t think Matthew is a fan, and we aren’t sure how Julian would do- motion sickness plus sensory issues might equal something that none of us want to experience. Plus, Lily hates heights.

The kids kept busy with books, coloring, and Netflix. I listened to music and a lot of podcasts, with breaks of talking with Matthew. We stopped plenty of times for the kids and for me to stretch so that my joints wouldn’t stiffen and my ankles wouldn’t swell.

Florida Welcome Sign

The coolest part of a family vacation? Family bonding! Until we went to Daytona Beach, Lily had never been to a beach before. The boys had been when they were much smaller, and this story can be read in The Sanders Family Goes South .

It was really fun to see the kids enjoying the ocean and collecting seashells. They will talk about that trip for a long time. We saw lots of animals, climbed a lighthouse, and walked along a pier. In St. Louis, we saw the Gateway Arch, Cameron got a patdown (he couldn’t go through the metal detector because he was on a heart monitor at the time) and we went to a children’s museum. You can read about that trip in The Sanders Family Takes on St.Louis

Family vacations aren’t all about the souvenirs, even though they are nice. I have more pictures and memories than money can buy. I think those are more important. We went to Daytona Beach during the last week of summer break and got back with three days to go before school started. This gave us just enough time to get last minute things for school, haircuts and some fun with friends before Mom kicked everyone out and was able to blog in peace.

While we were in Daytona Beach, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and Julian tried hotter wings than he usually eats- my mom heart was thrilled. He loves hot and spicy food, much like me, and he absolutely loved them. There was extra water involved, but he ate them. He said he wanted to try something new and this is a good thing, no matter where you are.

What is Most Important?

Relaxation is key on vacation. That’s the main idea, right? There wasn’t a whole lot of time to relax in St. Louis because we were there over a weekend, but we had plenty of chill time in Daytona Beach. We slept late, sat on the beach or in the pool (at one point, we sat in the pool for hours until it rained) and went to do things when we felt like it. It was nice to not have to run around to get things done for a few days.

Summer is almost here- time to start planning!

Have you and/or your family been on a vacation lately? Have you planned one? Do you have tips? Share them in the comments.

Book Review: “Valley Of the Dolls”

For this month’s book review, I chose a book that was a little different.

“Valley of The Dolls” is one of my favorite books, and I have loved it since the first time I read it. I don’t know how many times I have read it. The “dolls” that the book refers to is not the kind of doll your children may play with.

These dolls are pills, and there is a variety of them mentioned. In this book, which is set in the 1940s-60s, they are mainly sleeping pills, with some diet pills mentioned. I don’t think any of the pills mentioned exist today, but I’m going to assume that some of them are the basis of some of the pills that exist now.

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The book is based on the lives of three young women living in New York City- Anne, Neely, and Jennifer. They meet while trying to make a life in the city coming from three very different backgrounds. Sometimes they clash, at other times they do very well together.

They fall in love, experience heartbreak and one becomes a famous movie star and singer. One reaches her dreams of being a model and actress, and the other is happy as a secretary then falls into modeling for a makeup line.

Neely is the somewhat troubled one of the three. While chasing her dreams, she becomes addicted to pills and begins drinking heavily. She eventually ends up having to step back from the world to take care of herself, but not because she wants to.

She also became very depressed and attempted suicide more than once. She had a hard time dealing with the pressures of stardom and her chaotic life.

Jennifer goes to Europe and back, but doesn’t find true happiness until it’s almost too late. She didn’t want to live for her body, but it is all she knows. She marries twice and almost a third to someone who truly loves her, which is all she wanted before the unforeseen occurs.

Anne finds the love of her life in Lyon Burke, the friend of her boss. She refuses to give up on him, no matter what. This love remains even after he leaves her not once, but twice. Everyone thinks she is mad for not letting go, even when she has a relationship with another man. Does Lyon ever come back for her? You’ll have to read to find out.

This book does have a sequel, set much later in everyone’s lives, and includes Anne and Neely’s children. This is called “Shadow of the Dolls”. I’ve read this, and it’s interesting. I didn’t include my thoughts on it for this review, but I definitely recommend reading it.

Jacqueline Susann died in 1974 and Rae Lawrence wrote this sequel based on the outline she left behind. The storyline flows well from book to book, even though there is a very large time gap between them.

If you need a novel to keep you well entertained, this is definitely one to go for.

Picture courtesy of Pinterest

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 stay at home mom, 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

Alone Time Is A Wonderful Thing

Everyone needs “alone time”. This is time to recharge your batteries, appreciate the quiet and not have people in your face asking for things. I like this time. I used to absolutely hate quiet time because I didn’t like to be alone with my thoughts. These days, I appreciate it a lot more. I can relax, color and read in peace, among other things.

Creating Space for Yourself

Besides the quiet and lack of demands from others, there are other benefits. Being alone can be relaxing, allow for time to reflect on your current situation in life and maybe even focus on hobbies and get things done. You can also do what you want, not just what someone else wants to do or have to come to some sort of compromise.

Not everyone is happy with the idea of alone time. Many extroverts are not into the idea, because they thrive on being around others. I hang out with a lot of extroverts. It is important, even if this is you because everyone needs to be alone sometimes, just to get away from the noise. It’s okay to need time to yourself.

Some ideas to ease yourself into alone time are:

  • taking short walks
  • cooking
  • trying a new workout class- without taking a friend
  • sign up for volunteer work
  • go to a bookstore/window-shop

For those of us who have had some practice with being by ourselves and actually liking it, here are some advanced ideas:

  • Go to a yoga class. I go to a class every Sunday. It’s recovery-based and I love it. I was very nervous about it at first, but my anxiety has lessened a lot. I sat next to someone last week and she actually thanked me for sitting with her. Wow.
  • Have a solo picnic.
  • People watch- at a coffee shop, in a park, wherever you feel comfortable.
  • Go to a movie by yourself.
  • Try an evening class.

If you want to go for the extreme:

  • Take a road trip.
  • Go to a concert alone.
  • Go hiking.
  • Go to a meditation or yoga retreat.
  • Start a home renovation project.

Have I tried any of these ideas? Sure. Not all of them. I’m a work in progress, so some of these are definitely on my to-do list. I’ve always liked to people watch, but it’s always been more fun to do it with someone else. I would like to try that one soon. I live near a large park so there are always people to watch.

Time for You is Good Time

It may be hard to squeeze in the time for yourself, but it is necessary. It may mean walking to the bus stop on a sunny day to get your kids, but you’ll have those 10 minutes of a good walk. Walking is exercise and a way to clear your mind a bit. It’s a two-for-one deal. A whole day isn’t possible for everyone, so don’t feel guilty for the time you can’t give to yourself.

When you’ve had time to yourself, you feel refreshed. You feel ready to face the next challenge ahead. Who doesn’t want to feel like that? It’s a nice feeling. If you’ve had your nails, hair or toes done, you look better. That’s also a great boost. This isn’t meant to encourage living a life of solitude unless you really want to, but to encourage time to yourself so that you can breathe. You can get to know yourself a bit better. What do you like doing? How do you want to spend your time?

Do you have ideas to add for the list of ideas of things to do alone? Leave them in the comments!