Tag Archives: psychology

Losing yourself


So I volunteer with a program that goes to nursing homes and does art therapy sessions with elders with dementia. Yesterday night was our big, end-of-the-year art show. As a student leader, I do no have a partner that I meet with every week. Rather, I help lead and facilitate the weekly sessions. Because of this, and the fact that I’ve only been involved for a year, I haven’t known any of the elders over a very long period of time. I seriously love each and every one of them, but I haven’t been around long enough to see the changes that the disease has been forcing on them.

Last night I was helping direct pairs of students and elders, and helping people get in and out of the elevators and find their partners. My nursing home was one of the very last to arrive, and they had to make two trips in the bus to get everyone there. In the second bus, there was a woman who I didn’t have on my list. One of the women from the nursing home told me that her name was Jean, and that she’s been active in the program in previous years, but has gone downhill recently and had to stop coming. Because she wasn’t a regular, she didn’t have a partner. She was the last to come up the elevator to the show, so I offered to sit with her and take her around to see the art.

Jean was really struggling. She spent most of the show half asleep, and the other part of the time she seemed to be in the throes of hallucinations. She would reach out a carefully rearrange things on the table, then act like she was kitting or sewing, or picking things up off the table to set in her lap. She did not talk beyond a few incoherent mumbles and did not respond to my talking to her.

After a brief ceremony where the volunteers and elders were recognized, I took Jean around in her wheelchair to see the art, including a piece of her own. Again, no reacting and continued hallucinations. I kept talking, though, and showed her pieces some of her friends had made. As we were going around, I had a woman come up to me. She was ecstatic to see Jean, and really excited that I was helping her around. She thought I was her partner. I told her that I was actually a leader, and was just filling in. This woman started telling me about Jean. Jean before the disease took its tole.

Jean loved to tell stories. She would sit there during art sessions and talk her partner’s ear off, telling them about her day, about her past and family, about something funny another resident had done, or telling them a story that she had made up on the spot. She had a definite way with words. And her art was amazing. She was very detailed and illustrative, drawing figures rather than abstract shapes. She loved the art sessions, both for the people she got to see and the pieces that she made.

I could hardly believe it. I just couldn’t match up this description with the woman I was pushing around in her wheelchair. It was as if she was describing a completely different person. In a way, I guess she was. Alzheimer’s has taken away the person she was before, and has left this sleepy, unresponsive woman in her place. This was the first time really where the disease had been brought home to me, hearing stories about how she used to be and seeing how she is now. It made me so incredibly sad, especially when I thought of the fact that the person she was is probably almost gone for good. That woman who told stories and drew amazing pictures has disappeared forever. And that’s going to happen to all of my other amazing artists that I love, given enough time.

We finished going through the artwork and went downstairs to wait for the bus. She was still hallucinating, but seemed a bit more alert. She actually opened her eyes to look at me where I was sitting in front of her. She started to talk. I couldn’t understand almost anything she said, but I tried my hardest to respond appropriately and keep talking to her. She seemed happy to just have someone there listening and paying attention to her.

The bus finally came and I took her outside to board it. As the worker backed her until the wheelchair lift, I told her that I was really happy that she had kept me company during the evening, and looked forward to maybe seeing her at the next art session if she was feeling up to it. She looked right up at me and told me that she would like that. She then smiled, shook her head, and told me that I was a beautiful girl. I almost burst into tears right there. Here was a woman who was struggling to retain herself in the face of a devastating disease, and who was clearly losing that fight, and yet when she came back to herself for a brief time she still was incredibly kind and appreciative. Most people would have seen Jean and written her off as a vegetable, not worth their time. But with just a little attention, some kind words, and a listening ear, she returned enough to offer some kind words of her own. She just demonstrates to me that every single person is worth our time and effort, and that even the tiniest things can be regarded the greatest victories.

I was so glad I got to spend time with Jean, and I genuinely look forward to doing so in the future. Hopefully she’ll feel well enough to come to art therapy every now and then!


Oh, roommates.


Have I mentioned that I live with a freshman? Yes, a freshman. A freshman in an apartment with two seniors and one junior who’s basically a senior (she’s the same age as us). That’s a recipe for disaster right there.

She moved in after my one crazy roommate moved out (that’s a whole long story in itself — maybe I’ll tell it one day), since she had had also had a crazy roommate and was forced out. Management put her in our apartment without talking to any of us who already lived there, which was a bit annoying. Her kitten also moved in, which has been an adventure.

Things were great at first — she was super nice happy, and very willing to make sure things worked. But things have deteriorated since November. First of all, her cat. The thing is pretty much feral, and incredibly wild. She doesn’t like to be touched, I’ve never heard her purr, and she basically only has two modes — crazy and asleep. She attacks my cat, eats his (special diet, expensive) food, and has been peeing on his litter mat. My roommate never cleans her kitten’s litter box, so she uses my cat’s. It gets full super fast, and if I don’t notice it right away, she pees. I’ve had to clean it up over and over again, and so has my other roommate. The freshman never has, even when we’re told her and asked her to clean it. She’s literally just left the pee all over the floor and ignored it. It’s super frustrating. We’ve discussed it with her more than a few times, and she just will not clean her litter box. It’s disgusting, and my poor cat’s box gets used like crazy. And, of course, I clean it. She just isn’t responsible enough to have a pet. I don’t think any freshman should have a pet — they’re just not responsible enough and it’s too much for your first year of school.

In addition, she’s lying to the school about where she lives. Freshmen are required to live in the dorms, unless they’re over 21, married, or live with parents/guardians. She’s told the school that she’s living at home and commuting, and she’s not. We were worried that, with the plagiarism hearing, they would figure out that she was lying when they found out that she was living in an apartment with a senior. Lucky for her, it never came up. She’s digging herself a pretty deep hole here — she could get into a lot of trouble if she’s found out.

She’s also been eating our food. We told her when she moved in that she could use any of our cooking and baking stuff, as well as any herbs and seasonings she wanted, but now she’s move on to eating groceries that we buy. Like my roommate’s chicken in the freezer, and our butter. It’s getting ridiculous. She also buys her own chicken, but she leaves it uncovered in the fridge for weeks, and we end up throwing it away or she eats it. I can’t believe she hasn’t gotten food poisoning yet, especially since she also leaves out her dinner left overs on the counter, even when they have meat and dairy in them. Food poisoning waiting to happen.

She’s been getting super annoying lately as well. I think she has a slight attachment disorder (that’s the psychologist in me — diagnosing and analyzing her) from when her father left them. Because of that, she is forever flattering you. Like, “OMG, you were SO right!” “OMG that jacket looks fantastic on you!” “OMG, I love that TV show you told me about!” This isn’t just every now and then — it’s constant. A little flattery is nice, but ass-kissing is hella annoying. I know she does it because she’s afraid of us leaving her, and I try to be understanding, but it gets very wearing. She also is forever thinking we’re mad at her, for stupid things that we’re not actually mad about. She’s always apologizing for things. And then, when we’re actually mad about something she’s doing or not doing, she completely ignores the issue. She flees from it and acts like nothing’s wrong. She hides in her room until she thinks it’s safe and the issue has blown over. It’s definitely a protective factor, but it’s making issues worse.

So, the cat, the lying, the food eating, and the attachment disorder. Adding that on top of the general immaturity of freshmen, and the fact that they’re just getting used to being on their own, and the living with people who are much more mature and used to living and work with others, and you’ve got a nightmare. She’s so super nice, and so happy to be away from her crazy roommates, but this is just betting to be too much. I hate to get mad at her, but we’re all kind of at the end of our rope at this point. She’s currently in the “run and hide in my room” mode, so none of us have spoken to her since before the weekend. It’s ridiculous. She’s impossible to talk to when she’s in this state — she takes it personally, and then she sulks more and nothing changes.

Ugh, sorry. Just needed a quick vent. A positive thing for the day — we’re doing color in my drawing class! Finally! I love pastels — they’re my thing. I think my instructor was really surprised when I started doing my color, because she obviously thought I would have issues with it since I’m very meticulous with charcoal, and have a difficult time “letting go.” Not so with pastels. I don’t like to brag, but I think I’m the most advanced colorist in the class, mostly because my art instructor of 10 years drilled color theory into us. I also just love layering colors. So that’s been a good thing about the week! Also, Sherlock filming. ‘Nuff said.

Thanks for reading my rant! Any advice is always welcome!


Not enough


Okay, I want to write about something that really, really pisses me off: bullying, and how schools deal with it. The other day I got on Instagram and I saw that my cousin (we’ll just call her my cousin for simplicity — she’s actually the daughter of my dad’s second cousin. So whatever that makes her) had taken a screenshot of another Instagram account. The person had taken another girl’s photos from her personal Instagram account and had written “whore” and “slut” over them, and their user name used this girl’s name and called her a slut.

I was furious when I saw this. I study bullying a lot — because of stuff that happened with my younger sister when she was in middle school and high school, it really infuriates me, and I want to help find some way to make it stop. Bullying has grown and morphed as we’ve gained more technology, with kids using anything and everything that they can in order to hurt others. Instagram is no exception to that, but this was the first time that I had seen it firsthand. There were some of the girl’s friends on the account defending her and  reporting it to Instagram Police, but it’s still up. It’s been reported probably fifty times and it’s still there, open for everyone to see and open for the person to keep humiliating her. But it’s not even Instagram and it’s lack of action that’s pissed me off the most.

No, what infuriates me is the girl’s school. I’m just the type of person who can’t let stuff like this go — I figure it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and that the school should know what’s going on. I found the Facebook account of the girl being bullied and found her school. I then called them, wanting to at least let someone know what was going on. I got transfered seven times. No one knew what to do with this report of bullying, especially cyber bullying (a lot of them acted like they had never heard of it, and maybe they hadn’t!). I started out in the main office, then I was transfered to the academic office, then a specific person in the academic office, then back to the main office, then to the guidance office…and so on. I eventually reached a man who I assume was some sort of an administrator. He was super nice…but he honestly had no idea what to do. I gave him all of the information about the page, e-mailed him the link, and told him that I knew that there was no way to find out from the page who had created it, but that I just wanted someone in the school system to know that this was going on, and maybe poke around. He told me he would try, and that was the end of that conversation. Again, super nice, but pretty clueless on what to do.

Why do schools not have some system in place to record incidences like this? Why do they not have a system of action in place to deal with this “new” cyber bullying? People wonder why bullying is so rampant in schools, and why it goes unnoticed or ignored for so long — this is why. There’s no system. They get reports and probably nothing happens with those reports. The bullying continues unabated, and with worse consequences. If I were an administrator in a school, I would create a system that allows bullying incidences to be logged and tracked — that way, they can see if reports point to one student getting bullied regularly, or one student doing the bullying all the time. At the moment, it’s chaos. Sure, now this one guy knows what’s been happening, but he’ll probably never do anything with the information. It’ll probably sit on his desk as the bullying continues, ignored.

My only consolation in this incident is that at least the girl being bullied has a lot of friends backing her up and defending her on that account. That’ll give her some emotional protection from the bully/bullies who made the account. But the sad thing is that a lot of victims don’t have all of those friends defending them. They go it alone and struggle to keep their heads up in the face of such vicious prodding. We’ve seen over and over again what the outcome of that can be. They get to the point where they don’t want to live in a world where they’re constantly the victim. And that can lead to a few outcomes, most of them not good. We’ve seen a lot of kids take their own lives. We’ve seen kids take the lives of other kids. But we’ve also seen kids start amazing programs to help others who are bullied like themselves, but they are more rare. Often, the damages to those kids aren’t physical — they’re emotional, and that damage stays with them forever. It’s time to do something to stop bullying, and to actually help these kids. I only hope that schools wake up soon, and that it doesn’t happen because of another mass shooting or suicide, because they’re not doing enough to stop it now. We need to wake up to this problem and fix it before that can happen again, because we’re not doing enough.

Everyone should watch this video with its spoken poem. I cried, it was so beautiful and powerful. It’s time to find a way to end bullying: