The story of a stolen cell phone, or “How my fiance and I spent our 2 year anniversary at the ER”

Standard

So last night was a bundle of fun. You know how you set your phone down, ladies, when you go to pee. Right there above the toilet paper, so it won’t fall in? Yeah- don’t do that, or at least remember to grab it when you are done. People are not as honest or good as your might think, and it results in you all winding up at the ER- but we will get to that later. After realizing, to my horror, that my phone was not where it was supposed to be, I went to the bartenders and the other staff to see if they had come across the phone or if someone with morals had turned the phone in. Not so much. I announced to my fiancé, Chris that my phone was not where it needed to be (my pocket) and I needed him to help find it using the various apps and whatnot on the phone, to which he quickly complied and went into Sherlock mode. In a flash, he was out tracing the now moving signal of my phone, no longer at the bar in which it initially was. In other words, my phone was now stolen. It’s amazing the feeling of violation one can feel when they realize that people just aren’t really that good sometimes. A lot of the people who my fiancé and I interacted with on the GREAT PHONE QUEST were exceptionally helpful people who were able to empathize with my plight, but that did not stop the four individuals who apparently thought morals and laws applied to them. I hope their mothers would give them a very strong lecture had they known of what their children have grown up to be.

Eventually in our waiting , the phone appeared to move again, going from the venue where an Eagles cover band was playing (well, I might add) into the parking lot area. There was a lot of distraction going on in that direction, as an ambulance and fire truck descended on the scene. Watching the events unfold, I turned to Chris who was keeping his eyes on a group of rather tipsy early-twenty-somethings hailing a cab in front of us, and joked, “ What if the person who stole my phone was so wracked with guilt that they had a panic attack and is in that ambulance?” We laughed at the humor of the proposed situation, and returned to our vigilance.

As the phone had not moved in quite some time, I thought that perhaps the thief had rethought their actions and had turned in the phone to the music venue’s barkeeps. I made the rounds in record time, with disappointing results. Exiting the building, I was caught up in a run as my fiancé shouted, “ They are on the move, quickly, your keys!”

We sprinted to the car and began our pursuit by vehicle. At this point, I had already contacted the police to report the phone stolen, and provided them with what info we already had.  As we wove down the surface roads, following a little green dot on the find my phone app, we observed that its route was similar to urban transport; a bus perhaps? Abruptly, the dot stopped, and did not continue to move any further. We had them! The location was somewhere within downtown, and as we continued towards the tiny beacon, it became apparent what our final destination would be: CMC- Mercy hospital. My earlier observation about the ambulance had been eerily  spot on. I can now honestly say that there is a correlation with stealing my phone, and going to the hospital in an ambulance.

The app traced my phone to the ER, and after some circling of the car, and some moments of getting lost on the outside campus (seriously, that place is huge and confusing in the middle of the night), we found ourselves at the entrance to the ER. Walking through the automatic doors, I immediately spotted a group of 4 adults further down the hall, who strongly resembled the group who had congregated outside of the ambulance earlier in the evening. As my fiancé spoke to the security officer at the front entrance, the group shifted. There, in one of the woman’s hands, was my phone.  Now a word on my phone for a moment; it is very distinctive. Cased in an Otterbox, the plastic is white and the rubber is black, a culmination of two separate boxes, and pretty easy to spot. I turned to Chris and whispered, “She has it. That’s my phone.” To which he promptly walked over to her and asked, “Where did you get the phone?”  while he deftly snatched it from her claw and walked it back to me.  At this point the security guard was on his feet between us and the two harpies, who were screeching at us in an attempt to place themselves sound like the in position as victims. “How do you know this is YOUR phone?” the short-haired harpy demanded. I grasped the phone, and promptly unlocked it using my passcode. “Because I know how to unlock it.” I stated, a response that unleashed more from the screeching harpies.

The rest of the evening was spent, as many of these types of stories will, with a lot of waiting, and eventual statement to the police officer. Most importantly, to me at least, was having a successful adventure with my future husband, resulting in my phone and I being reunited.  And the look of shock on that woman’s face when she realized we had tracked her thieving self down was pretty priceless too.

Z, Y, X, W, V, U…. T?

Standard

I cannot speak for other counselors, but I had a favorite group topic I liked to do while I was working in inpatient. Did not matter if adults or kids, I enjoyed doing this one. When you are working in an inpatient setting, you realize that it is never a matter of IF someone is going to go into crisis, it is more a WHEN will someone go into crisis. There is something about the environment, especially for those consumers that have really decompensated, or those who have been court ordered for treatment (and sometimes those are two in the same), that is conducive to short tempers with sometimes-dangerous outcomes. Which leads me back to my favorite inpatient group topic. I am talking about the topic of “stress relief and appropriate coping skills”. Yep!

I would start out my session with asking each person to identify some of the issues in their lives that “stress them out.” If I remember correctly the top three were often, “Money”, “Being in here [inpatient facility]”, and “family”. There was very often a combination of two out of three, with the occasional Three-in-a-Row answer written on each worksheet. (I preferred to use worksheets to help those who were less verbal in the group discussions, demonstrate that they were at least paying attention to the topic and hopefully gaining something from the session.) I could tell when the consumers started to make understanding and commiserating responses that they were identifying with other group members and their stresses.

As the session progressed, each person was asked to identify some of the physical and emotion symptoms they experience when they are starting to feel stressed. Finally, they were asked, “What are some ways you can reduce stress, and even prevent future stress?” Some people had many answers; some had few or none.  Often these were the consumers who were very sick- either they were very depressed and had yet to rediscover any hope, or they were the ones living in their own little world and only occupying a physical space in the room.

There were three favorite answers that I would recommend if the group had trouble starting off: writing, laughter, and counting to ten. Often the suggestion to “count to ten slowly” elicited laughter, so two birds- one stone, right? As for writing, perhaps I am taking my own advice here, as I jot down these experiences and stories. Even if the scribbles are not remotely related to what might be the precipitating factor of one’s stress, just letting a flow of thoughts and ideas out, can be helpful. At least I find it is.

Oh, and saying the alphabet backwards (that’s my little stress reliever secret).

For the birds

Standard

When he called, he had already been expressing some thoughts of wanting to harm himself. The night before, he had been involved in a dramatic domestic abuse incident, and those thoughts lingered with him still.

“I am having thoughts of harming myself,” he told my coworker, who, by random luck, was the one to pick up his call.

“OK, sir- where are you right now?” she asked, attempting to gather more information.

“I’m at work,” OK this was good as he was probably not alone. “I’m currently up in a tree lift,” OK, maybe not so good.

The man was making his desperate call for solace from the raised bucket of his tree trimming truck, and he was contemplating how easy it might be for him to just jump out.

As we assisted her in what ways we could, my coworker managed to talk the man into lowering his bucket back down to earth. As she relayed me the details of his current situation (actively suicidal with plans and means, domestic issues, etc.), I arranged everything to provide that man with a smooth admission into our adult hospital for crisis stabilization.

And then he refused to go. 

Not because he did not think he needed help. Not because he did not want to go into an inpatient setting. No, he refused because he believed he needed to finish up his workday: high up in the air, cutting down tree limbs… while actively suicidal.

Often times, I think just the act of calling a help line is enough for some people to realize that they are not alone in whatever they are currently facing.  On the other end of the phone is a stranger that now carries some of that burden for them. And for some, the act of sharing is enough, in their minds, to get them out of their immediate crisis.  What they forget is that while they did go and make the effort to call a crisis line, they still need to follow-through with the recommendation made by the professional on the other end.  If the person knew how to change their situation already, they would not be calling a crisis line in the first place. One call is not going to solve all their problems, but it can help set in motion the next steps that will assist towards that goal.

So back to our guy: It took a lot of reality-based confrontation and multiple calls back and forth before he agreed to get help beyond just a phone call. Sometimes all a person needs is to hear their own words said back to them before they realize how they sound to the rest of the world. In this case, it worked (as did explaining to him how a fall from that height would probably not have the desired effect, and would more likely result in a stay in a medical hospital and extensive physiotherapy for whatever limbs he could still move.)

You have really pretty hair

Standard

“You have really pretty hair.”

This was not the statement that my friend expected to hear at that moment. Not from her therapist. Especially not in the middle of a rather emotional counseling session.

Sometimes it can be very difficult to know how to respond to a consumer (client, patient- they are all the same, but for my purposes I will be referring to them as consumers or cons throughout) during a particularly emotional session. But as counselors, therapists, and social workers, we have been trained on how to be empathetic to our consumers’ needs; even if that response is just a non-verbal one. We strive to help our consumers feel as if they are in a safe environment, where they can open up and be heard. And while there are some situations where a consumer might try to take advantage of that empathy (some cons with borderline personality disorder come directly to mind), as professionals we seek to respond to these situations in a manner that will hopefully allow the cons to become more open and honest with him or herself. This alteration allowing the cons to process the root of their issues, rather than just the issues they continue to create.

So while it is often human nature to freeze-up or become verbally inept when confronted with emotional or confrontational situations, it is important for us to remember that there is another human on the other side of that exchange.

So when this professional therapist interrupted my friend and her emotional disclosure to give an out-of-context compliment of her hair, it lead my friend to wonder if that therapist even knew what empathy meant. With one little phrase, that session, and any future sessions with that therapist, was effectively over.

Sometimes you just have to start from the side

Standard

I’ve been working in the mental health field for over four years. Prior to that I worked backstage in a professional theatre. There were many times that I had difficulty distinguishing between the two. The Drama Queen might be the one on stage or the one you are helping to admit on an inpatient unit. The difference between the creative dreamer and the man talking to the invisible cow could just be a matter of medication levels. In both environments, a sense of humor became very important, as did a sense of teamwork and comradery.

With this blog I set out to put down some of the things I remember, a few of the things I learned, and perhaps just ramble on here and there. You are welcome to join me.