Faces of Carson 2015

Faces of Carson 2015

At Kamp 7/28/15

I was worried my whole first bus ride to Kamp for Kids. What would I say to other kids? What was I supposed to do?

I remember pulling up on the pavement and a Kamp Counselor opened the door. She had a big smile and was really friendly, like she was really was glad to see me. But she didn't even know me. She told us to all step down and walk over to a table where there were a few other kids. She told us each to say our names, and we did. Then she described two different games we could play that morning. A girl across from me asked me if I would play one of the games with her later. I said, "Sure!" and that was it--I had a friend to play with! It was that easy. The best thing was that everybody there can be your friend if you want. You don't have to be best friends, but you can be friends. There are no cliques, like at school. Not even among the counselors!

At the end of the summer, when I went back to school, I had a talk with myself. I reminded myself that I had learned at Kamp to ask people questions about themselves, to give them a little time to answer. Not to push in to their "bubble"--their space. High five instead of hugs, you know? At Kamp, they teach you social skills. I could try them out at school.

But mostly, I felt like, "I can do this." that's the main thing that was different for me. And also, I found out that most people are nicer than they look. They are not all going to take your backpack and push you on the school bus. I started to say 'hi,' and really talk to a lot more people at school, people I never imagined I could be friends with. And it was fine! It was so much easier. Kamp changed everything.

by JAC Patrissi

(Posted 7/29/2015 by admin)

It's getting worse 7/13/15

"It's getting worse. The judge gave you the least possible sentence for heroin possession twice before. The next time I see you, you'll be dead and I don't want that. It's time for residential."

I called my addictions counselor at Carson to complain about what my Probation Officer had said, but she didn't take my side. She agreed with him. She told me every time she said good bye she worried that she would never see me alive again.

My Dad is in jail for dealing. My mom overdosed and died. My stepmom is straight. She knows her son is my dealer, but she can't stop him and she can't turn in her own son.

I'd heard this before. My stepmom had already cried a bunch of times when I'd leave the house to score. At the time, I could hear her pleading with me not to leave, but I couldn't feel her. It was like a wave of life was coming and I had to go catch it. Heroin was that wave. She could never understand. She had it backwards. She thought I was going towards death because she didn't know that my life was already a walking death and heroin showed me life for awhile. It helped me live.

"You're PO is right," my Carson counselor said. "So was your stepmom. There's a way to live that deals with the pain and that doesn't destroy everything--your health, your hopes, your family and friends. It is going to be hard, I promise you that, but I know you can do it. We are on your side."

It is a six month program out on the Cape. My Carson therapist is calling my stepmom and working with my PO. I guess I could hear my therapist in a way that I couldn't hear my stepmom or my PO because my therapist did it herself. She is in recovery. She fought her way back to life so she could help people like me. Actually, she says it differently. She says she believes she came this far for me, for me in particular, to show me there is another way, because there are people out there who need me to show them the way. That kinda really gets to me, right in my gut, you know?

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 7/13/2015 by admin)

I Make a Lot of Money 6-16-15

I make a lot of money. Most of the women in my support group at the Carson Center don’t. I investigate international money fraud schemes for large banks. I profile the scammers. Russian mafia, Ponzi schemers. It’s really interesting work to me. I work with the Masters of the Universe, taking them down. And when you do, they come after you. I’m used to it at work. But I didn’t think it would happen at home.

I tried to get help. My girlfriends and my old therapist told me that I just intimidated my husband because I make so much more money than he does, and that he just needed a way to feel powerful because I make him insecure.

You see, my husband made some bad investments in his business. Now he is trying to figure out what to do. He went to a couple of men’s weekends away and he came back with a great idea. He said that he that it would be great for our relationship if he sexually dominated me. I said, “Are you kidding me?” He was not kidding. He said he thought it would be “exciting” if he just sexually assaulted me spontaneously some day. I thought he was going through something strange, but that he could not be serious. We have been married five years. Eleven days ago, he put his hands around my neck and squeezed and tried to rape me. I got away by slamming him into the wall, so that he let go. I got out of the house and got a restraining order. He was gone when I got back. I packed up all of his things.

My brother in law told me that because I have financial resources, it wasn’t really abuse, because I have my own job and money and that I must have made my husband not feel like a man.

What is this? How did it get to be my fault?

The only place people understand what is happening is at the Carson Center support group for women questioning the health of their relationships. None of us are the same in that group—not the same race, not the same education, not the same income. But we understand things that so many other people don’t want to understand. And that shared understanding makes me strong.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 6/19/2015 by admin)

They Pronounced Me Dead at the Scene 6-9-15

They pronounced me dead at the scene. For more than a month after my car hit the tree, I think I must have been deciding whether to start a second life. I was in a coma. Maybe I was thinking about coming back to life. I’m glad I came back. I still had nine months to do before I really came out into the world. I spent those nine months with all the good nurses in the hospital. Those people are like the best mothers there are. I came out with a new face—all the bones in the old one had been broken. I came out using my brain in a whole new way, too—after my head hit so hard.

I still remember my old life, and I miss it. I finally got a job at a supermarket. I wish I could have my old construction job. I remember smoking weed and drinking. That was fun, but it isn’t my life anymore. I can drive again. I think about going too fast, and how quickly a life you love can end, when the road bends and you can’t do it fast enough. You thought you had it all under control, but you didn’t. And you never will again. I drive slowly now. I do everything much more slowly. I learned from my Traumatic Brain Injury group at the Carson Center that this is the way it has to go—slowly, one step at a time.

I want to apologize to you. I am hard to understand. My speech was affected by the injury. Also, I say things impulsively, and I might have hurt your feelings, but I can’t remember. Not remembering is part of it. So, please forgive me. That’s the best way, I think. To tell you that I can’t really tell for sure if I’ve done the wrong thing, and how it is when your brain is injured. I will go slow, and you will know, and I think it will go alright.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 6/19/2015 by admin)

Zeus 5-26-15

Even though it was good that Aunt Maryanne moved with mom and me out of our old town, it was hard to leave. It’s hard to get through the school day now. Noises bother me. They say I’m starting the fights, but it honestly, I’m not. It’s just that kids are always pushing into me, wanting to start things. That’s how it seems to me.

My Carson In Home Therapist says that it is just a result of the trauma. Watching what Dad did to mom all those times. She says it changed me and that I have to stop for a second when I think kids are causing me trouble. Because maybe they aren’t, really.

Maybe it just feels that way because it mostly always feels hot and jammed up inside me. Maybe I just feel like people are starting trouble because I’m ready for trouble now after what happened.

They’ve had me try a bunch of things. What works is taking time alone. What works is splashing some cold water on my face. The problem is, teachers don’t like you taking time alone and putting cold water on your face in the middle of social studies and math.

The school counselor has a therapy dog. His name is Zeus. Zeus works, too. Even better than cold water. If I can hang with Zeus, I can get through any class.

My Carson Therapeutic Mentor set up this deal: If I can use three of my strategies a day at school between classes, then I get Zeus- time. I’ve been banking Zeus- time like crazy. If I get enough, I can spend the whole day with him!

The school counselor even brings Zeus to my Care Plan Team meetings. I used to not want to go. But with Zeus, anything is possible. After Zeus, I’d say it was the Carson Center people that came up with the most helpful things. But Zeus is first. He’s got the best ideas of anybody.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 6/19/2015 by admin)

Blank 20 5-20-15

It is harder to be clean. I like cocaine, I won't lie to you. My Carson psychiatrist says stimulants effect me differently. I'm living with my parents again, but I've almost got my own place. I need my own apartment so I can get my kids Lonny and Dan back. Lonny is only two, and Dan is six. I signed a release paper so my Carson therapist can talk with my Department of Children and Families. She only talks with DCF when I'm in the room, listening. No more secrets, that's how I'm going to make it.

You know, I took extra of the anxiety meds I was supposed to last night. I'm telling everyone--my Probation Officer, my Carson therapist and psychiatrist, my DCF worker. My therapist says I should get a sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous. I go to meetings, but I will get a sponsor, she's right. One of the reasons I need to get out of my parents' place is that they are both still drinking. They have been my whole life. My Carson therapist says that's one of the reasons it is so hard for me to stay clean and sober.

My other five kids are with my sister and my aunt. I'm not going to get them back, but I get to see them. I've got a full time job. I told them they can talk to my PO every week about my urine test so we all know how I'm doing. No secrets and no trying to do it alone. It's the only way forward.

by JAC Patrissi

(Posted 5/21/2015 by admin)

Blank 19 5-12-15

"I've been here all day, praying for you. Help me get up. My legs are locked. I'm being punished."

That's how my mom greeted me after school. She was kneeling in front of the human sized crucifix she'd hung in the living room. She was like that when I left to catch the bus in the morning. She was still like that after band practice at dinner time. She cried. I tried to tell her that things were okay, but she said she saw the devil in my eyes and would do anything it took to win my soul back.

My Dad had her sent to the hospital soon after that. It was the eighties and the hospital was a terrible place. I always felt it was my fault that she was put there. She came home between the electroshock treatments. When she was on the medicine they gave her, she was like a zombie. My Dad said if she didn't keep taking it, he would leave her. She said she couldn't hear God's voice anymore and wouldn't take it.

He set her up in an apartment, gave her some money, kept her on his life insurance, and checked in on her once a week. Sometimes we'd get to see her, but just for a few minutes. Even then it was hard. She wasn't always like that. She was funny, a long time ago, and danced. She'd made great baklava. She'd bought me my first drum set. Everybody she loved got a baklava. Everyone she thought was special in some way.

She stayed in that apartment, praying on her knees or going to the hospital to fight the demons, for fifteen years.

My Dad heard about the Carson Center and convinced Mom to give it a try. There were new meds to try and a group. After six months, I saw her laugh again. They even had therapy for us, for Dad and I, who had watched the mystery of mental illness take our family to terrible places far apart from one another.

Mother's Day has always been hard for me. But this year, I went to see my mom and she made me a baklava like you wouldn't believe. I saved some for my Carson therapist, but mom had already brought her some. And for the group.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 5/14/2015 by admin)

Hospital 5-5-15

I wasn’t scared of the surgery for the reasons most people are afraid of going into the hospital. I trusted my doctors. It’s that I had to go off of my psychiatric meds in order to do it. My Carson therapist and outreach worker and support group were great getting me ready, but no one can be ready for your dead mother lying in the hospital bed next to you.

My Carson worker didn’t leave my side—not before I went into the Operating Room, and not after. She kept reassuring me that even though it felt real, the things I was seeing and hearing would not last. I made myself small in the corner of my bed, but her body kept touching me. My Carson worker said she did not see anything there, but that she knew that I felt it and saw it and that she was going to stay with me until it went away.

They wouldn’t release me until I showed them I could hold down food. Who could hold down food when they’ve put your dead mother’s crushed up bones in it? My Carson workers held my hand—she tested the food for me; she promised me that the food was okay. I cried the whole way I ate that meal. I could feel the crunching in my teeth, and I could hear my Carson worker’s soothing voice.

I can tell you now that it wasn’t real, but it feels real when it happens. She never tried to convince me out of how strongly it felt, but she wanted me to know that it wouldn’t last and that she would be there the whole time.

That’s what I say now to others in group—that they need to keep working towards recovery—keep coming to group to find stronger mental health. The worst of it won’t last, and we’ll be there the whole time. I will be. Just like Carson was for me.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 5/5/2015 by admin)

Bracelet 4-28-15

These were the only the people Darcy could really talk to. She knew that when she told them how she moved back in with Tomas after he’d been released from prison for the assault on her, that they’d ‘get it.’ They would know how she felt. The other members of Carson’s domestic violence support group understood how she was feeling.

The court had put Tomas on a ‘bracelet’ that tracked his movements. If he hurt Darcy, he would definitely go back to prison, where he did not want to go. It was the first time Darcy had felt this kind of protection.

When Darcy had called the police on him two years ago, she was the one that ended up in trouble. Tomas had convinced the cops that she’d pushed him and they arrested her, instead. She did not call for a long time after that. The second time she’d called, Tomas did get arrested, but the Assistant District Attorney told her that they wouldn’t go forward without her testimony. It was all up to her alone. Tomas’ mother and brother and friends came over every day to plead with her not to ruin his life. She could not ruin his life. She did not want to hurt him. She just wanted him to stop hurting her, so told the ADA she did not want to go forward. Tomas was furious with her for ‘getting him in trouble’ anyway.

The next time the police came, it was because the neighbors had seen him attacking her. There was the hospital record of her broken ribs and the marks from the strangulation. The evidence was stronger, but still, the ADA told her it was all up to her. Darcy did not visit him in jail, but he called her. It sounded terrible in there.

Darcy thought about this: if she had told any of her friends that, for example, her brother had hit her, but that she still loved her brother, her friends would understand this. But when she told her friends that her boyfriend had hit her, but she still loved her boyfriend, her friends thought she was ‘sick.’

It was when he was in jail that Darcy started going to Carson’s domestic violence support group. The group was the only really emotionally safe place for her. The group members understood. They wanted her to be safe. They wanted her to understand that she could not change him, and that it was not her fault that he hurt her, but they also understood that of course, she loved him, too.

The group members also knew what it felt like for Darcy to move back in with Tomas when he came out on his tracking bracelet. The first time he started talking at her with that menacing tone, Darcy did not cower. She did not shrink into the corner. She stood up and told him she wasn’t afraid anymore. She had to stand on the tongue in the mouth of the lion and tell him that he couldn’t bit her anymore. Maybe no one outside the group would understand what it felt like to take your power back in that way, but she felt she had to do it. The group members told her that she didn’t need to stand up to him in person. She could have stood up to him inside her head. She didn’t need to live with him. But they didn’t judge her when she did choose to live with him.

Darcy called the police when he shoved her around two weeks later and he went right back to jail, just as they’d promised. She was glad she’d tried this one last time. She was glad she’d stood up. And she was glad her Carson group had stood by her.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 4/28/2015 by admin)

Suzanne 4-14-15

It was getting hard for Suzanne to find a therapist to work with. She had a very hard time coming to therapy, even when she wanted to. If she could keep the motivation going, if she could get up, get dressed and drive to the appointment, well, then, Suzanne, reasoned, she wouldn’t really need therapy! She had stopped showing up for so many of Carson’s therapists, Suzanne almost gave up hope of being given another chance. But there was another chance, and Suzanne started to see another Carson therapist.

Suzanne had had severe lead poisoning as a child. She stopped the endless humiliations of school by dropping out as soon as she could. She avoided being near her mother, who was often passed out drunk, or throwing things. Suzanne was pregnant at sixteen and seventeen. At eighteen, the Department of Children and Families had both of her kids. Suzanne was most often drunk after that.

It’s been a year now that Suzanne has been sober. She thinks about her babies when she is sober, and the voices in her head never shut up about them. They don’t sound like her talking to herself. They sound like angry men’s voices. It made Suzanne not want to come out of her apartment.
Her Carson therapist went with her down the hall to the psychiatrist. Even though the medications make things feel fuzzy, the voices stopped once Suzanne began the medication. But Suzanne felt lost. There was nothing to do with her life but walk to the store. She told her therapist that someone had stolen her identity, so when she wanted to volunteer, her background check would show that there were outstanding warrants for her arrest. She’d told this to her other people at other places, but no one had believed her.

“I know it’s hard to believe a person who hears voices,” she said, “but you should.”

Her therapist introduced her to Carson’s Community Based Flexible Support program. A worker helped Suzanne sort out her medical insurance, find a local doctor, get her some physical therapy that helped with the lifelong effects of lead poisoning. But best of all, the Carson worker helped her sort out the identity theft issue.

Yesterday, Suzanne went to the animal shelter, where she had been turned away before. She showed them the letter she now has that explains that she does not have a criminal record. They told her to come back on Monday to start the process of becoming a volunteer.

Suzanne left a message on her therapist’s voicemail.
“I’ve been crying all afternoon from happiness. I never thought I could do anything good with my life. I’m just so happy!”

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 4/14/2015 by admin)

Blank 18 4-7-15

It's hard to stay grateful when the Department of Children and Families won't let you drive your kids to school, and that means your wife is mad at you still. It's hard to be cool with your Probation Officer as he watches you wiz in the men's bathroom at the court because you have to prove yourself now. You have to earn it all back because you spent it.

I lost the trust and had to earn it. I was thinking I was fine because the heroin was years behind me; my girlfriend didn't even know me back then. I was thinking booze won't kill you like the heroin will--and everybody drinks, right? I don't even remember the night the cops came. My little boy couldn't look me in the eye for two months afterwards. I saw the mess at the apartment when I got released. My girlfriend wouldn't clean it up. They went to her moms and left me to sweep up glass and throw out the pieces.

I'd had one of those guys over that you call "friends" when your life has nothing solid holding you up. You jump from this to that, friend to friend. I can't remember what we argued about, but I showed him he was wrong , that everything about him was wrong--his face, his mouth and the words that came out of it. The more he bled, the more I hated his weakness.

I can tell you now it was me I hated. It got a little touch and go there when I really felt it. My Carson therapist had me on a suicide watch, but I promised I wouldn't hurt myself and I meant it. When the shame hits, it is pretty bad. It is hard to stay grateful.

My Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor said I should go to ninety meetings in ninety days, but I went to more--sometimes twice a day. When I started admitting the truth, all of it came rushing to me, things I'd forgotten, my Dad and his goddamn belt, all of it. Those were two-meeting-a-day days.

Yesterday was my last day of Probation. Truth is, I'll miss that guy. He didn't give up on me. DCF closed and I can see my kids unsupervised now. I've got a contract to build a house. My girlfriend is coming with me to Carson next week. You have to earn it all back when you spend it, but I know I can.

by JAC Patrissi

(Posted 4/13/2015 by admin)

Annabelle 3-31-15

Annabelle had a supervisory position within the court system, and had a PhD in psychology, but she was afraid to talk to her Carson therapist. She was a good mother to her ten year old girl. She had friends and a sponsor. For the last fifteen years, she had found powerful relief from addiction in her 12 step recovery group.

She didn’t have much contact with her family. Her older cousin had done time for drug dealing. He told her that she’d ruined his life. He told her she’d ruined his relationship with her daughter and destroyed his chances of having a good job. She knew that he alone was responsible for the consequences of his abuse. She was so young and so brave back then, when she’d told the social worker at her school that he was dealing drugs in the house. She was so brave after her cousin had broken her arm for telling.

Even though she knew how brave she’d been, she wanted, even now, to tell her cousin that she loved him, that she would make it up to him, that she was sorry, that she would fix it. She didn’t do these things, but this is what she wanted to do. Annabelle told her therapist of a time at a party in high school when she and her best friend were pushed into a back room by some guys. They sexually assaulted her friend and held her down, but for some reason let her go. Maybe they heard something and got scared. She helped her friend, but her secret thought was not how lucky she had been to escape, but that they hadn’t found her attractive enough to assault her.

She told her therapist how her step father had sexually abused her and how when she’d told her mother, her mother called her disgusting and had said it had never happened. She hadn’t told anybody but her sponsor decades later. It was much easier to tell people about her cousin’s drug dealing than her step father’s sexual abuse.

Over time, Annabelle told her therapist about how she was truly surprised she was alive. She had jumped off of a roof into a swimming pool while high when she was younger. She had driven the wrong way on the Mass Pike 120 miles an hour. She had stolen cars in her twenties. She had cut herself. She’d never been in a hospital and never overdosed.

What would her therapist say when she told her the rest of the truth? That in her earliest memory she was---there were-- seven of her. Like a team. A team of Annabelle. In those early memories, she saw herself as though she were watching a movie of herself. There wasn’t just one self to watch in the move—there were….seven. Did this mean she was really sick? She began to shake after she told her. What should she do?

Her Carson said that the first thing to do is nothing. “We are just going to know that they are there. Then, over time, we are going to get to know them. Can you imagine a nice place for them to stay while we work on this?”

Annabelle could. She imagined a summer cottage, on the water. All the girls had beds with fresh smelling sheets and windows that looked out onto the sun over the water in the morning. It was quiet there. Annabelle imagined tucking all the small girls, parts of herself, into bed.
Her Carson therapist told her that she had split into these parts for very good reasons, and that each part had something important for her to know. That they’d go slowly together, inviting one girl out at a time as the others slept at the summer cottage.

Annabelle liked this therapist. She told her that she felt, for the first time, that she really, truly, had a chance.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 4/6/2015 by admin)

Tammy Art Therapy - March 24, 2015

When her mother died from complications following the birth of her sister, Tammy spent nine months living with her Grandma. After that, she moved in with her father, who she’d only seen sporadically before mom had died.

Her Carson Art Therapist, Samantha, has been working with Tammy since the day of the funeral. It’s been two years exactly since her mother’s death. They were decorating a box that they called “Grandma’s house” with drawings of little birds when, for the first time, Tammy spoke directly about her mother.

“Grandma says Mommy is in heaven.”


Tammy stopped drawing the birds. She picked up her childsafe scissors and rapidly stabbed twelve holes in the top of the box of Grandma’s house. She stopped stabbing. Her lip began to tremble. She looked at her therapist Samantha and cried out in a jagged voice filled with holes, “Heaven is so high up! What if Mommy falls down?”

“Oh, Tammy. No one knows for sure exactly what heaven is like, but I do know that heaven is a safe place and that your Mommy isn’t in danger,” said Samantha, offering Tammy her the comfort blanket they keep for times that require a great enveloping softness.

Tammy lay, wrapped in her blanket and cried for awhile. Finally, she said, “Mommy is safe.”

“Yes,” Samantha agreed.

Tammy took the Grandma’s house-box, lifted the lid and held it up. The light shone through the holes. “Now everyone can breathe,” said Tammy.

Samantha took a deep breath. “Yes, everyone can breathe.” Tammy sighed, stretched herself out towards the box and began again to draw her birds.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Alejandra - March 17, 2015

Alejandra doesn’t mind all the time inside; she is grateful for the long winter. She knows she is likely alone in this. Her Social Security Disability Insurance payments aren’t enough so that she can save for first and last month rent, and a deposit. She’d need that to pay for an apartment, so she’s been staying with her ex –husband. He drives her to her appointments at Probation and at the Carson Center. That’s complicated. She’d left her ex years ago so that she could be with her girlfriend, who is now in jail for dealing heroin. Her girlfriend is the one who got her hooked on heroin and is the reason she was arrested for possession.

Alejandra is taking suboxone and is off of heroin. The hard part is that all the people she knows, --except her ex and the people at the Carson Center-- are all using. That’s why it feels better to stay inside right now, away from the old crowd, so she won’t feel tempted. She’s working with her therapist at Carson to build a new life, with people who will support her. She’s trying to figure out a way to get into an apartment, or even a room, to maybe move near a bus stop so she can get places. To make some friends who aren’t only trying to get high or make money off of ruining other people’s lives.

It is a long walk into spring for Alejandra.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Addiction Work - March 10, 2015

Paul’s closet is spare. There is his old team’s football jersey, the wood-carrying flannel shirts, his work suits. There are few sweaters. Polar Bears don’t need them; Paul loved the cold.

In his suit, he was the one who kept order in the office. In his flannel, he could climb the walls of the barn in a split second if he needed to, avoiding the angry bull who didn’t really want his pen cleaned.
In his football jersey, he would always remember sitting there, in that field after the game, feeling that everything was in place—his yesterdays, his future days.

He never imagined the car accident, the oxycodone that ran out and the heroin addiction that followed it.

Sometimes in the old days, he would hike up to this wide ledge in a quiet place at dawn, and just lie on it for half an hour and then run back down and start life. Now in his quiet hours, Paul is trying hard to remember that quiet, even for a minute or so, to help him rise back into life.

It has been 46 days without heroin. His Carson therapist is helping him figure out how to keep order in his life by making his amends. How to jump on the barn wall when the cravings rush at him. How to carry in some spiritual fuel, to keep him warm. He’d like to be happy again, to feel joy—but not yet. Right now, it’s one day at a time, fighting for a clean and sober chance at life.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Early Education and Care - March 3, 2015

Callie was quiet at home where it was noisy. Mommy screaming, Daddy breaking everything important. Mommy, bloody, telling him she would kill him if he did it again.

Callie was noisy at her Carson Preschool where it was quiet. Callie climbed on furniture, broke everything important, grabbed scissors and tried to stab her teacher.

Callie’s mother, Sonya, was called in by Carson Preschool staff to hear their concerns about Callie's behavior. It was one more call for her to fix something she had no power over. Like the Department of Children and Families, they seemed to want her to fix him and now she had to fix Callie.

Fix her husband Dan or leave him, leaving her and Callie with no car, four dollars in her pocket and credit card debt he ran up in her name. The courts wouldn’t hold him; probation was a joke. He promised if she left, he'd be sure to get DCF to take the kids. Dan could be very convincing. He'd convinced the cops she had not been defending herself the last time, and they arrested her, too, along with him. So here was the Carson Pre-school teacher, kicking out her kid and blaming her. Callie hated them. What good were they?

The Preschool staff had introduced Sonya to a Carson PATCH worker. Sonya didn't want a PATCH worker, she wanted her childcare slot. The PATCH team helped her get Callie to see a therapist who practiced Child Parent Psychotherapy, a special approach to therapy for protective parents and child witnesses of domestic violence. They introduced her to a domestic violence advocate, who helped her think about her relationship and her safety. They helped her get her resume together. They practiced interviewing skills. Sonya got a job. She got an order of protection against Dan's abuse.

Six month's later, Sonya called and asked the Carson Preschool staff if they would accept Callie on a part time trial basis. When she came in, staff hardly recognized her. She looked clear and focused. Callie did well. In fact, staff say she is just about the brightest girl they have ever had.

"Thank you for PATCH. It wasn't time to be here before," Sonya told the Carson teachers. "But now it is time. Time for me and Callie."

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Rec - February 17, 2015

The main difference in Dionna after five years participating in Carson’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) program’s Therapeutic Recreation for kids (“Rec”), was that she could fall over.

Dionna’s mother had worked with DMH to place her in a temporary therapeutic foster home. There were no other kids there, and Dionna went back to her mom every week-end. In the foster home, she was supposed to be learning about how to manage the extreme emotions she felt as part of her Bipolar diagnosis. She had a therapist she didn’t talk to, an outreach worker who dressed like an idiot, as far as she was concerned, the therapeutic foster parents, who were always being so totally unfair with all their rules—no tv after eleven p.m. on weekends—what? There was an In Home Therapist for her and her mom, which is just another person who ganged up against her. Her mom had a Family Partner to complain to, also. And there was Rec.

Rec could be cool, if it weren’t for all those other kids. There was kayaking and canoeing, horseback riding and skiing. Dionna watched and stood apart, or sometimes shoved someone on the bus. And she was stiff, always on guard, inflexible.

When she arrived in the foster program, Dionna had wanted to have a baby soon. Why not? Her mother had had her at sixteen. But then her foster mother invited over a bunch of seven year olds for a play group. How totally annoying. She wanted a BABY, not a seven year old. Even worse—they’d be ten someday and want cool sneakers and she’d be twenty-five and have to go back to school with a bunch of losers so she could get some crummy job to pay for them. She decided to ‘wait and see’ on the whole baby thing.

It was just so quiet out in Ware, not like where she’d come from. Almost everyone was white, too. And the truth is, she didn’t know how to kayak or canoe. She was afraid of the horses and skiing meant learning to fall down right. It meant letting yourself fall down. It meant feeling safe enough to learn how to do something complicated and new. And no shoving about if you wanted to go to the New York City weekend. And she did want to go. And she did go, with her mom, who had never been, either.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Proteus - February 10, 2015

Eight months ago, Dan let everyone who would listen know that he’d rather have gone to jail than to Carson’s Proteus Batterer’s Intervention Program. The thing is, Dan didn’t think of himself as a guy who abused his wife; he was not one of those guys. Those guys are mean and dangerous and out of their minds. This was different. Dan had never been in trouble with the law. Everyone has their problems in relationship. It was just because he was drinking that things had gotten out of hand.

Dan was going to prove his Proteus group facilitators wrong. When the facilitators told him that the drinking might fuel his abusive behavior, but not cause it, Dan went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting out of spite. He was going to prove that once he was sober, there would be no more relationship problems. Besides, why wasn’t anyone focusing on her? It takes two to tango, you know. If she would just not bait him, nag him constantly, then things would go smoothly.

A few months into his sobriety, his Proteus facilitator, Robin, was trying to teach Dan about an idea called “male entitlement in relationship”. Robin was saying that many men learn that in a family, basically, things should go their way, and that if they are challenged by their partner, they can become bullies to get what they want. It just didn’t ring true to Dan. The other facilitator, a woman named Yvette, was nodding in agreement. So were some of the other men in the group. Dan couldn’t stand these people sometimes. They just didn’t understand.
“Take Rita,” Dan said. “Why isn’t she in this group? I don’t threaten her. Sometimes I wake up at two in the morning, I wake Rita up and tell her to go make me a sandwich. There’s no “intimidation” like you guys are saying. But she’s a total bitch to me and she shoved me, but she’s not here.”

“Why do you wake Rita up to make you a sandwich?” asked a guy named Tom from across the circle.
“Because I know she’ll do it.”
“How do you know?” asked Raoul. Raoul had been in the group for three months longer than Dan. This was his second time around, too.
“Because she does it. I don’t have to do anything about it. She just does it,” said Dan.

“Look, Dan, think about this,” said Robin “What would you do if when you woke Rita up at two a.m., Rita said to you, angrily ‘Who do you think you are, Dan, for waking me up?! Make your own damn sandwich!’ How would that go? What would you do then?”

Dan turned red. His hands were shoved in his pockets, but his entire body hardened and tensed. He looked like he could easily tear Robin’s head off of his body.

“Rita is already afraid of you. She knows what you can do and what you have done. You don’t need to say your threat out loud each time. She knows that you expect things to go your way, and if she shows you any anger or doesn’t do what you want, you will, at the very least, frighten her, or tear her down,” said Robin.

“And,” added Yvette, “you are sober.”

“But then, what are you saying? That I have to do everything her way? That I have to be perfect? I’m not like these guys here. I never broke any bones. I just moved her out of my way a little because she was getting in my face and pushing my buttons and you know no one cares if she’s abusing me!”

Raoul looked at Dan. Last time he’d been in this group, he’d said all the same things. “Dan, you are full of it. You are not afraid of Rita. This is what we do to get our way, man. You keep it up and you will lose everything. You gotta own it, admit it first, to change it,” he said.
And that was the night Raoul can look back on and say that after that, he never made Carmen afraid again.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Blank 15 - February 3, 2015

If you've been reading Faces of Carson for a little while, you've become familiar with the kind of wise and compassionate practicality that staff bring to the problems of every day living. From time to time, people send us questions about things they've been reading and thinking about related to things like mental health, parenting, and domestic violence. If you have a question, please send it to JAC Patrissi at jpatrissi@carsoncenter.org. Carson staff will bring their best thoughts to you in a response through this column.

Hi, JAC,
I've been wondering if you ever deal with people who are having trouble at work. There's this one person who just makes everything impossible. i love my job and it isn't as though my coworker does anything actually wrong. There's just something about him that gets to me. My husband is sick of hearing about him. I can't seem to shake it.

Dear B.-- We know what you mean! Most of us spend so much time at work that if our work life isn't basically harmonious, it can really hurt the quality of our day. If you are satisfied that you are being treated with respect, you can ask yourself to start noticing some things. What does he do, what is it about him, that bothers you the most? Are there times it just doesn't bother you? If so, why do you think that is? What is it about your day, or you, or your thinking, that makes it easy for you to overlook the things that bug you? Is here a person or a time in your life, he reminds you of?
These are just the kind of things you can talk to a Carson therapist about. You don't have to figure it out by yourself. We're here when you need us!


(Posted 3/24/2015 by admin)

Parenting Group - January 27, 2015

Andrew was pretty sure that the Carson therapist who ran his Parent Group did not have kids. The stuff she suggested sounded good, until you tried it out in real life. Real life was filled with Legos in the plumbing and nail polish paintings on the new kitchen countertop. Real life was the cost of those dance costumes and the fact that Andrew and his wife had not had a date since 2011.

In group, the therapist sounded impossibly reasonable and well-rested, as though she’d had a quiet evening to herself the night before. She was nice and she knew her stuff, but still, her excellent posture put a strain on all the parents, whose shoulders universally sagged. This week’s topic was about making appropriate consequences for your kids’ mistakes. Parents were encouraged to work out the family rules and consequences during a Family Meeting, preferably when everyone is getting along. Parents were advised not to come up with oversized consequences in the heat of the moment that were unreasonable or impossible to fulfill.
During Family Meeting, parents should ask the kids first to come up with the consequences to common problems that the family anticipates might occur during the week. The thinking is that since kids are little terrorists, the parents will look benevolent and merciful when their reasonable suggestions follow their children’s dramatic visions of vengeance for themselves and their siblings. (The therapist didn’t put it that way, but this is how Andrew understood it). Andrew had tried it out by asking his youngest son what he thought should happen if he played on his computer game longer than agreed. The therapist was right; his six year old son had said, in November, “I shouldn’t be allowed to play with it again until the end of the school year.”

“You can work out a reasonable consequence that connects to the thing they have done wrong…be careful, tempers can run hot--the consequence should not be so unjust that it threatens the child’s bond with you as a parent,” the Carson therapist had said.

At dinner, Andrew was trying to keep all of this in mind. They hadn’t had a Family Meeting yet. He and his wife had been up all night cleaning the bedding from the vomiting. The kids were now, during dinner, debriefing their vomiting experience in professional sport caster detail. The oldest child laughed so hard, he spilled his milk. The second reached over to help clean up the milk, and accidentally spilled his own as he did so. This delighted the youngest brother, who looked as though he might need to spill his milk to continue the joy.

“That’s IT!” bellowed Andrew, in exactly the intimidating voice his therapist told them in group would ensure a future disastrous adolescence for everyone involved.

“The next person who spills his milk will go A WEEK with NO TELEVISION and NO DESSERT and WILL DO ALL THE LAUNDRY!”

The kids looked at him, flattened, laughter gone. His wife’s brows were arched and her mouth was set in a way that would ensure Andrew’s own misery for the rest of the meal and possibly the evening if he didn’t figure out how to fix this. Andrew thought about Parenting Group. He could say he didn’t mean it, but then he remembered the therapist with the good posture telling him that if he didn’t follow through on the consequences he’d laid out, that he would lose credibility with his kids.
He reached out to the ketchup bottle and tipped his youngest son’s milk over onto the table with the back of his hand.

“Oh! It’s me!” said Andrew. His sons looked at one another furtively and smiled.” Looks like I’ll have plenty of time to do the laundry this week, since I won’t get any television time!”

The kids sprang to action cleaning up the table. The youngest passed by his Dad’s chair with the wadded up paper towels, and whispered, “I have a stash from Halloween, Dad, if the week gets too hard, come see me.”
“No, I’ll take my consequence, Buddy—but thanks.” Bond intact.

By JAC Patrissi

(Posted 2/3/2015 by admin)