The Progress Saboteur: the calm and the storm

"...But I wanted more, I needed the ride The inexplicable storm, the temporary high A body primed for drama, stimulation gone mad I’d blow up the quiet, and confirm I was bad You’d reach for your hair, and declare all quite lost I was clearly quite mad, for the undoing, the cost Of all that investment, of all that you’d done It didn’t add up, the unworkable sum But the numbers compute, it all makes sense When you think of my history, the emotions immense The experience traumatic, the learning acute My response to the calmness profoundly astute...."

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Chilled: Reducing Baseline Arousal Levels in Therapy-Avoidant Teens

Hey, it’s me again, back talking about my ability to blow-up at the slightest little thing and why that may be the case- that maybe due to some trauma or event in my life I may constantly be on high alert, primed for danger and threat which causes me to over-react to situations that in reality are non-threatening. I’m hyperaroused basically, with my baseline danger setting set way too high. We looked at what you can do to help bring me back from one of these blowouts, but now I want to help you understand how you can lower my baseline arousal level so that these blowouts become less frequent, and hopefully disappear altogether. The best approach will always depend on the extent of my hyperarousal. If I have been severely traumatised by an event and my behaviour is extremely erratic, I will need to receive some formal therapy from a specialist. Problem is that this therapy is dependent on me being willing to face the trauma head-on and agreeing to go. So what can you do to help me lower my baseline stress levels without me going for therapy? Well here goes...
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On High Alert: Hyperarousal + ‘losing it’ over nothing

I’m buzzin’, I’m buzzin’. Looking from left to right, right to left, over my shoulder, off in the distance, at the person next to me, the person over there, the girl on her phone, that lady on the till, that guy holding the door. The looks on their faces, the way they move their hands, even the way they blow their noses. You see, I’m on high alert, yes, high alert, ready for anything, just anything. I’m in school, the noise, the humdrum, the pushing the jostling- woah! What the hell look are you giving me? You bump into me and give me that look… I’m gone. I can’t do this piggin’ English. I can’t do it, I can’t do it. Oh f***, oh hell. Pencil tapping, pencil tapping, kick the table leg, kick the table leg. “Be quiet Dwayne”. Be quiet Dwayne. What the f***. What the f***… I’m gone. Back home to foster carers. Slam the door. “How was school?” How was school? That tower of crap. Oh such a crappy place, a crappy day. Footsteps. “Did you hear me? How was school? ” Wall found, fist gone through…. I’m gone. Where have I gone? Gone to a place where body rules mind. Where amygdala eats frontal lobe. Where instinct eats reason. Where physicality beats mind. You can try and talk to me, but there is no listening. You are wasting your time. My ability to process verbal language, apply logic, analysis, to think of another’s perspective, to empathise, to think of where this behaviour might land me is nil, nada, nothing. I am busy surviving, consumed with this task to the exclusion of all else.
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How to Build Self-Esteem, Self-Worth and Self-Belief

In the previous post, we explored why some teens struggle with low self-esteem due to a lack of positive affirmation from others. One of our roles is to keep on building them up, and helping them to begin to believe in themselves. It is only once they begin to do this that they can begin to make changes in their lives where necessary and can begin to feel that they have the capability to mould their futures, rather than life just being ‘done’ to them. But how do we show them this? Sounds great in theory but what does it look like in practice? It’s finding the positives in their lives and in their characters and making a point of emphasising them whenever possible (but in a lighthearted off the cuff kind of way so that nobody has to reach for the bucket). Slowly drip-feed them. Young people who have little sense of self-worth often don’t know what to do with positive attention, it is so alien to them. So just like you can kill a starving child by making them eat too much to begin with, start slowly but surely so that they can gradually get used to their

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Building my fat box

When you are working with a significantly overweight or obese teen, what do you see? A fat disgusting person with no-self control or someone struggling? Do you ask yourself the questions: What is really going on? Why are they over-eating? How much is physical, how much emotional? Is anyone to blame? What role has the child and their parents or carers played? These are some of the questions that my guest blogger, Pat Antos, seeks to address in this post, writing as his teenage self. Having himself been an overweight teen and a morbidly obese adult, he knows firsthand the issues that some of our teens are struggling with.

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The Good Goodbye

The last word, the last sight Before I go out of the door Away from your world And continue my tour My tour through my life All the comings and goings Of people and places The walking out, the throwings I can leave from the front Or out of the back Successful completion Or another setback But I shouldn’t go quietly It shouldn’t go unmarked The fact that I’m leaving It needs some remarks Highlights of progress Even when most wasn’t good What the next steps will be The fact that I could Could choose my response Could make this next step work That tomorrow has hope I can escape from the murk So whether I’m leaving On an up or a down You set the tone Can help me swim or drown

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My Constant Change, Your Life-Changing Constancy

Whoever said a change is as good as a holiday is a prat. Well maybe not a prat, but someone who lives a totally different life than me. Maybe if your life is steady, your routines are predictable, and the unexpected is completely unexpected, then change is good. But change is all too familiar to me. It’s the bully that lurks in the bushes and jumps me, anytime, anywhere. And so I constantly live in fear. In fear of a new foster carer, a new group home, a new school or being banged up. In fear of a change of circumstance or mood that ends in black eyes and broken hearts. In fear of a new power structure on the estate where I don’t know where I fit and getting it wrong could end up with me paying the ultimate price. If I have learned one thing it is this- change hurts. It unsettles me to my core and it can be dangerous.

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When Words Fail: Me and my razor

If I could tell you first, I would. If I could string words and feelings together, I really would. If there was some comprehension, some stream of tangible consciousness the words would be there and all you would have to do would be to get me to speak them. But I do not have the words. I do not have the words to express that which screams and writhes within me. Razors, glass, lighters and matches are my lips; the trickle of blood, the burn, the pain are my physical words. For others the smashing of bodies against walls, the ingestion of items like light bulbs, the pulling of hair are involved. Whatever the method, the physical words are still the same. The physical words that tell of our inner pain and our torment. The physical words that make sense of the inexplicable, the inexpressible. The self harm that momentarily allows us to emotionally speak and heal, to calm the roaring storm. That is until the ocean of pain, of raw distress stirs up again and the transient healing is undone and to our tools we return.

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Please Give Us Our Time

You want our lives to run like clockwork. A tight schedule dictated by funding, limits of patience, supply and demand imbalances. The timing cogs appear as a specified number of sessions or as deadlines. The ‘we’ll be working together for the next ten weeks’ and the ‘you have to sort yourself out by the end of the month or we’ll have to look at moving you on’. New school, new foster care placement, new treatment, basically moved on to somewhere new or back to somewhere old or dumped nowhere if we don’t have a new attitude, a new behaviour. We have to be fixed or at least less broken by the time the clock strikes midnight.

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