Blog Posts

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...."

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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Bleeding Out

I lay down and wept I shuddered to my very soul… For the thorns and the barbs The words and the deeds That led to those awful nights When all you did was bleed Your blood was not red Although it flowed free It did not require an ambulance Although you were on your knees Instead of the passive victim Lying broken down and crushed You rose like an angry pitbull All you wanted, to lay all to mush But the blood flowed free The wound was raw As you rent all asunder Made a symmetry metaphor They didn’t deserve it Neither did you People born innocent Turning all blue Both victims of a world That refuses to acknowledge The brokenness that resides In the foul and obnoxious But I see the trauma I see the reasons why You lash out, cause injury And that is why I cry For the world doesn’t see this It closes the door It labels you a toerag A waster, a shit, no more It’s why I pick myself up And put my hand out To offer coagulants and bandages No shadow of a doubt Of the fact you are worth it Of the…

Going AWOL: reasons, prevention & return

If there’s one thing that troubled teens do well, it is going AWOL- disappearing without trace, no note, no message, no nothing. They fall off the radar for a while, but usually they pop up again, maybe a day, a week or even later, often by being found by the police, turning up at a relative’s or returning of their own volition. So what’s up with this? Why do they do this? Is there anything we can do to stop them doing this in the first place, or to get them to return sooner?

You keep me believing: on self-worth and belief

An important aspect of belief in oneself and one’s abilities to succeed in life, is the external affirmation of worth from family, friends, a higher power or other significant people in our lives. Unfortunately for some of our most troubled teens, their lives and the people in them do not provide them with this affirmation. Consequently their thinking about themselves is devoid of a sense of worth, of value, of self-belief. Instead of fostering positivity, family members whether present or not, can instill a sense of unworthiness, of uselessness, of being unwanted. ‘Friends’ can cause confusion about self-worth by causing them to link worthiness with a ‘what I can do for them’ user mentality, where it’s about peer pressure for personal ends and not for mutual benefits. When the chips are down, nobody’s got their back and deep down they know it.

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…

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.

When working with some teens seems pointless: Focus on seed-sowing, not a harvest

How do we keep ourselves motivated when we don't seem to be getting anywhere? When behaviour and attitudes aren't changing? How do we stop ourselves from not really trying anymore, giving up, declaring defeat in our minds and just going through the motions of an intervention? Why should we keep on trying, is there any point? Are there just some who will always be beyond our reach?

The Good Goodbye

How to create memorable endings with your teens that increase their chances of future success.

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