The Importance Of A Good Support System

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I am still plugging away towards the finish line at 11:59pm, November 30th and 50,000 words.

So far I have about 43,000 words so I am on track, but that wasn’t so just a few days ago.

Just a few days ago I was behind by about 7,000 words and had almost thrown in the towel. With the Holiday, friends and family, and just the normal stressors of life, my motivation was starting to wane and giving up would have been a lot easier than plowing through my train wreck of a story.

Thank goodness for something called nanowrimosprints ( on twitter. It’s a twitter feed that challenges you with prompts, but most importantly, time specific writing frenzies to really pump you up and get you to writing.

It breaks up the monotony of feeling like I am working alone when I am being challenged along with thousands of other participants.

Write-Ins do the same thing, where writers meet up and write together, challenging each other to increase their word count and stay motivated and focused.

Writing can be such a lonely hobby and knowing that I am not alone in this journey really helps, and that’s what pulled me away from throwing in the towel and helped me to get back on track.

That got me to thinking about the importance of having a good support system.

Working in the psychiatric hospital, it was easy to see that clients who had good support systems usually had a better prognosis than clients who didn’t.

Clients who’s family and friends were involved in their care usually had less relapses (and less severe relapses) and shorter hospital stays.

Working in the school setting, it’s not very much different. Students who have good familial support, good friends and supporting teachers/adults, usually cope better with whatever issues they are facing, compared to students who do not.

It’s important that we all have a good “team” around us. When we don’t have anyone to be accountable to or to lean on for support, it’s easy to give up.

A lot of times we think we have to do things on our own, and no doubt, often we can and have to because no one can do the work for us, but it is very important and beneficial to have a supporting team who can help keep us accountable, honest, motivated and on track. And we can do the same for others.

Think about who is on your team right now, who would you like to be on your team in the future? Family members, friends or professionals are all viable candidates. Sometimes we don’t think about these things until we are in the middle of an issue or crisis.

Think about when things were really great. Who did you have around you that supported you?

Maybe right now everything is good and you don’t really think you need a support system and that’s great, but it’s always a good idea to know who you can turn to when you need help.

Your support system can help remind you to stick to your diet, exercise, take your medicine, stay away from bad people/ situations, save money, etc.

It’s ultimately up to you to accomplish your goals and live the life you want to live, but having a good support system goes a long way in making those things achievable.

Gratitude on Thanksgiving

This week I spent some time working with juveniles who are incarcerated at a local detention center for various crimes.

A good portion of them are incarcerated for drug related offenses or assault and battery.

These kids ranged between 14 and 17 years of age, and while none of them are perfect, in my opinion, they were all good kids who need guidance and someone who believes in them and someone they can trust.

All of them will be spending today, Thanksgiving, away from their families. Families that most of them have hurt and did not appreciate until they were removed from them.

It’s interesting how when I asked who can they trust, 66% of the girls said their mother was their best friend and all of those girls were incarcerated for assaulting their mothers.

Most of the juveniles were sad about being away from their families and friends for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to remind them that despite their circumstances, they still had a lot to be grateful for.

Many of them had a hard time with the ideal of gratitude while they were wearing maroon colored, county issued uniforms and locked into a facility with a bunch of strangers and guards.

I had to remind them, that most of them had families who loved them and were still there for them, despite all they had put them through, and they should be grateful for that.

Many of them would be getting out in a few weeks, and they should be grateful for that.

They were all still healthy and young, and they should be grateful for that.

And perhaps most importantly, they were all still alive and capable of reversing their course in life for the better, and they should be grateful for that.

Most of them have plans to do things differently when they get out and plan to never return, but a couple of them admitted that they didn’t think they could change and I felt sorry for them because the ability to change first starts with the desire to change and the thought and belief that you can change. Without that, change is impossible, no matter how many other people want it for you.

I hoped that teaching them about gratitude would help them appreciate what they have and open their hearts to love, compassion and giving to others, all things that will go a long way in their pursuit of changing for the better.

This day and everyday, take a minute to think about the things you are thankful for. Write them down if you’d like (a gratitude journal is a great idea), and let the people you are grateful for know that.

-“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
– Oprah Winfrey

Observing Body Language: A Quick Glimpse Into One Patient

I have a patient who is emotionally unstable, at times unpredictable and erratic. She suffers from depression, mostly due to tragic events that have happened in her past including a family history of drug abuse, sexual abuse and incest.

She holds tightly onto her tragic past, often choosing to become a victim, rather than a survivor or a thriver.

Because she carries around all this emotional baggage that she refuses to deal with and start letting go, mostly because she is comfortable in the role of playing the victim where everyone is to blame for all of her problems except her, she often feels miserable, cuts her self and can not enjoy the present, because she is stuck in the past.

She also always carries around an over sized book bag stuffed with books so heavy that when she walks, she has to walk hunched over, although she has a locker. She also carries around even more books, usually books she checked out from the library in her hand, yet doesn’t read any of them.

I think subconsciously  she just likes carrying things around.

The other day when talking to her, I told her that I was worried about her posture and asked if there was a way she could minimize the amount of stuff she carried in her book bag and in her hands.

I gave her a task to try to de-clutter herself so that she didn’t have to carry so much stuff around.

And then it hit me, the way she was carrying so much stuff physically, reflected how she was carrying around so much baggage emotionally, and the way she walked, hunched over, head down, slow as if she was carrying the world on her shoulders, was exactly how she was feeling inside.

Her outside appearance and body language were representative of her emotional and mental states. This isn’t uncommon, we all due this to some extent, but hers was a prime example.

Amy Cuddy did a great Ted Talks lecture on body language where she discussed how when we carry ourselves (or sit) in certain postures, it no only affects our mood, but also our hormones, raising or decreasing testosterone and cortisol.

I can only imagine how this girl, walking around all the time, hunched over, looking small, is making her feel inadequate and disconsolate. I am wondering if I can get her to improve her posture, will that also improve her mood.

Now I am sure there is a fancy psychological term for this that is eluding me right now, but I found that insight fascinating and wondered if I could get her to stop carrying so much junk on her persons, would she start letting go of some of that emotional baggage that is holding her down as well.

So far, she has been resistant to letting go of some of her physical baggage just like she has been very resistant in letting go of some of her emotional baggage, but I will keep working with her.

It’s important that we pay attention to our body language. It’s something as a psychotherapist I do all the time, pay attention to other people’s body language, and if you have 20 mins, it’s worth listening to Amy Cuddy drive home the importance of body language and how changing it can affect your mood.


Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

This weeks affirmation for parents focuses on the “c” in Daniel Hughes concept of PLACE Parenting, the attitude of curiosity. Curiosity in parenting is absolutely essential and often overlooked. By being curious, we can avoid a lot of misunderstandings with our children that are based on our own quick assumptions that we always know what they are thinking. I see so many issues in my office which arise that could have been avoided from the beginning had parents used a parenting strategy that incorporated curiosity. Being curious is especially important for my readers who have children with attachment disturbance as those children often see and understand the world quite differently than we adults expect them to.

When I suggest that parents get curious, what I mean is that when children are angry or upset, rather than assume that we know what they are angry…

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Inside The Thoughts of a Cutter: A Poem

The other day one of my students who used to cut herself, but hasn’t cut in several months, shared a poem with me she wrote that I thought would be beneficial to share.

I think it gives a quick glimpse into the mind of those who self-injure.

Although she and most of everyone else who was a part of her group I treated for self-injurious behavior have stopped cutting, many of them still fight with the urge to do it when they are faced with certain stressors.

With her permission, I share this poem that has no title.

Depressed and suicidal

Need to escape the misery

Not caring to continue this life

Blood loss has me weary

Scars show my painful past

As the stained blade opens up

Areas of my skin torn and scarred

To be a reminder of a dark past

Mind torn between love and hate

Will I ever be free?

Everyday is a struggle

To be free from this depression

Lost in darkness and misery

Puddles of dried blood stains

From every deep cut that is made

Full of depression and misery

Not worth saving this life of hate.

November Is National Novel Writing Month!

November is National Novel Writing Month, or as many of us writers affectionately like to say, nanowrimo.

The goal of National Novel Writing month is to write a 50,000 word novel (more like a novella) between November 1st and November 30th.

That equals 1,667 words a day. Doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it is a tough challenge, especially when coupled with trying to fit writing into your everyday life, but that is part of the fun.

I enjoy challenging myself and I think it’s good for all of us to challenge ourselves in some way shape or form from time to time.

If I get to 50,000 words by midnight November 30th I will ecstatic, if I don’t, I’ll be okay. This is my 8th year and I’ve only gotten to 50,000 words 3 out of those 8 years, but the fun is in trying.

Get out and challenge yourself to something.

Maybe you don’t like to write, but challenge yourself to taking a picture a day for 30 days, fasting from something for 30 days or keeping a gratitude journal for 30 days. Whatever it is, give it a try.

So, for the month of November, instead of taking a break from my blog as I was originally thinking of doing, I will continue to post, but my posts in November may be shorter and may be more from experience and opinion than from facts and research, as often even when I am writing from my experiences and opinion, I take the time to look up the facts to keep my posts as authentic and truthful as possible.

I definitely look forward to both the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days while working full time and trying to maintain this blog, but this will be fun and I have at least 300,000 other nanowrimo writers around the world attempting this with me.

I already hit my goal of 2,000 words today, which is good because I have to do a lecture at a local college at 6:30pm and was really concerned that would put me off schedule, but as of now, I am ahead of schedule and who knows, maybe I’ll write more tonight.

Find something to challenge yourself with, it helps with goal setting, something I’ll be talking about in my next post.