The Advice I Wish Someone Had Offered

9:45 PM on a Friday night is a good time to post something that is really more for me than anyone else. I’ve had a lot of writer’s block this week – more like a stranglehold on my throat that prevents words from leaving my body in any form. I can think, but I cannot write. I am reeling from so much tragedy these past weeks that I’m almost unsure if I’m feeling anything.

Turns out I was actually physically ill with a kidney infection, not just griefstruck. The antibiotics and hardcore dose of ibuprofen helped with all of the symptoms, but this one – I still can’t write.

In times of reduced capacity, I fall back on the reliable writing prompt. Here’s one for today:

What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year (or five, or ten…) ago?

In no particular order

  1. Take a financial management class in graduate school (15 years ago). Not personal finances, but organizational finances. I had access to such a class while studying social work, but no one mentioned that I would need to understand budgets or cash flow analysis or anything of that sort. Pitt’s School of Social Work doesn’t allow alumni to audit courses. I tried several times to get in via my connection to the instructor (he’s a former CEO of a company where I worked) but there was such a high demand each time the class was offered that there was literally no room to wedge a chair for me to use. This is a significant regret for me and a career stopper for many folks.
  2. Keep reading (5 years ago). I was very ill and one thing I gave up was reading for pleasure. I wish someone had suggested I just plug in the book on tape and keep reading that way. I wish I had kept those muscles in use during a dark, dark time in my life so I could flex them now. Never stop reading, even if you are sure you are wasting your time. Just keep reading. Good Advice
  3. Go to Al-Anon (25 years ago). Actually my college mentor did suggest this as he was in recovery and knew I was an adult child about ten minutes after we met. But I was sure the answer was for the addicts in my family to get into a program, I didn’t need one. That’s how I ended up dating a hard core alcoholic for three years, followed by a coke user (“dabbler”) and so forth. I still don’t attend meetings, but I work on my own recovery in my individual therapy. And I don’t hide it any longer.
  4. Figure out a filing system (10 years ago.) I’m a terrible packrat, so my offices are always quite cluttery. In 2005, I inherited two filing cabinets followed by 6 giant boxes of records dating back 10+ years AND then an entire new job duty that required even more files. I should have asked for help to figure it out instead of just assuming I was smart enough to do so on my own. It has nothing to do with being smart. The smart thing would have been to ask for help. I wasted hour upon hour searching for documents and files. I always found them (because I rarely threw anything away.) Ha.
  5. Ask for the nun (1 year ago.) When I started in treatment at Persad Center, I heard that they had a PT therapist who was a Catholic nun. I started off with someone else who was okay, but didn’t really seem to have her heart in the game. She quit one weekend and moved out of state so I was transferred to – the nun! She’s great and her perspective is both compassionate and authentic in understanding how the systemic violence of the Catholic Church impacted my life. Plus, last week she actually cursed during a session – having worked with nuns, I know they curse, drink and do all sorts of things that would shock most people. I love it!
  6. Therapy is your friend (30 years ago.) Choosing to add therapy to your supports can be a positive, empowering decision. I didn’t even try it until I was 21 and didn’t really stick with it until I was 31 or so. I very much wish someone had connected me with therapy when I was in high school. But I grew up in a blue collar community where “privacy” aka keeping family secrets was more important than almost anything else. The mental health system is far from perfect so finding the right treatment team is a lot of work. But once you find a good therapist, you have an ally and support and a safe space to talk about the things that hold you down or you don’t know how to cope with. It is worth a try. And I wish someone had told me that at age 15 or 16.

So now I am in therapy (with a nun.) The School of Social Work still won’t allow me to audit that class. I’m still a packrat (but I’m bartering for help with that.) And I’m going to log off and pick up the book I’m reading (about poverty) and work on recharging those brain cells.





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