Her Captive Mind- Chapter 4

Chapter by chapter, a story on April who after a bullet injury to the head finds herself searching for answers and seeking the sensations her mind faintly grasps after a year with no memory.

Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy Room, Talk, Room

Therapy

I have visited my psychiatrist only once since the accident. It’s not that I didn’t trust the situation, I just felt unready. The Agency was empathetic to a point, but they wanted their information. Luckily, the therapist trusted my instinct and felt that I should approach her when ready. I knew delaying my sessions could possibly delay recovered memories, however it is a hefty order knowing that my hidden thoughts could be waiting to decimate my sense of self. I was on a “recovered-memory therapy” plan and I wanted to get it over with. At this point I was willing to try almost anything.

 I subconsciously tapped my foot against the coffee table laden with old TIME and PEOPLE magazines. I simultaneously heard the Keurig machine in the waiting room dripping coffee, the twenty-something chewing her gum and the scratching of a poorly manufactured pen being manipulated by the receptionist.

Due to a condition called Low Latent Inhibition, I have been taking medication to affect my dopamine levels for a few years to aid with the sensory input impeding on my brain. It is a healthy balance in which the scales sometimes tip to one side or the other. The more anxious I am, the more input. I wish the receptionist would get a gel pen.

“April?” She said.

I smiled and followed the woman to the large room at the end of the corridor. She broke the silence.

“How are you doing today?” She turned to face me as she continued to walk forward.

I always wondered why health care professionals asked that question, if I was wonderful I would not be here, that I can tell you. “Great, thanks.” I smiled, perhaps I could convince myself.

“Dr. Flores will be with you shortly.” She walked happily back where she came.

The room was fashioned with dark wood furniture and a bookcase filled with glass awards and satisfied looking individuals in matching frames. I took a breath and stared at the tall oak blowing in the wind outside. The shit that tree has seen.

She entered. “I’m so glad to see you again April.” Said Dr. Flores.

“I’m glad to be here.” And was surprised to realize that I genuinely meant it. Dr. Flores had a charm to her, she made me feel calm and reassured.

Dr. Flores had her hair down and curled. She sat back in her obscenely large leather chair, taking her time withdrawing the information I came to give. I began to explain the situation I had with the strange man the day before, and realized upon reciting the story that I was more disturbed about it than I originally thought.

“What did you feel when the man said he knew you?” She said.

“Doubt.” I replied.

“Why is that?”

“How do I know he is telling the truth?” I felt defensive. “He could be anyone.”

Dr. Flores replied, “he showed you his identification?”

I sighed.

“It seems to me that throughout this conversation you have brought up more feelings of distrust than directly discussing the year of memory you have lost.”

I was quiet.

Dr. Flores sat back and said, “Do you feel like you can trust people?”

My eyebrows clenched together. “People I know.” I shifted in my seat. “Well, honestly, not even that. How do I know the people I used to trust didn’t in some way manipulate me in the past year? They were in my home for God’s sake.”

“That does sound distressing. What about your sister?” She leaned forward in her seat.

“She’s the only one I trust undeniably.” I said without hesitation.

“That’s not nothing, you know.” She smiled. “You’ve said before that you pride yourself on being able to read people. Why do you feel that it is different now?”

“It feels as if there is a deep secret everyone knows, some inside joke that even if told later I could never truly understand.”

“That seems understandable.”

“Other than my sister, I’m not even sure what to say to people. A lot of my life is confidential, and I’m not sure who knows what. Blain was real skimpy on details-I suppose my job is built on the notion that trust is a privilege and not a right.”

 “Given those feelings, how do you think you can start overcoming these feelings of distrust?”

I shrugged.

“What do you think about talking to two people that you often interacted with this past year between now and the next time we meet. Someone other than your sister Beth.”

“How will I know they aren’t lying to me?”

“Trust.” She said simply. “You don’t have to tell them your life story.”

I left Dr. Flores’ office without any memories abruptly resurfacing, like a magical spell I wish I could cast. A lot of good my lightning bolt is doing me. Even though I realized she may be right, I was wary to talk to anyone, even though deep down I knew this could help my situation. I also acknowledged that I didn’t feel comfortable talking in my house.

I drove to the park near my home, sitting on a hot bench away from the happy children digging in the sand and swinging to new impossible heights. I took a breath and tried to overlook the dump truck rattling by and the dogs barking excitedly. Luckily, my cell phone was taken by hospital personnel upon entering the ER and was given to me after discharge. I assumed The Agency had their time with it, but hopefully what I needed wasn’t comprised. I scanned the calls I had made the past six months and something caught my eye. I had made nine calls to the same unknown number within 48 hours of the accident. Whoever had access to this phone would also have this information, perhaps it’s a dead lead. With nothing to lose, I dialed the number.

“Archie’s auto repair how may I help you?” A chipper girl stated.

“Auto shop?”

“Yes ma’am! The best in town. We are performing free break checks today and have discounts on tires and tire rotation. How can I help you?” Her happiness contrasted alarmingly with my sour mood.

“I think I need to talk with the owner, Archie is it? My name is April.” I suddenly recalled the image from the bar that night. Archie and a man named Tom, I almost had forgotten its familiarity. Thank you cute bartender.

Silence.

“April Reed?” Her voice changed.

“Uh, yes.” How did she know my last name?

“You should have said so. Please hold.”

I heard the shuffle of the phone as I waited. A man’s voice came on the line.

“Howdy April, we have your car parts all in, how about ya come pick them up today at noon?” Archie’s voice had an underlying tone I couldn’t quite place, yet something about it sounded genuine. Or genuinely concerned. Either way I had to go in, car parts or not. I’m throwing all fucks to the wind.

“Yes, noon sounds great, see you then.” The line went dead.

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Her Captive Mind- chapter 3

Chapter by chapter, a story on April, who finds herself searching for answers and seeking the sensations her mind faintly grasps after a year with no memory following a bullet injury to the head.

Chapter 3- What is not Mine

What was I thinking, letting a strange man into my home? Perhaps the new me does this all the time, almost a year of memory wiped clean can make a person do crazy things to reconnect with themselves.

Rob walked over the threshold and stood in front of me, I yearned to know what he was here to say. His agency identification matched the short bald man standing in front of me with the addition of an added unsettling smugness. “Ok, I’m listening, but you must already know I’ve given statements to The Agency. And this doesn’t appear to be following my recovery plan.”

“Yes, I read your previous statements.” He seemed irritated. “I’m here to learn what you have since remembered.” He pushed up his spectacles.

“Sorry, I have only been out of the hospital four weeks.” I could feel the anger start to boil.
They are harassing me after four weeks? And with being in the hospital for two months? My doctor had me on a plan to reconnect at a healthy pace, this did not feel particularly healthy.

“What exactly is time sensitive?” I said. My toes curled into the thick apartment carpeting, my gut telling me its thoughts on the matter.

“I’ll get to that. April, I know you have remembered something. And as you know, we are trying to piece together the night of the incident as best we can.”

“I’m sorry but why would you be under the impression that I have recalled something? Why is this so urgent?” This wasn’t adding up.

He cleared his throat. “April, what you don’t understand is that something was taken that night, the night of your incident. Let’s just say there is some more follow up that is needed.”

“Taken? I wouldn’t recall either way, The Agency receives my medical reports, you should be up to speed with the situation. To be honest, if this is your idea of trying to help me remember, it’s certainly not working. Although you are succeeding in being ridiculously irritating.” I hated
discussing that night, I was told virtually nothing and was frustrated that my mind was betraying me. I rubbed my heated palms against my pant legs.

“I’ll be frank Ms. Reeds. I know you went to the bar yesterday, and I know something happened.”

My mind raced. I stepped back, better analyzing the stranger in front of me. “Yes, I went to the nearest bar after leaving my sister’s home because I was feeling anxious, I’m sure you can imagine why. Nothing happened worth noting.” I decided to omit the part where I did feel that something was there. I don’t know why, but I needed more time to figure out how this man knew my whereabouts yesterday. I also wanted information. I told myself to play it mellow.

He hesitated, staring me in the eye. “I highly doubt that April, your concealment is…unsettling, as you know full well to be open and honest with us.”

“Doubt what? I’m failing to see why you’re here right now. I thought you worked for The Agency…worked with me. Not against me, why does this feel like an interrogation?” I said.

He sighed. “Let me take it back a step. The item that was stolen the evening you lost your memory was found last night.” He sounded agitated, his words spilling out in a quicker pace.

“Well alright, so why-“

“It was found at the bar you visited, just three hours after you left.”

My jaw dropped. The man cocked his head to the side, assessing if my reaction was genuine, which for the record, fucking was. I took a moment to process what he said. “If your artifact was found, then why are you standing in my doorway?” I continued to feel increased unease.

“Don’t you ask a lot of questions.” The supposed Rob Clark took a moment to wipe the sweat of his forehead with the back of his stocky hand. “I didn’t say The Agency found it, but I don’t have to explain myself to you. If you are not willing to tell me what you know about either the item in question or what you recalled yesterday, action will be taken. Wouldn’t you rather just tell me now, here, in your home?” He smirked. “I’m sure the office holds some uncomfortable memories for you.”

Asshole. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, in that case I will be contacting The Agency shortly to come in.” I moved to shut the door and his hand fervently pushed back at the door. “Get out of my house.” My voice began to rise in volume.

“I think you should think twice about your choice.” A moment passed, two dominant forces staring each other down, eye to eye. Knowing my choice would not change course, he turned on his heels and disappeared down my walkway.
I locked the door and quickly flipped through my phone contacts. This was not traditional agency protocol, but who do I call? I hesitated as the realization hit me like a wave.

I cannot fathom who to trust in this moment. A year working for The Agency violently taken from me…a lot can happen during that interval of time. Betrayals made, alliances broken. I threw my phone on the kitchen counter, filled with absolute frustration. If The Agency wanted me, they could call me. Taking a deep breath and combing my fingers through my light brown hair, I noted the throbbing in my head had increased its agonizing abuse. My gunshot wound; my living and breathing Harry Potter lightning bolt.
Shit. I walked into the bathroom and reached for my trusty bottle of Ibuprofen. But there was….
Something different. My eyes shifted to the vitamin and pill bottle mosaic displayed before me.

As a child, doctors were first certain I suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder. As I grew older, I was informed that I suffer from Low Latent Inhibition. Apparently that, paired with my high intellect, allows me to absorb more incoming stimuli in my surrounding environment than most people, among other traits. After participating in a research study for two years on the very subject, The Agency approached me. They wanted individuals who could create quick associations between people, threats and objects, and act fast. The rest is history, as they say. Some in which I cannot recall, it would almost be funny if not so damn tragic.

Yes, just as I surmised, my pill bottles have been rearranged. I should have known there was the possibility of someone entering my house sooner rather than later, especially after altering my routine yesterday. Damn they work fast. I always assumed that my home was molested with conspicuously placed bugs, but rather than find them I just adapted my speech appropriately.
But here I am, I cannot trust the people around me or my home. With a sigh, I returned the Ibuprofen bottle to its original resting place.

It was in that moment I was overtaken with the sensation that nothing around me was truly mine. Up until this point I had been attempting to solve what happened that night by passively retracing my steps and documenting what I could, but after four weeks I haven’t gained much traction. It was a start, but conditions have changed. Time to reclaim what is only mine to keep.
My memory.

Her Captive Mind- Chapter 2

Chapter by chapter, a story on April, who finds herself searching for answers and seeking the sensations her mind faintly grasps after a year with no memory following a bullet injury to the head.

Chapter 2- Panic

I awoke that night with the wonderful sensation of sweat trickling down my cheek and panic rising in my throat. Panic attacks while sleeping were quite deplorable. Knowing full well sleep would evade me, I ambled into the kitchen for a distraction, preferably one made with carbs.

While glaring at the ominous green clock on the microwave, I grabbed a bagel and sat on the couch, flipping open my laptop. After entering the requested password, a spreadsheet glowed listing names, locations and people. I scanned the newest entry describing Archie and the bar. I hadn’t remembered anything after all, but I still had my suspicions. I drummed my fingers on the white faux-wood coffee table with my right hand, eating with the other. I caught a glimpse of the date in the corner of the screen, my brows maintaining their furrow.

It has been exactly three months to the day since the accident. I couldn’t let time make me anxious. Time alters the way one perceives events, it can make people give up. I couldn’t afford to have new perceptions change the way I was solving my problem. Regardless of time and its limitations, I could not concentrate with the blaring August 27th heedlessly perched on the corner of my screen.  

I closed my lap top and sat in the dark, throwing my half-eaten bagel on the table. Shutting my eyes, I tried to piece together facts from the day’s events. Prior to visiting the bar, I was driving with my sister Beth to the hardware store a few miles from her townhome after meeting for lunch. Newly divorced, Beth was on a rage about Lee and the fact that he took all the tools in the separation. How was she to change her kitchen light bulb? Ass hole. This resulted in a spontaneous mid-afternoon drive to Dave’s, the local hardware get-it-all store.

I rarely traveled in the direction of Dave’s, so was shocked when my mind began tugging at the achingly complex folds encasing my memories. We had passed a bar, that had to be it. The feeling was so strong I made an audible gasp, the feeling was sudden and electrifying. I told Beth I was alright, I didn’t want to worry her, but was surprised that I almost recalled something. After my two-month stint in the hospital, any chance to feign normalcy was welcomed.

I left Beth’s home as fast as I could without causing alarm, driving straight to the bar parking lot. I was nervous that the feeling would have diminished, that I had missed my chance, but there it was, grasping for life. I sat in my car for some time, preparing for disappointment was as petrifying as the knowledge that I may recall something dangerous. I knew the risk, or I thought I did. I attempted to empty my mind and free my thoughts of doubt. My eyes traced the red aura circling the neon sign, the subtle hum of its mechanism working my mind into a hypnotic wonderment. Why would I have been inside this dive bar? What happened that was worth recalling? I stepped out on the gravel, following my gut.

The smell of liquor and hard wood lingered as I brought myself to the present moment and back to my couch. I realized with a yawn that sleep may soon find me. I rested my head against the couch cushion, welcoming a world where memories didn’t matter.

The sunshine pierced through my eyelids and forced a wakefulness I tried to combat. I was engulfed in that sweet moment upon waking in which the world appears peaceful and new. Unlucky for me the reprieve didn’t last long, a knock on the door snapped me back to reality. Glancing at the clock that had mocked me just hours ago, I chastised myself for sleeping until 9.

I brushed my hair through my fingers attempting to look presentable. “Hello?” I answered. My voice was raw with that just-woke-up rasp. I cleared my throat.

“Hi April.” A short man behind the door said.

The sudden feeling of not recognizing someone you were supposed to know overwhelmed me. The sensation was utterly horrific. “I’m sorry, do I know you?” my head cocked to the side.

“Yes, I apologize for my bluntness. I realize you would not recall knowing me—“

“Excuse me, who are you?” I interrupted, my eyes wide. My hand was still clasping the cold metal knob, ready to slam the door in a moment’s notice. My pistol had been compromised by the Agency after the accident.

“Forgive me, I am a former colleague. I came to discuss some matters…can I come in? There’s a situation that is time sensitive.” The man replied.

“I’m sure you understand that a woman in my situation would not be comfortable letting a stranger into her home. Mister…”

“Clark, you usually call me Rob. And I’m no stranger.” I noted the forcefulness in his smirk. Well Mr. Clark, you’re a stranger to me.

“We’ve met?” I added quizzically.

“Well yes, typically colleagues work together…”

“I’m sorry this is very strange for me.” I took a breath and rubbed my temple where a headache was beginning to surface. “To be honest, I don’t know a lot about the last year. We can talk but I would prefer if you stood by the door. And showed me some identification.”

“Wise choice April. I think you’ll be interested to hear what I have to say.”

Her Captive Mind

Chapter by chapter, a story on April, who finds herself searching for answers and seeking the sensations her mind faintly grasps after a year with no memory following a bullet injury to the head.

Chapter 1- Lit by Darkness

“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell hummed in the background. The bar was lit, frustratingly so. Bars should be dark; no one wants flashlights on their indiscretions. The stool below me was the color of the tin man, dented and cold. But there it was- that indescribable de ja vu sensation spreading up my spine and clenching onto my brain stem, seeking life.  I have history here. My eye brows crunched together, always solving. The sound of the bartender taking an order of gin and tonic snapped me out of my revere and I looked up, my brows unhinging themselves from their inquisitive hold.

“And you ma’am?” The bartender was 30-something, grey sprouts starting to sprinkle his hair line. Fortunately for him, it was the perfect salt and pepper combination to his muscular frame.

I waited to see if by some miracle, my body reacted out of habitual instinct and an order popped out of my mouth before my brain could register. Waiting for words that never came, I ordered a whisky sour and decided to take in my surroundings.  Like an itch that couldn’t be scratched, I knew something was here, I just needed to find it. Memory loss is achingly maddening; like a dream no longer remembered, yet that sensation remains. What a strange place for me to have been, I thought. The demographics seemed odd, those inside were much older than my twenty-nine years of age. I glanced at the faded jute box alone in the corner, noting the absence of a pool table. I silently wondered if I had learned to play.

The bartender placed a red napkin and the cool drink down, beads of sweat dripping down the sides. The air was musty and stale, yet pleasant.

“Open a tab?” His smile was serious yet somehow comforting. Something tugged at my memory, a loose string on the upholstery of my life.

“No thank you, keep the change.” I handed him a wrinkled ten and furthered my assessment. This bar is only the third place that has given me such an electric sensation, and coincidently the only excitement that now seems real, the adrenaline I increasingly crave. When it appeared that the bartender was standing back for a reprieve, I gestured.

“Would you like another?” his spicy hair seemed to shimmer.

“Actually, I have a question if you don’t mind.” I managed a half-crooked smile, asking for acceptance.

The bartender cocked his head to the side. “Sure, what can I do for you?” I smiled, he seemed intrigued yet somehow hesitant.

“Have you seen me in here before?”  I spoke knowing my question sounded deranged.

He let out a short laugh and eyed me for a moment. “Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t recognize you.” He noted. His eyes scanned the bar then shifted to the door. He seemed to pause, but before he could inquire further, a gaggle of woman entered the bar looking for alcohol with their sugar. He gave me a knowing smile and went on his way.

I threw back the whiskey thinking of next steps. I knew that liquor may not help matters, but it was nice to relax. My doctor told me to hold off on drinking, that it could aid in creating false memories. Confabulation or not, whisky felt good on the tongue.

I stretched my legs out ready to leave when something caught my eye, a framed photograph hanging behind the bar. It was of two men, leaning together side by side. The large man with black rimmed glasses had his arm around a shorter man with a receding hair line. Something was familiar with the image, dare I hope?

“Sorry to bother again, but could you tell me who those individuals in that picture are?”

Continuing to pour soda into a glass he looked behind his shoulder to see what I was indicating at. “Oh, Tom and Archie? Archie owns the bar. He doesn’t come around much anymore; he owns a few businesses in the area. Do you know him?” His eyes lit up when mentioning Archie.

I smiled. “No, he just reminds me of my grandfather is all. Thanks again.” I turned and strode towards the wooden door exit. Maybe it was a good thing the bar was lit after all.

Lock em and Shock em: What we Can Learn From 1970’s Psychology

It was 1971: the voting age was lowered to 18, the Pentagon Papers were released and the federal debt was a meager 408 billion. One thing you will note, however, when searching for information on 1971, is that psychology is not highlighted, even though one of the most fascinating and now-would-be illegal experiments was conducted that very year. In fact, psychology experimentation was hardly regulated at the time, concluding in captivating information and launching this “soft science” towards the future with the conclusions established (however damaging to its subjects).

In a particular study, Researchers were enraptured by the social implications of imprisonment, so this ad was placed and out of the 70 respondents, 24 males deemed mentally stable were selected to participate.

Picture

The ad Zimbardo placed

Researchers set up a simulated prison in Stanford’s Psychology Department building, and flipped a coin. half were now guards, half prisoners. They “arrested” those chosen as prisoners and blindfolded them. They degraded the “prisoners” by strip searching them, chaining their feet and making them wear outfits reticent of a woman’s dress. They had them live in what appeared to be an actual prison cell. Researchers wanted to see the behavioral effects this simulation incurred, both with the guards and prisoners, and they were surprised at the result, having to terminate the study a week early.

The guards had no rules and were free to do as they pleased to maintain law and order, with no training on how to actually keep watch. By the second day, the prisoners began to riot due to the way they were being treated by the guards and held in their cells. They taunted the guards and ripped off the numbers placed on their arms. The guards used a fire extinguisher to corral the prisoners, they stripped and harassed them.

It is important to remember that none of the 24 volunteers were actually prisoners or guards. They were all equal participants upon applying to the study.

A few days into the study, a prisoner began suffering from what they deemed emotional disturbance, disorganized thinking and rage. After days of this behavior and in which priests were brought in for emotional support, the study was cancelled. Just after six days, the situation became out of hand (guards were escalating abuse at night when they thought researchers were not watching, using mace and beating the inmates). This experiment became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment.

These individuals were placed in a fraudulent role, the “prisoners” knew that the “guards” were not legitimate and vice versa. They knew it was a study and they were all being paid equal sums of $15 dollars a day. All that was said to each participant, was that some were prisoners and some were guards. The rest of what happened was formed by the psychology of each individual. At the end of the study, the guards were upset that it was ended prematurely, even with the knowledge that the other volunteers were being abused. What changed? What made them appear uncaring towards these individuals?

Was it power? Conformity?

The year was 1974, Nixon is forced to resign, the speed limit was reduced to 55 MPH to preserve gas and Stephen King publishes “Carrie”. Oh and one of the most psychologically damaging studies on obedience was conducted known as the “Milgram Experiment”. 

Milgram was highly intrigued by the Nazi killings in WWII, and wondered: how liable were those that were told to kill? How far will people go to obey a higher order?

Participants were paired up, one was the ‘learner’ and the other the ‘teacher’. The individual that was the learner was actually a confederate pretending to be a participant. Basically, he wanted to see how far people were willing to go when told by a superior to perform an action. And that action was “pain”.

A

The learner volunteer (who was a confederate) was taken into a room and had fake electrodes placed on his arms. In the other room, the teacher volunteer was told he had the power to administer shock from 15 volts to what they labeled “severe shock” at 450 volts to the volunteer in the other room. The shock wasn’t real- but the volunteer administering the shock didn’t know that. The person with the power to give pain thought that it was genuine.

The learner was not only attached to these fake electrodes but was told to answer word questions. When he got an answer wrong, which was often (for the sake of the experiment) the teacher volunteer was told to shock him. Eventually, the person began screaming in pain and yelling for the person to stop shocking him. The researcher would tell the person administering the “shocks” the following if they were hesitant to give the shocks:

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires you to continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice but to continue.

The results were surprising…65% of people gave the highest 450 voltage, and every participant went as high as 300 volts. Milgram decided to change an aspect, and make it so the teacher would actually have to force the learners hand on the shock plate instead of pressing a button. Obedience fell, but was still 30%. It was found that Obedience also fell when the experimenter was farther away in proximity when giving the order to shock. 636 total volunteers were studied.

Milgram himself stated,

“The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

After analyzing the data, he placed people in 3 groups:

1. Those who obeyed and justified the behavior, blaming the experimenter.

2. Those who obeyed but blamed themselves.

3. Those who rebelled and questioned authority. This group was the minority.

It may seem from these studies that we are psychologically wired to be bad people, or do wrong things if told from a higher authority. However, when reading about the individuals perceptions after the events, it seems that many felt morally conflicted and were emotionally affected after it occurred. Another question arises:

Is it that people are wired to behave in certain ways with authority, or is it the rules that have been imposed from our society that make us act in certain ways? Is it learned or genetic? Wired or taught? Did the guards act in that way because that is how prisons are typically run, not because they felt that is what they should do? And deep down, did people understand this was a study so they acted differently?

It is also worth mentioning that there was not a popular study at the time on the good moral actions people engage in when there may be no reward for their actions. Taking two studies as the answer to human nature could be a dangerous thought process. The studies were done at a time when ethical considerations for the participants were not addressed and there was not a board  in order to ensure that studies were done properly.

However immoral the research may have been, these studies make us ask questions about human nature and the way our brain mechanisms work. In reading them now, people may think differently about approaching obedience and the roles we play everyday.

Show me the Money: the effects of child protective services running on empty

I know- it is an intense topic. But I’ve worked the field and I’ve seen the reality of a program that is struggling to survive on pennies and dimes, with the workers trying desperately to make up for its financial short comings.

Almost any job has the potential to be stressful, there can be an unpredictability or a moment of uncertainty in any field. Of course there are extremes in some career positions more than others, one being social work (for obvious reasons). 

Unfortunately, a large portion of this stress originates from unrealistic case loads (upwards of double or triple the state recommended loads) and the government not allotting enough resources even though it is direly needed, and workers have an average 2 year employment rate in some offices.

The National Child Abuse Coalition has claimed the following on their website:

“With federal support, Child Protection Services can protect children from domestic abuse. The abuse of children in the home remains a serious public health problem in the United States. Unfortunately, funding does not match the need, and CPS case workers with enormous caseloads cannot make good decisions” (2012).

That is a scary sentence. That was also five years ago, and it appears that there hasn’t been much change since.

The National Child Abuse Coalition reported that current spending for CPS and preventative services falls short of the dollars invested in supporting the placement of children in foster care and adoptive families. For every dollar spent by the federal government, just 14 cents are spent on both prevention and protective services (2012).

The same website claimed that CAPTA (Child Abuse and Prevention Act) should be the main source for funding for state grants, but it is not. Right now, they allot $27 million, which is not up to addressing the scope of the need. The National Child Abuse Coalition believes that an annual authorized funding level of $500 million is a realistic approach for funding CPS (2012). Do the math: that is a difference of $473 million dollars. Yet, somehow, the agency is running on a drastically reduced number. How is this possible? Through paying social workers low wages and assigning high caseloads. Somewhere, they have to reduce funds and that is where it falls. The question is, what is the fallout from the lack of funding? And where is the money going?

An analysis of cases by Dallas Morning News showed that hundreds of potentially endangered children did not receive a timely visit from a CPS worker. They found that one in every 5 open cases, children were not being seen at all. The article stated,

“Problems with CPS’ dysfunctional system are not new: A shortage of caseworkers means high caseloads, and the pay is so low that caseworkers quit in droves, leaving hundreds of unfilled positions, plus extra time it takes to train new hires” (CPS Needs Emergency Money, 2016).

We know that more money is needed, but the question is where from, and are people willing to front the bill?

Per the Committee on Child Maltreatment Research, Policy, and Practice for the Next Decade, CAPTA’s grant community supports a wide range of activities involving CPS. However, to achieve CAPTA funding to support CPS, states must comply with congressionally mandated eligibility conditions. As of 2014, of these 20 requirements there has been little to no investment in studying how these requirements are best implemented (2014). Essentially, they have requirements that are not being met, funding isn’t being dispersed, and they do not know if the requirements are what they should be.

When I was a foster parent trainer for CPS, we discussed how only two states have met federal requirements to receive the total funding during the recent national audit, one being my state. If a state doesn’t meet certain criteria, they lose funding. For instance, children should not be in the system, according to federal mandates (and the subsequent funding) for more than two years. This is a positive goal, of course, we want children to have permanency whether it be with the rehabilitated biological parents or adopted by a foster parent. However, on average, children stay in the system for almost 31 months before being reunited or adopted. Almost 20% wait five years or more (ABC News, 2006). In the last few years, statistics haven’t changed. With these cases, the state loses millions of dollars. There are so few workers, that reports are almost impossible to complete in a timely manner. Not only that, but on a national level there are not enough foster parents to fulfill the need of children coming in. It’s a viscous cycle. Most of the issues come down to funding: the more money we put into the system, the faster children would be adopted, the faster children would be seen by a worker, therefore saving the state thousands of dollars.

It begins with money, which is exceptionally frustrating, yet social workers become the target for many of the issues with CPS. This is why I feel that the government is essentially forcing the problem, they are negligent in the amount of money allotted to CPS and it is failing. The entire program needs emergent help in the way of dollar signs and government support, but where do we start?

Let’s Gogh…Creative Genius and Mental Health

Guys, I did some research.

I’ve been utterly fascinated with this idea for some time, this connection between mental health disorders and the creative mind. Even Aristoteles said, “there is no genius without having a touch of madness”. Working and completing coursework in the field of mental health has led me down this road of thought many, many times, so I thought it was about time to answer my own damn question. And there’s a shit ton of evidence backing it up.

I started looking into it more the other day after I had this creative surge, sat down, sketched for literally 5 hours straight (to the point where my eyes were getting kinda jacked up) then wrote a bunch.

The following morning I was in good spirits but was very restless. I had anxiety minus the mental stuff, if that makes any sense. All physical and couldn’t sit still. Anyways, I got to thinking. Was my creative surge linked to these symptoms? Or just a happy coincidence? (And for the record, I’m not considering myself a creative genius by any means).

So I got to looking it up. Here’s a few shining examples of creative minds with mental health disorders (some are recently diagnosed based on what we now know):

  • Michelangelo: OCD (some argue autism)
  • Kurt Cobain: ADD, bi-polar
  • Pablo Picasso- depression
  • Virginia Woolf: depression
  • Isaac Newton: bi-polar disorder
  • Walt Disney: dyslexia
  • Beethoven: bi-polar disorder
  • Steve Jobs: OCPD
  • Edgar Allan Poe: alcoholism, depression
  • Abraham Lincoln: depression and anxiety attacks
  • Vivian Leigh: depression and mania
  • Vincent van Gogh: bi-polar disorder
  • JK Rowling: depression
  • Winston Churchill: bi-polar disorder, dyslexia
  • Albert Einstein: dyslexia


And the list goes on. Surprisingly, many creative geniuses had dyslexia and or bi-polar disorder. Is there some chemical, some process, linking these disorders and their tortured genius?

A study from 2010 found similarities between the brains in healthy, highly creative people and those with schizophrenia. The same authors discussed an association with dopamine (the pleasure and reward neurotransmitter) and creativity. Dopamine is brought up a lot in regards to mental health. Seems it can be a real bitch, but the exact connection is still a mystery. It’s a good start, however.

Another study looked at the genes of 86,000 people in Iceland and found a 17% increase in mental health disorders among artists (dancers, painters etc.), particularly schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

A somewhat different take came from the 1960’s, when scientists believed the link was openness. Writers, after testing them, scored high in this area. They feel that it’s possible creative people “engage with the full spectrum of life, both the dark and the light”.

And lastly, a study composed of more than one million people was conducted through the Karolinska Institute. In this study they found a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental health.

Then there is the question of defining genius, or defining creativity. Each study had its scale and parameters to go by, but some may disagree with that interpretation. The manual that formalizes diagnosis (currently the DSM V) changes every edition (about every 10 ish years) and the way we define mental health can vary (for fuck sake homosexuality used to be in there…).

The research is out there linking disorders of the mind and creativity, but the exact mechanism seems somewhat unknown. And of course, you can have one without the other, so what biological instrument is at work? It definitely raises some questions…Do you think medication, which can possibly help disorders, could hamper creativity? Is it a chemical association or is the creativity perhaps a way of coping with the illness?

Photo Credit: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93184407