CHANGE IS HARD by Daria Todor ACSW LCSW-C MAC
Late January 2018. A new year well under way. Do you know where your resolutions are? Chances are they were right in front of you on New Years Day and perhaps the day after. But by now, not so much. How is it that we can feel utterly determined to do the right thing one day and then, poof? Gone.
SMOHIT HAS YOU COVERED
SMOHIT is onto something because it is using what researchers know works with this issue–not only getting but staying on track to health and wellness. It may not seem like a big deal that they offer suggestions, resources, rewards and post competitions to encourage members to get involved in their health. But there is a science and art to all of what they are doing. I am so excited to be a part of their efforts to help!
Just a Phone Call Away
By now you may be aware of SMOHIT’s HelpLine. It is a 24/7/365 service and I am the one who answers. It is a toll-free number at 877-884-6227. You may have thought about picking up your phone and dialing but have held back, for a number of reasons.
- You don’t think a total stranger can help without really knowing you.
- You think talking is overrated.
- You believe your problem is not severe enough to warrant a call.
- Your problems are so severe and numerous that the mere thought of discussing them overwhelms you so you keep them under lids.
- You feel ashamed, embarrassed about you issues.
- You are concerned that your problems will not be kept confidential and that you could lose your job as a result.
- You may be the first in your family to have ever been in the position to use a service like this.
Let`s look at a few of these valid reasons and see if I can encourage you to be willing to consider dialing me up despite misgivings. I will start with number eight but will cover most of the other concerns if not here then later on. BTW, ambivalence about getting help is OK, normal.
Breaking Family Patterns
Family rules are powerful. I know what that is like to be the first to seek help in a family because when I did so in my early twenties I recall how monumental it was to be the first to go to therapy. I was acutely aware of taking that first step. I recall my Mother asking me if I was going to talk about her and said something about how she and my Father “did the best they could to raise us”. It was her way of saying to be careful to not air dirty laundry, a subtle nudge to not go.
But I went. Not out of defiance, although that could be one of my not-so-endearing traits at the time. No, I went because I knew that I needed to talk with someone other than my Mom, friends, siblings or the neighbor ladies that frequented our home on Saturday mornings, while Mom cooked or did laundry, sipping coffee or tea, sharing stories of their lives and woes. No, I needed to go to someone who I didn`t know because there was pain I needed to share without the fear of burdening those closest to me. A trained professional would be such a person. I went because the Mother of a friend who worked as a secretary in a therapy practice suggested that I might benefit from going. I trusted her wisdom and encouragement. I knew she had my back.
Shame Takes a Back Seat to Self Care
Still, I was full of shame about needing help back then. I told myself that there must have been something terribly wrong with me. I felt the stigma of “only crazy people” go to therapy. It didn’t take long for that to wear off. As the fifth of seven children, for the first time, I reveled in having someone and some time set aside just for me. That alone was therapeutic. They weren’t just friendly visits. It took work. And courage. I had no idea I was planting of seeds that would blossom into a future career. And I learned that it was the utterly sane thing to do.
We are More Alike than Different
Like many of you, human as I am, I struggle/d with or have worked through, many of the issues that face you and your families. I come from a union family in a small blue collar town outside of Philadelphia, the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants that made their way to the US to find a better life. My father was a member of the UAW, a storeskeeper for the steel purchased by a company in Philly that made Fisher bodies for Ford.
Five of my Mother’s six sisters married men who worked in the steel plant that surrounded the edges of the Schuylkill River, and two of her four brothers did as well. Of the men who married my aunts (endearingly referred to as the family “outlaws”), one went on to become a union president. I spent many a family gathering talking with him about what it meant to be a worker in the world, the nature of politics and the economy. He shared stories about working and marching with Ceasar Chavez and other union leaders in Washington, fighting the hard fight for the rights of men and women like him and my Father. He inspired me so much that I had taken a labor history course and considered becoming a union arbitrator or organizer like him, only to find out that back then it was not a field open to women.
Although never a union member, I have worked with and supported union organizations in Federal and local governments and private sector industry. I have teamed with shop stewards and union presidents in helping members cope with personal difficulties in order to forestall firings for substance abuse and mental health issues or unfair labor practices. And when nurses at a hospital where I worked mobilized to bring in a union, I watched in horror as the organizers lost their jobs (later to be reinstated) in true union-busting fashion. The hospital board eventually met the would-be union’s demands by firing the old hospital president, replacing him with a young, enlightened MBA who truly cared for people and turned the hospital around, although the union never took hold. I believe however the it made its mark. As previously mentioned, I supported the Flight Attendants Union after 911.
Much of what I know about driving safely, keeping my house safe and sound I learned from my Father. He often talked to us seven kids, who admittedly sometimes had our eyeballs rolling as he did so, about the importance of safety. He would tell us that the union and company were forever talking about it, and like any good Father, he shared what he learned. Despite our eye-rolling, to this day, as I move my frying pan handle inward and parallel to the counter’s edge, I remember the lesson he taught. “You need to make sure it isn’t sticking out where someone can bump into it and knock it over. That could burn someone, or start a fire.” Lessons endure.
Union Benefits Benefitted My Family, and Indirectly, Me
My Father was a smart yet undereducated man. He and my Mother, both oldest of their genders in their original families, only completed eight grade before being pulled out to help their respective parents manage family responsibilities. He knew that the protections of their union would keep us housed, clothed and fed.
When offered management positions, lucrative as they were, he always turned them down because he saw what happened when the economy turned downward. When my friends` engineer Fathers were laid off from a nearby defense contractor, my Father kept his job. When nonunion shops closed because jobs went off shore, he knew that the union had his back. In the end, years after he retired from his job, it was his union benefits that helped him, and my Mom five years earlier, receive compassionate, comprehensive healthcare, complete with in-home hospice. It indirectly helped all of us children worry less because they were able to live and die the ways that they desired–at home, surrounded by loved ones.
The First Step is the Hardest
So, how can you keep up the good work and intentions when it is so easy to slip back into old habits, especially when you are hurting, exhausted, perhaps even traumatized by natural and human-perpertrated events? Get curious. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I pick up the phone and reach out?” In the meanwhile, check out SMOHIT`s email blasts, Facebook and Twitter feeds. They are full of useful info. Share them with your family, too.