Friend or Foe?

Continuing education classes continue even during a pandemic. Everything is online of course. I do miss the in-person classes, especially the visual art form of Abstract Hostess Etiquette displayed on a long table near the door. I always like to see what someone came up with. They might have a continental breakfast, with the row of hospitality-sized coffee pots, labeled “coffee”, “decaf”, and “hot water”, a bowl of ice with creamer dropped in the middle of it, those little paper cups with the folder butterfly-wing finger holders, and a tray of crumbly cookies that will litter your top and lap.

don’t eat the cookies; they’re dangerous. Photo by Jason Jarrach on Unsplash

These are classes many jobs require workers to take to help keep folks up to date and skills sharpened. says, ‘As continuing education supports lifelong learning, it helps ensure mental health professionals remain curious and critical thinkers who are well-equipped to provide quality care for their clients.’

I’m currently learning about caregiving for individuals with behavioral health issues such as psychotic, bipolar, addictive and personality disorders, PTSD, alcoholism, and suicidality. While processing the material one afternoon, my brain began to think about the condition of diagnosed Schizophrenia. It is considered a psychotic disorder characterized by delusion and/or hallucinations. The psychosis can also be caused by bipolar disorder, depression, trauma, and drugs, usually temporary. Here is the important part—-> It is generally considered Schizophrenia if the voices or hallucinations are benevolent or encourage violent thoughts or action.

A delusion is a belief that does not fit reality. They tend to be unshakable, unarguable, and unchangeable by the person experiencing them. A hallucination is a disturbance in perception, such as seeing and hearing things that others don’t see or hear.

What caught my attention are recent studies about brain activity during an auditory hallucination episode. Brain imaging shows that both Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area (speech production and hearing) are active during auditory hallucinations. Auditory hallucinations are real. Limited to being heard only inside the person’s head. It is not their imagination. The same activity is present when we are having a conversation with a real person. It is a brain defect possibly caused by the overproduction of dopamine or the insufficient supply of glutamate signaling. With time and counseling, a person with Schizophrenia can learn to tell if a voice is someone in the room or being generated inside their brain. The training on this condition ended with a note, “It is the person’s discomfort that should guide the treatment, and whether or not the voices are helpful or harmful.

Custom Fit Spirits

It’s interesting to me that there are classes and books to help people find certain desirable voices, such as, well the Voice of God. If you’re going to add a voice why not go big, right? Christians, for example, may attend a class to learn how to identify the voice of the Holy Spirit. I’ll give you a hint, it never tells you to do anything that is not in the bible. Easy right?

Learning how to recognize the voice of your Spirit Guide is important to some people. An article, “How to Connect with Your Spirit Guides”, in Goop came up with these helpful hints that involve leaving your body and jumping up to the astral plane to visit them.

Spirit guides exist in the realm of infinite possibilities and are not confined by time or space. There is no limit to what they can do for us. In fact, the more they help us, the more they ascend. I encourage my students to assign at least three tasks to their guides before parting ways. Spirit guides can help with anything big—divorce, health concerns. Or small—like parking spaces, or motivation to do the dishes or go to work.

Then there are some people who do not have an internal monologue. NO VOICE inside their head. This is difficult for me to comprehend, but apparently, it’s true. There is no “middle-man” between thought and choice of action/no action. “…Additionally, not everyone has a verbal internal monologue. The looser flow of thoughts and experiences, verbal or not, is called a stream of consciousness, which can also refer to a related technique in literature.” (Wikipedia)

It seems there are some people who have voices in their minds that don’t want them, others who seek out new voices and then a few that have no conversation going on at all between the ears. This little study of internal dialogue has been interesting. I have no answers, but I do have new insights. Violent voices, self talk that brings you down should not be given energy to form into action. If you have a friend who mentions troublesome voices they should connect with their doctor about it. In the meantime, you can say, “that must be difficult. I’m here if you need someone to talk to.” In this time of social distancing, we can all listen and talk with each other. Support yourself and your friends with helpful conversation.

Here is my current mood expressed in a meme. Take care -Shannon,influence%20the%20need%20for%20care.,a%20related%20technique%20in%20literature.

cover Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

To The Right

In America, we drive on the right side of the road.  Also, people here generally walk on the right side of the sidewalk, busy hiking trails, even grocery store isles. When I walk along the trails around a nearby lake, I keep to the right side of the path.  If I have the trail to myself, I walk right down the middle as if I owned the place.

What is your neighborhood like during the pandemic? Where I am I have noticed giving another pedestrian 6 feet is seen as a courtesy; in the grocery store, offices, parks, etc., keeping your distance is a sign of good manners. It is awkward or rude if a person stands too close to another. Feathers get ruffled.

Earlier this year, before the snowpack in the mountains could build and the rains of the Northwest La Nina winter began, Padden Gorge Trail was dry and quiet. The creek was all but dried up. The cold air chased away many birds and I experienced the eerie sensation of standing in a silent forest.

To The Right
second draft

The woods are quiet today
I do not hear the rustle of a bird
no wind playing at the leaves
no foraging of a rodent
or the panting of a dog
Padden Creek is down to its
late summer trickle
Everything is off

My ears reach for the sound of people
at the lake trail on end with mine
I hear no one
I haven’t been sleeping lately
For a moment I am dream walking
zombified in this quiet wood
with no direction, no purpose
No others to use as a reference
or provide a sense of direction
No validation of movement
or placement

I walk down the canyon trail in silence.
surrounded by silence

Then–they find me
The crunching roar of off-road bike tires
approach me from behind
I move to the right
The joggers with focused steps
and controlled pants
I move to the right
Two dogs and two owners
come at me head-on
I move to the right
Facedown each time to make sure
my breath does not mix with theirs
Behind me I hear the steps of another walker
I move to the right
I’m a slow walker compared to others
I know this walker will pass me
I wait
no walker
Then turn to look
No one

There are two places on these trails
where the sound tricks the ear
My own steps sound like another
getting ready to pass
but it is just me
and my steps
echoing off the walls
of the thick forest

How nice of me to give the same
courtesy I give others
yet, still as sweet

A Noisey Padden Creek

Feature Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Poem: Voice on the Trail

Copy of Picture 177

Voice on the Trail

—with a nod to poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

All the voices of the Wood called “Shannon!”

But it was soon solved; it is nothing, it is not

my real name.

My real name is written on a stone kept warm by eternal

embers I am still too cold to hold.

Words like Real and Endure

Sound like Health and Hell

Then I see what is calling, it was the road

I traveled, miles behind, warning me of the FORK

The sound bounces forward, then back, right-side-down

warns of mud ahead―not to me, but to anyone.

And at last I saw where the road lies wide,

and clear orchard rows, easy fruit and bundled grass

roll along a tan, green and blue landscape.

Not for me. Not for me. Not for me.

I came into my clear being uncalled, alive, and sure

of all but what I see.

Nothing speaking to me, none know my real name―

not the owl, the fish or the elk, but I offer myself

to the strangers and it is well.

Strangers we are.

I know them all.