Tag Archives: Creative Works

An Outline For My Thesis: Proof I’m Actually Accomplishing Something

To prove that I do indeed have a plan for my thesis and I’m not just stalling for time while having absolutely nothing done, I am sharing a rough, but detailed outline of my Memoir of Care. I have the anchor stories holding the ship steady, now I just have to secure them together so it is less a mess and more a cohesive…mess. Without further ado, I present my outline and I’ve even included links to the stories if anyone wants to read and give me feedback (and I need all I can get):

Outline for unnamed “Memoir of Care”

  1. Introduction: What do I mean when I say “care” and how does this memoir of care contribute to a conversation on issues of care?
    1. This will kind of be a lit review/proposal to explain the theory behind the stories I am telling. I wish I could get across all the things I want to through the experience of reading my Memoir, but I know that isn’t going to work. So this piece will be what sets the scene theoretically and the stories will apply the theory to real life. My main themes are the following:
      1. Ethics of Care
      1. Evidence Based Treatments in Community Mental Health Agencies:
        1. Peer Support Specialist
        1. Supported Education Specialist
      1. Trauma Informed Care
        1. Equity Centered Trauma Informed Care
      1. Burnout/Vicarious Trauma

I know this is what the intro needs to be, and I have various pieces written here and there, but I don’t have a complete draft of this yet… coming soon.

  1. The Interview
    1. The story begins with the protagonist (me) in an interview for a peer support specialist (PSS) position – a job she has many mixed feelings about. In the course of the interview, the reader learns more about what the PSS position is and they are introduced to some “tools of care”. The questioning of what care is for the protagonist begins. 
  1. Shadowing Troy
    1. The protagonist begins working at the mental health agency. As part of the training for a new PSS, the individual is required to “shadow” other peers. The first shadow experience with a “high functioning peer” exposes the protagonist to some failures to care properly within the agency and within the client/provider relationship. We get the first glimpse into a client interaction.
  1. Jeff’s Unraveling
    1. The protagonist continues their shadowing with a peer who she is working in the same department with and who will alter her view of self-care. A shadowing experience with Jeff exposes her to the duality of how a peer can present themselves to a client as caring and yet be in a state of burnout. We learn that an unraveling is occurring, both in Jeff and the protagonist.
  1. Training Day 1
    1. This is my weird shit story. The protagonist has been working a few months now and already the signs of burnout are appearing. The story highlights the dynamics between the institution and the carers and the disconnect that often occurs between the two. We also find out more about the protagonists background and learn the significance of “story” as a “tool of care” within the PSS position.
  1. Training Day 2
    1. The cost of not having your story figured out comes to light in a second day of training. The power of language and a new vocabulary is explored in the context of a “person centered” practice. This again highlights another “tool of care” and furthers the questioning of the adequacy of this tool.
  1. Jon and the Library
    1. As Jeff gets progressively worse in his unraveling, the protagonist starts to step in for him and ends up having her first one-on-one with a client that she has visited before but only with Jeff present. It shows the conflicting feelings that go with the practice of caring: client victories and institutional policies.
  1. Crystal and the Dog
    1. Another client story that highlights in a painful way the failure of the proper tools of care. We see the impact of trauma on the client’s behavior and the signs of burnout in the protagonist. An example of how trauma informed care has to be practiced in situations that aren’t clear cut or easy to know what is the right thing to do.
  1. Deliah and the Rainy Day
    1. This was the first story I wrote that helped me see how I want to move forward with this memoir. It will need to go towards the end of the story because it is set at a point in the protagonist’s experience where she is at the high point of burnout and is looking for a way out. It shows the protagonist in a state of dissociated despair that mirror’s Jeff’s but she is mimicking his behavior of putting on a face with clients to keep the appearance of care going.

These are the pieces I have in semi-states of completion (i.e. they are written, but need editing and rewrites). Now my goal is to solidify things more by aligning things on a tighter timeline that will span from the time I started to the time I left (close to 3 years). I have a pretty good foundation started for the beginning, but I need to write the intro, have a story that shows the turning point in the middle, one that explains my experience of learning about trauma informed care, maybe one or two more client stories, when my unraveling comes to a head, and a kind of epilogue that shows how the crash and burn of my time as a peer support specialist and supported education specialist lead to a deep personal exploration about care and how Equity-Centered Trauma Informed Care has now become the focus of my personal life ethic. I am on track to have this done by the end of the month and then I will use the remaining time to edit.

The main issue I can see in these pieces that are done is that I am not being able to maintain the same voice through each. I have a very abstract tone in some and in others it’s more realistic. I am not sure how to fix that at the moment… I want to lean more towards the abstract, but I don’t want to be SO abstract as to be off-putting.

I feel like the writing process of doing this thesis has been a kind of unraveling in and of itself. I started with one lofty idea and I just didn’t have the ability to pull it off in the time I set for myself. This memoir was birthed not totally out of desperation (though there is some of that) but it came from me stopping one day and saying – why are you so obsessed with trauma informed care? This led me to a journey of self-exploration and introspection. I decided I wanted to share my story to highlight something I don’t think is talked about much – how lacking the tools people are given in positions of care can be and how this impacts both them and the people they care for. My hope for this story is to capture something that people recognize in their own struggle to care and that they know it isn’t just them. My hope is that through this recognition they can seek the “proper tools of care”, whatever those may be. I don’t know if those hopes are too lofty, but at least I’m moving in a direction now.

Thesis…Groundhog Day?

I feel a bit like I have been in a thesis Groundhog Day situation – actually, I’d rather use the example of Russian Doll – Same premise basically, but with Natasha Lyonne.

Everytime I sit down to my thesis, it is almost like I am writing from scratch. Nothing has traction. I lose track of the pieces I have already written. I don’t feel good about what I wrote. I keep reliving the process of figuring something out, discovering a possible path forward, writing to follow the inspiration… and then it dissipates into something dissatisfying. Something that doesn’t fit what I’m trying to get at. 

Not counting my blogs, I’ve written 20,000+ words for this thing and maybe 5,000 of those are sticking at the moment? So now that I’m back on track and getting my productivity back up I have made some decisions for how to move forward. 

In my blog for last week, I included a story I wrote and the voice of it and feel of it is the closest thing I’ve gotten to what feels like me. I am a little afraid it is going to be what the critic in my head keeps calling “affected” or “indulgent”, but if I keep listening to it I am not going to be able to get this thesis done. I am genuinely worried because I don’t see the finish line at all at the moment, I’m more just running on faith that I will get it done because… I always do… somehow. 

So moving forward, I am just going to write my ass off in the style of the story I shared last week and will share this week. I am attaching the story below to show another example of how I am moving forward with this writing style and the story. Whether it is good or not, I have no idea, but I am committing to it and going to switch into more organized production. 

I will do my creative writing at home and I will work in class on my literature review, at least until I can get it done and then I’ll switch over to just the thesis. The literature review has me so stressed and frozen that I go to do it, feel like I don’t know where to start, think about switching over to my creative writing, feel guilty I’m not working on the lit review, get worked up into a frustrated state of overwhelm, and ultimately end up getting hardly anything at all done. I can’t keep this cycle up. I am hoping by making myself do the literature review at school will give me a more disciplined environment, access to help, and accountability. That way, when I am home, I just have to worry about the actual writing of the thesis and any further research I need to do.

I don’t have much else to say other than that. Below I will include the link to my latest story. It is kind of a weird one, but I am rolling with it. If anyone wants to take the time to read it and leave me any critiques about clarity, I welcome the input!