I’m passionate about providing psychiatric treatment to diverse teens who are struggling through various hardships. Along the way, these teens make poor choices in relationships and in self-care because that’s how real life often plays out when youth are raised in chaos. It’s important to me that their imperfect journeys aren’t dismissed. That’s why I’m also dedicated to translating their struggles into realistic young adult fiction that isn’t written to please but rather to expand narrow-minded views of mental health issues and diverse life experiences.
Real life isn’t perfect prose. Real life isn’t a perfect plot. Real life isn’t a perfect, happy ending. Real life can be brutal, scattered, mistake-filled, and beautiful. And when these real-life teens embrace their worth and learn to use their voice, they are fierce. They are feminist AF. Like my teen patients. Like Rani.
This School Library Journal blog post lists amazing, diverse feminist YA books. I’m delighted that RANI PATEL IN FULL EFFECT is on it!
Click on this link:
Think of personal boundaries as the barriers we set with others to demarcate which of their behaviors towards us are permissible and which are not. Personal boundaries can encompass the following categories: intellectual, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. My patients who have difficulty knowing and setting their personal boundaries usually lack self-worth or adequate role models from whom to learn these skills. Some lack both.
I lacked both. Growing up, my father crossed boundaries with me and my mother couldn’t maintain any for herself or me. This became my blueprint for life. I was an object that existed first to please my father and later to please others. I did not see any inherent value in myself. It set me up to live and repeat the torturous cycle of poor self-worth, inability to set boundaries, bad decisions, poor self-worth, and on and on.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case for me. These days, my self-worth is strong. I know my boundaries. I set my boundaries. No exceptions. My decisions are better. I can take care of myself and others.
It took much pain and practice to get to this point. And now that I’m here, I want nothing more than to help my patients on their journeys towards healthy self-worth and boundaries.
It takes time, I tell my patients. Generally, we start by identifying family patterns that may have contributed to their ongoing struggles. Then we see how they might be repeating these patterns in their current lives. Next we figure out what their boundaries should be and how they might begin to set them. Setting the boundaries requires assertiveness (being able to verbalize their true thoughts, feelings, wishes, and decisions) and the ability to tolerate the negative feelings that initially accompany not doing what they think other people want. We discuss how they can practice these skills in the here and now of their lives.
There are times when my patients can grasp the theories we discuss, but have a difficult time stopping their own cycles of poor self-worth, inability to set boundaries, and bad decisions. In these cases, involving their families or significant others can be helpful. Sometimes the patients end up repeating their cycles in their therapeutic relationship with me, and on some of those occasions I may have to set strong boundaries with them to role model appropriate behavior. And in order to avoid enabling the cycles that keep them stuck, I might even have to stop treating them. During our final session, I remind them that they are worthy and that it is imperative that they work on knowing and setting limits with others so that they can nurture their own self-worth and sustain and nurture their most important relationships.
These days I’m trying to live by Gandhi’s famous words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” One of my recent changes…I shaved my head for the second time in my life. I love my bald head and I don’t care if anyone else likes it, I just hope it challenges societal norms. Maybe it will encourage people to think beyond their ingrained assumptions about bald women. Assumptions they don’t usually hold about bald men. Assumptions they feel necessary to share with me:
1. The only possible reason to go bald as a woman is that I’m undergoing chemo. I’m not.
2. Or I must hate men. I don’t.
3. Or I’m lesbian. I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I’m straight because I’m not. I’m queer.
4. Or how did I ever get a husband? Um, love.
5. Or even though I’m bald, I’m still pretty. Stop commenting on my appearance. My worth is not determined by it.
Maybe it will also encourage people to move towards tolerance, acceptance, and love.
I dig this quote from the New York Times article Buzzed: The Politics of Hair : “...because we focus so much attention on the head, especially on the female head, and because this attention is gendered, and because, more than anything, this attention is visible, absent hair on a woman’s head can be read as disruptive to the politics of the male gaze. Looking at a woman’s face, at her hair, has conventionally been an exercise of desire, and of an assertion of male power. Disrupting this convention, disrupting this gaze, allows us to see a different set of possibilities for the female head. The shaved head ‘speaks’ in a different way.”
Check out the full article for more. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/05/fashion/buzzed-politics-of-hair-emma-gonzalez-rosemcgowan.html
I know what it's like to be falling. Now that I'm on solid ground, I can't stop, won't stop, trying to lift others up.