We first met Paul in Chapter 1. The following aspect of Paul's story covers his attendance at a program and his efforts, with the aid of his counselor Ruth, to achieve his goals. As you read the following story, look for the strategies that Ruth uses to help Paul move toward recovery.
Paul was nervous about what to expect on his first day at the program. After getting a short tour of the program from one of the members, he was directed to his counselor, Ruth. Ruth invited Paul to have a seat and then chose a seat for herself across from him rather than behind her desk. "You know, Paul, you and I have some important and exciting work to do. We have to figure out what you want your life to look like, what your goals are, and how to reach those goals. But before we get started on that, I wonder if you have some questions or concerns? I know the first day here can be confusing." Paul was reluctant at first to ask questions, but Ruth encouraged him to be honest with her, so he talked about the people who looked like they'd been at the program forever, about "schizophrenia," and about his terrible experience at college. Finally, Paul said "I can't believe my life is over. I don't want to come here for the rest of my life." "Good," said Ruth, "then let's talk about where you do want to be."
During the meetings that followed, Paul and Ruth talked about all areas of his life. Paul decided that he was happy living with his parents for now. They got along okay and he couldn't afford to pay rent anyway. They seemed happy to have him there even though they worried a lot about him and he wished they wouldn't. His social life was dismal. He'd pretty much alienated everyone he knew when he was "getting sick." Most important to Paul, though, was that he'd dropped out of school. His first love was still business. He couldn't imagine doing any other kind of work. Ruth and Paul agreed that going back to school was the area to start with.
Paul felt hopeful and scared at the same time. His goal of graduating with a degree in business had seemed out of reach a few months ago. Paul wondered if he was kidding himself. He imagined his professors seeing him back in class after he'd failed the first time and remembered the hurtful things he'd said to his friends. But Paul trusted Ruth. When he told her about these concerns she didn't dismiss them or accept them as evidence that he couldn't go to school. Instead she talked about making sure Paul had the supports and resources he would need to succeed in this goal.
Paul and Ruth listed the critical skills for him to reach this goal. Naturally, he'd have to meet all the requirements of the courses, so he would need to be able to focus on oral presentations and written materials, study for exams, and write coherent papers. Although Paul used to excel at these academic skills, he was concerned because both his concentration and stamina were diminished because of the illness and the medication. He'd also have to get some kind of transportation to school because he wouldn't be living on campus this time, and he'd have to learn to manage the symptoms he was still experiencing: hearing voices and feeling withdrawn.
With Ruth's encouragement, Paul contacted the registrar at the college he'd been attending. He found out that he'd withdrawn from some classes and failed others. In any case, he'd have to start over. He decided to take one course and he and Ruth agreed it should be Introduction to Marketing, since this was his area of interest and he'd be more likely to do well.
There was one month left until the start of the next semester. During this time, Ruth taught Paul how to use the public transportation system. To practice, Paul took the bus to the school a few times to help him feel less anxious about the trip. A few weeks before the course started, Paul contacted the professor and got permission to audiotape the class lectures. This way he could listen to the tapes to help organize his notes. He also got the reading assignments for the semester to help him plan his study schedule. He knew that his problems concentrating meant he'd have to start early because he'd need lots of breaks.
Ruth helped Paul set up a schedule that included study time, relaxation time, and meetings with her for support and problem solving. Paul's parents were skeptical about his plan to return to school. They were convinced that the stress of school is what had "pushed him over the edge." However, with Ruth's help, Paul was able to tell them how important school was for him and how important their support would be to his success. Paul's parents agreed to support his plan as long as they could figure out what to do if Paul got sick again. Paul, his parents, and Ruth made a list of things that would indicate that he was experiencing another episode of his illness and the things people could do to help.
Paul and Ruth had a meeting scheduled the day the midterm grades were posted. Paul arrived looking worried. "You look like your grade wasn't what you'd hoped for," Ruth offered. Paul looked surprised. "Oh, no," he chuckled, "I got a 'B'! It's just that, well, some of the guys in my class invited me out to sort of celebrate, you know. It means I'd have to cut our meeting short." "Go!" Ruth laughed. "Go and have fun! I'll see you next week. Call me if anything comes up before then. Oh, and by the way, Paul, good work! "
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It seems like you hear it all the time from nearly every one you know I'm SO stressed out!? Pressures abound in this world today. Those pressures cause stress and anxiety, and often we are ill-equipped to deal with those stressors that trigger anxiety and other feelings that can make us sick. Literally, sick.