Reaching out in shared Chaos

I participate in a joint program with Ukraine and the United States that trains and certifies Ukrainian mental health professionals to address the vast trauma of war and its aftermath. The certificate program includes extensive teaching, learning, training, and supervision. American and Ukrainian mental health academics and professionals act as teachers and mentors. This takes place over Zoom, with the eight hour time difference. A translator is always present translating from Ukrainian to English and back again.

With increasing Russian missile attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure, utilities are always uncertain. Power blackouts are frequent. Wifi service is often interrupted. For example, in the case of my regular translator who lives Kiev, the electricity was out in her apartment building this week. To find Wifi service for our meeting, she drove to a nearby service station to find a signal. When that didn’t work, she cruised in her car until finding a community Wifi. Her car is her office, equipped with laptop and auxiliary batteries. More than once she has Zoomed in from a parking garage outside a hospital.

I work regularly with a supervisee in the program, and yesterday the electricity was out in his office, so he had to drive to a metro station to catch Wifi to Zoom in for a meeting, then back to his office to meet with a first-time client in the darkened offices. When we Zoomed in the evening, he was back at his apartment, that did have electricity at the moment. He said that utility crews are exercising super-human effort to get everything back online after attacks. “Imagine,” he said, “we are a European country in the 21st century and we are actually uncertain if we will have electricity, heat, water.”

These counselors deal with all of the garden variety mental health challenges anyone would see anywhere, and all of the trauma that accompanies war: fear of attack, separation from family, deaths and losses, relocations, and deprivations. Like chaplains serving in the front lines of the military ministering to their troops, or mental health workers in the midst of a disaster, these persons are in the midst of crisis, chaos, suffering, and vast uncertainty. And yet they stay. They serve. With resolve.

These are liminal guides, serving in extreme liminal circumstances, among a collective of persons experiencing complex social liminality.

My role, minor as it is, involves walking along side a liminal guide who is liminal himself. In addition to whatever insight might be shared, I am striving most to stand in solidarity, walk alongside, share the common humanity, to dwell in the land of deep darkness until the light shines. Kyrie Eleison. Господи помилуй

Liminal Essay Contest for University Students

The Liminal Scholarship of $500 will be awarded to the winner of a 700-1000 word essay on some aspect of liminality found in the short story “The Stretch Motel” in S.K Kruse’s Tales from the Liminal. Students must be enrolled in an undergraduate program in an accredited university for the 2023-24 academic year.

The submission deadline is January 31, 2023. The award date is May 31, 2023.

For full details, a link to the short story, and the online registration form, click here.

Resilience in Liminal Space – Laura Gaines

Laura Gaines is a clinical social worker specializing in resilience, trauma informed care and mental wellness. She provides training, coaching and consultation for helping professionals. She writes a weekly blog about resilience at LearnModelTeach.com.

Resilience in Liminal Space by Laura Gaines

I am going to make this work.

I will focus on the positive.

If I just try harder.

As misery, and exhaustion seep into my bones I don’t remember when it got to be so bad. So much energy spent maintaining the fragile peace. Don’t disrupt; be cooperative; pay attention. As long as I am agreeable, we live happily in this bubble. Life is perfect… Isn’t it?

There is no way out.

I can’t do this.

I want this to work out.

Don’t I?

The first step was miniscule, pointless really. I decide to grow my hair long. We don’t have long hair. We like our hair short, so we see Tessa every 6 weeks.” I am tired of short hair; I want to grow it out. “Your hair looks best short, you know that.” Sigh. But then I tell Tessa what I want. She responds, “okay,” as if it is no big deal! “I will cut your hair every other visit and even then, I will only shape it up as it grows out.” With a look aimed at me, “She looks best in short hair.” Tessa replies, “perhaps but she wants it long; she is ready for a change.”

I am ready for a change.

I try to repair this life we have.

This perfect bubble is not perfect.

I am so tired.

I extend an invitation to change with me. We can adjust. But we can’t. The bounds of the relationship stretch and then snap back, painfully, like a rubber band. I can no longer keep the peace. I imagine a different future. I break silence and tell people. They do not say I am selfish, wrong, ridiculous. They act like it is normal to desire more.

Again, I invite change.

“Yes, yes, I will allow you to grow your hair long”.

That is not the change I am looking for; I am alone on this journey.

There is no clear way forward.

I daydream about possibilities. I take small steps. People act like it is normal for me to show up at book club. The bubble shudders, struggling to contain two futures. No one knows the battle raging. Cracks appear and are mended. There is too little room. I pay attention, I try to create calm. And yet I keep stretching the bounds.

I am selfish.

I am myself.

I quit apologizing.

The bubble has stretched beyond all limits. It strains, shreds, and I am asked to save it please, please! I can’t. I don’t want to. I accept that this is over. All the compressed rules and expectations explode. Fury, fire, destruction. As the embers settle, I wake alone in a new room. Knowing the stages of trauma doesn’t stop them from happening.

All change is possible.

I will focus on the positive.

I am going to make this work.