Victoria’s Voice: Book Review

I recently read Victoria’s Voice:  Our Daughter’s Wish to Share her Diary and Save Lives from Drugs.  I have to admit, it was tough for me to even pick it up and start to read it.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’m an avid reader, but to read the diary of a young girl who had died of an overdose and to have her parents, through their agony, share their experience, was an emotional adventure.  Victoria was only 18 years old when she passed away.

The book is a very personal account by Victoria’s parents, David and Jackie Siegel, of what their daughter was like and the experience of emotional stress that they went through as they saw their daughter struggled with anxiety, addiction, depression, and anorexia, and the inevitable fallout that all of these issues led her to.  They also share the agony of their daughter’s passing, and the struggle to figure out their next steps, as they tried to make sense of such a tragic event. 

It was right after their daughter’s death that the Siegels received a text from Victoria’s friend that changed the trajectory of their lives.  Victoria had asked this friend to share the text with her parents, in case she ever died.  In this text, she directed her parents to search for her diary, and to share it with the world.  The Siegels struggled with this decision, but ultimately they decided not only to share her diary with the world, but to become educators and advocates, so that no other parent would have to go through what they went through.

They shared that since their daughter’s death, they learned so much.  In fact, they wish that they would have known what they know now before Victoria’s passing.  They can’t turn back the clock, but they can help save another family from tragedy.  They want everyone to learn about this issue so that it is not too late for a family who is experiencing this issue.  They want everyone to recognize the signs:  Addicts can become very good at hiding their addition.  They want everyone to advocate for a safer environment for young lives. 

David and Victoria Siegel have worked tirelessly to promote laws that protect children, implement ample access to Naxolone (a drug that can save lives from overdose), and advocate for safe-keeping of even day to day drugs.  They have testified before Congress and have advocated for more comprehensive rehabilitation for individuals who are suffering from addiction. 

Victoria’s Voice is full of insight.  I recommend it as a family reading.  Families who are going through the pain of addiction are very special families that need the support of our entire village. 

If you are interested in the book, you can buy it here.  Proceeds from the sales of the book benefit the Victoria Siegel foundation.  Please visit their website (here), to learn more about drugs, addiction, the Siegels, and their advocacy, or simply to get help.

Victoria Siegel

Thanks!

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Entrepreneurial Chronicles: Working for Myself for 3 months!

Last Sunday (September 15, 2019) was the official three month-mark of my entrepreneurial life, of working for myself!   As in any still-quite-new phase in life, being an entrepreneur comes equipped with a myriad of new learning opportunities.  These learning opportunities come not only with a look to the future, but also a look back, while being completely engaged in the present moment.

After working for the same organization for over 21 years, being able to enjoy life as an entrepreneur feels nothing short of a great feat and accomplishment. However, I don’t want you, readers out there, to think that this is not hard work.  I actually feel that I’m working more than ever!  The difference, however, lies in the fact that I work doing what I absolutely love, and I don’t have to settle for any less.  As a matter of fact, doing what I love keeps me quite busy these days!

I think it is important for anyone contemplating the jump from employee to entrepreneur to contemplate all the pros and cons of this decision.  At the three-month mark, these are the ones that I think about the most:

PROS

  • Your time is yours:  Yes, you own your time, and you get to distribute it the way you want to.  Want to work 15 hours today?  You can do that.  Want to take off so you can catch up on your reading?  Go ahead.  You don’t need permission to do as you please with your time.
  • You get to express our own thoughts and professional opinions:  As an employee, I was forced to say things that I knew were misguided, inconsistent, and sometimes plainly wrong.  As a matter of fact, in my last position, I endured a great deal of bullying from my supervisor/s for standing up for what I believed.  When you work for yourself, you represent your business, and your opinions matter.  Being free to express myself is one of the most precious gifts of being an entrepreneur.
  • There is virtually no limit to your professional growth:  Your work is what you make of it, and you can take it in any direction that you want.  In my case, I’m moving towards a more mobile alternative, so that I can basically work from anywhere, most of the time.  You are able to design the type of work, and the type of work/life balance that you want.
  • You get to interact with the people who matter to you the most: Every day, I get to experience the triumphs as well as the challenges of the people that I serve, and I do so intimately.  I get to establish a mutual working relationship of trust, as people entrust me with what they value the most:  Their children, their families.  This makes my heart shine like a thousand splendid suns and there is simply no better reward than this. 

CONS

  • PTSD is real!  Learn to recognize the signs, talk to your doctor, talk to a therapist. You may have left your job behind, but the triggers are still there.  I get a very automatic reaction every time something reminds my body (not conscious “me”) about a particular place or experience.  Don’t think that only veterans can suffer from this condition.  People who are or have been bullied can suffer from this too.  If you are experiencing bullying at work, please seek help!
  • It’s hard to STOP working:  Just because you can work as many hours as you want, does not mean that you should work every waking hour, but when you are an entrepreneur, it is hard to say no!  I have been growing exponentially for the past three months, and there are days that I think I can work from dusk to dawn.  It is important to recognize your limits, listen to your body, and take care of yourself! I’m learning to do this, little by little, and every time I do something just for myself, it feels GREAT!

If you have any questions about entrepreneurial life, career or work issues, or would like help building an exit plan that would work for you, drop me a note.

Working from anywhere!

Cheers!

Dr. Klimek

The Toxic Work Environment and PTSD

Yes, a toxic work environment can lead to PTSD (Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder).  We typically would not think of it, as this is usually what we hear when we refer to combat troops, people who have gone through severe trauma, or those who have experienced serious injury or abandonment.  But there is a category of people who have been showing up to their doctor’s office more and more these days, and that’s those who are being subjected to a toxic work culture.  These employees tend to exhibit symptoms similar to those who have experienced trauma. Why?  Because in reality, they are experiencing trauma!  There is no room to breathe when exposed to a pressure-cooker type of work environment.

What symptoms do employees present with that are cause for red flag?

Let’s name a few:

  1. Hypervigilance:  Employees feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells,” not able to understand how to behave and having to account for other people’s feelings and emotions. 
  2. Problems concentrating: It is hard to focus when you don’t know when the next shoe is going to fall.  Fear is the enemy of concentration.
  3. Persistent negative feelings about oneself:  Feeling depressed sad, and helpless.
  4. Having nightmares, distressing dreams:  You repeat the distressing events over and over and as a consequence, you have difficulty sleeping.
  5. Difficulty sleeping (see above).
  6. Physiological symptoms:  Digestive issues, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or similar ones, you may be in a toxic work environment, and you need to figure out your next steps.

I thought of no better time to bring up these issues than right now.  Even though I have been free from this type of work bullying for almost three months now (Yayyy!), I still experience some of these symptoms, and I want to share them with you so that you don’t have to go through what I went through. 

In my old job, my boss(es) ganged up against employees, made them feel devalued, unwelcome, and unimportant.  I used to constantly have nightmares about events at work, a situation that many of my coworkers also shared with me.  Some of us had difficulty sleeping, eating, and experienced physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.  I actually experienced what it meant to be “disgusted” by a situation as my gut told me exactly what that was. 

I was lucky enough to seek the help of my primary health care provider.  When I told her what was happening and what I was feeling, she recognized the symptoms right away.  She let me cry for about 30 minutes, non-stop during that first visit.  She constantly checked on me to make sure that I was putting myself first.   I will be forever grateful to her for helping me understand that I need to take care of me

This is the message that I want to leave with you today:  Remember, your number one responsibility is to YOURSELF

Girl crying by a rained on window.

The Special Education “Reform”

What does The Special Education Reform mean? Let me tell you my experience. . .

In my former life as a New York City school administrator, one of the tasks that I was entrusted with, was to explain to families the meaning of what the New York City Department of Education called the Special Education Reform, which as one of my former bosses would say, has been in place for many years and barely qualifies for “reform” status anymore.  Having said that, it is still a great source of confusion for families and staff alike.  As a matter of fact, even though I had the task of explaining this to families, I could not escape the fact that after so many years, people had started to forget the federal law that protects children with disabilities, their education, and their parental rights, and started to advocate the “reform” as if it replaced IDEA.

In its purest form, the “reform” refers to the policy that ensures that all students can be served in all schools, and at face value, this sounds like a great policy  (right?)  Without getting into specifics, the initial purpose of it was to reduce the likelihood of discrimination and it make equal access a priority.  On the surface, all these things are correct.  The special education reform may work very well, for some.  The problem with an all-encompassing policy that doesn’t consider individual needs is the issue of equity.

In fact, equity is not the same as treating everyone equally.  When students are treated with equity, their individual needs are taken into account. They are treated fairly and impartially. The reform, although well-meaning in theory, confused those entrusted to deal with students, those in a position to make decisions, and in turn, confused many parents.  What many parents worried about has come true.  Students can be placed in any school regardless of their specific needs.  My old boss used to say to me that this was actually a good thing.  She even threatened a group of enrollment directors at a meeting where I was present with taking away all access to special education software for their staff, so that they would not be able to know or assist the parents in any type of special education transaction.  Every student, she said, would be treated “equally.”  She was correct.  They would be treated equally, but they would not be treated with equity.

For those of us that understand disability at a deep personal level, this type of assessment is not acceptable.  Yes, as parents, we should assume that our children have the same rights to attend any school we want.  However, we should also be able to assess for ourselves if we think a school is a good fit for our child given our child’s needs.  We should be able to assess whether we feel comfortable with the services offered to our children.  And yes, we should also have a right to receive the recommended services on our child’s IEP as they are recommended on the IEP.  The IEP is a legal document, not a suggestion.

What do you do if you feel that your child’s rights are not taken seriously?  As upset as you might be, please know that there are legal resources and that the law protects your rights as a parent.  Consult with an advocate and be prepared to be your child’s voice.

Drop me a note if you need assistance.

Best,

Dr. Klimek

Equity promotes inclusion and diversity!