Grady Crittendon and Barry Flynn are among 27 members of the Isolation to Socialization group at Desert AIDS Project. Both men were caregivers for very demanding, infirm roommates. Grady and Barry said they’d lost themselves while cooking, cleaning, bookkeeping, and handling all technology for their chronically ill friends.
Help came in the form of an email blast from our Client Wellness Services Center announcing a group, called Isolation to Socialization, which meets Thursdays at 3:00 PM. Facilitators Valerio Iovino, Career Building Coordinator, and Melanie Wolfe, Mental Health Clinician, believe a lot of the depression, anxiety, and isolation prevalent among our clients can be relieved through involvement in meaningful activities.
Not coincidentally, that’s also the theory behind Valerio’s Career Building program that has helped nearly 200 clients return to work, go to school, find internships, or rich volunteer experiences. Likewise, it’s the theory behind the Success Building Class that Jim Sherman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Valerio ran this winter. This group encouraged shut-in, shut-down, clients to get moving. Jim and Valerio also want to help clients find personal growth through a group they’re planning, called From Shame to Freedom.
“Boosting self-esteem is at the core of all this,” Valerio says. Melanie adds that clients naturally drift away from friends and community when they don’t feel good about themselves. Those behaviors just sort of happen. Conversely, developing positive behaviors require a conscious effort, and that’s what they focus on in the Isolation to Socialization group.
Barry and Grady understand that developing positive thoughts and behaviors are the hard work they have in front of them.
Aside from caregiving, Barry says he’d buried himself under a mountain of concerns: He lost five friends and a job a few years back and couldn’t grieve. “I was numb.” Additionally, through negative self-talk, he constantly pronounced himself incapable of changing his life.
Grady, a professional chef, says he’d once been an outgoing, take-charge-type guy. But deep-seated self-doubt contributed to the fact that he’d totally replaced his needs with those of his friend. Then he developed a “positive behavior” that Melanie speaks of in group.
“What do I need to do so I’m not always pissed off and angry?’ ” Grady says. “I set boundaries with my roommate. He’d always ask, ‘Why don’t you make me breakfast?’ and it’s late in the afternoon. Now, I say, ‘I make breakfast at 10:00 AM, but you have to get up before 1:00 to eat it. If not, you can go to Elmer’s and get something.’ ”
In addition to setting boundaries, the men practice re-socialization, which involves adopting new behavior patterns so they can shift from one part of life to the next. To go from isolation to socialization, the men completed assignments such as organizing a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and closer to home, a potluck and a barbecue.
Sometimes the assignment is as simple as calling a group mate or going to the gym. “Just being part of a group and knowing that I’m not alone helps me tremendously,” Barry says.