When I grew up I wanted to be an artist
When I was in high school I thought I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. For all my electives I chose art classes but they never seemed to fit with my required class schedule. I would get placed in classes such a criminal justice and psychology. I went on to study Biology in college and then Forensic Science as a Master's degree. I spent my career working in a private forensic DNA lab. The Universe laughed and I now apply the psychology of ancient wisdom to the criminal justice community to improve the quality of work and life; oh and I just started watercolor painting too!
The crime lab was my home in the criminal justice field
I worked many ‘jobs’ in the crime lab. I was a technician supporting other analysts; a casework analyst testing evidence in the lab and testifying to my findings; a technical leader responsible for overseeing a bustling lab often balancing the trio of making procedures and processes better/faster/cheaper; then a director overseeing the laboratory operations. I experienced working and or managing high profile homicide cases, mass and natural disasters from around the world, volume cases of property crimes, and then thousands and thousands of untested sexual assault kits.
Living in a cloud of stress & trauma
I experienced stress in different ways over the years from a combination of personal and professional experiences. At times, stress prevented me from sleeping through the night and showed up as anxiety- feeling like I always needed to be available to everyone. I suffered from digestive issues and was becoming more and more exhausted.
As a leader I also felt responsible for everyone else in the lab often analyzing were others happy, supported, was morale okay? I saw stress in the eyes of many from my direct colleagues to clients and friends working in different capacities to support criminal justice across the country. I could see stress in the words used by other leaders in the field as they responded to crisis that affected them locally or on a national scale.
It wasn’t until later in my career that I found myself refusing travel to certain places, having nightmares, and changing my behavior in response to my work. My ability to compartmentalize the work was not an efficient coping mechanism anymore. Although I was frequently just behind a lab bench or sitting at a desk I had seen too much, seen the worst of humanity.
A light at the end of the tunnel
I started to put into perspective that a lot of what I worked on or managed was very heavy and were sometimes viewed as among the worst crimes and events that occurred in the United States or around the world. There was a sense that I should be humbled by this and sometimes I feel that way and sometimes I thought this is all f’ed up!
I started seeking mechanisms that could allow me to relate to these experiences in different ways and that could help with awareness and reduction or prevention of stress, vicarious trauma, and moral injury. Humor was definitely a coping skill of mine and I used to joke that the light I saw at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming training.
All jokes aside something clicked once I started to use tactical techniques to deal with stress. I was more grounded, I could think clearer, and I was able to respond instead of react. What I was learning was not new, it was rooted in 3,000+ year old ancient wisdom but what was 'new' was the science. Studies in neuroscience were starting to explain why and how we could develop resiliency, grow grey matter in areas of our brains, and build new neural connections!
My mission is to change the field and guide you to examine the evidence within
I became a certified teacher of ancient wisdom, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. I pull evidence-based techniques from these teachings to create programs and workshops for criminal justice professionals interested in changing their relationship with stress, vicarious trauma and moral injury.
My mission has taken a turn, I want to see these tools in the hands of every criminal justice professional that wants them. I want development in resilience to be a key part of training in a well-rounded crime fighting organization. I want scientists, advocates, attorneys, and law enforcement to feel comfortable talking to each other and management about industry and workplace pressures. I want the community to improve themselves so we can improve our organizations and improve the criminal justice system. From these ideas Mindgen was sparked and initiatives to bring tools to criminal justice organizations to improve the quality of work and life was born.