What Is It That I Do?

A story on the local news just got me all sorts of riled up. A truly sad story about a client in residential treatment was portrayed in a biased fashion. I’ve worked in residential treatment since mid-November, which is not nearly long enough to make me an “expert” by any means, but enough to have some significant experiences. I’m on my weekend right now (thank goodness) because this week alone, I have been bitten, cleaned up vomit, had a Styrofoam cup of feces inches from my face, a cup of urine poured on me, blood on my hands, and one emergency room visit.

My dad has been initiating conversations with me circumventing the question, “Is what you’re doing a positive thing?” Hopefully that’s what he’s meaning to say rather than, “Is what you’re doing actually harming kids more than they’ve already been harmed?” I hung out with the client with whom I experienced my first crisis when I was shadowing. The client was in a terrible place emotionally and told me about plans after discharge. For the record, this kid has arrived fairly recently and discharge does not seem to be in the near future. After assuring me that the spork the client was holding could be used as a weapon to kill me, I initiated a conversation about life after treatment. It started off optimistic – apologizing to those people who had been wronged by the client’s actions, but ended with the client completing suicide.

Why the scattered random stories and list of crap that’s happened this week? I’ve been genuinely wondering if this type of treatment works. It’s easier to see what isn’t working, but with my little experience, it’s tough to determine what solutions to present, so I’ve been discouraged. Biased sources in the media discouraged me even more tonight. I can assure anyone who reads this that almost all the staff members I have encountered have the best intentions. As we joke, we’re definitely not in it for the money. Personally, I’m in it because I’ve connected with some of the clients, I’ve stopped people from self-harming in the moment, I’ve instilled new ideas and possibilities in multiple clients. Even if they don’t have the courage to permanently change their ways or choose a new path, just by being a trusted adult, I can give them options. It seems that many of the clients reach their lowest points not when they are admitted into residential treatment, but while they are there, learning all sorts of new skills from other clients. Pulling someone out of that spiral, even temporarily, has been fulfilling, even in light of the bites, the blood, the urine, the broken windows and lights, and the verbal abuse.

So what it is that I do for a living? I go to work with a disgusting amount of positivity and maintain ridiculously high levels of optimism, even when I am personally struggling. This next one is nerdy, but I grade myself daily on how helpful I have been in moving clients toward assimilating back into society and on what skills I have refined within them and on what kind of support I was able to be. This work is selfless and to indicate otherwise on a news channel is offensive.

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