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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My Grandma Said I Should Write a Book

It would be like the “Ghetto Hikes” website, but not nearly as funny. There isn’t much kids can say about the environment when their surroundings consist of ugly blue walls and a couple windows. I have genuinely enjoyed work since I’ve been there with the exception of two days. After I thought about it, the days that feel like work are typically the days that I feel as if I’m not making an impact or that I’ve been causing harm.

I had a rough chain of events this week. A lot of the clients go home for Christmas and then return to the facility once their pass has ended. They must be thoroughly checked in so that they cannot bring anything in they’re not supposed to. I checked in a client along with the help of a supervisor from another unit. Despite these precautions, the client brought in a razor blade and used it to inflict self-harm. That night I was able to use my first aid training and earned some overtime sitting in the ER until 3:30AM. We checked the client in again when we returned from the hospital. The next shift I worked two days later, I was responsible for failing to immediately notice the client using scissors to remove the stitches… Rough days.

Working has given me more motivation and conviction to apply for clinical mental health programs – maybe “motivation” is a strong word. I’m working on figuring out how to manage my time with a full-time job that actually enables me to have daylight hours to accomplish something. So far that has been sleep, spinning, running, and miscellaneous lounging. My solution is to start making to-do lists for each day with a day of flexibility. I never know when I’ll be up until 4:30AM…

I Work for a Living!

I have been a functional working member of society for nearly two weeks now. It may be the best feeling in the world, which I attribute solely to the nature of the work. The first day I shadowed, I was cussed out, confused, and completely lost. My building is an H-shape that houses three different units (I think) and classrooms and group therapy rooms and visiting rooms for each of the units (I think). Maybe there aren’t classrooms for the critical care unit.

Either way, I am in the middle of a four-day break in my schedule, which I will not have again for a very long time until I take time off. After the way my first couple of days went, I am shocked that I miss the clients, not kids, already. The last day I worked I had the opportunity to sit with a client who had been upset and had recently been self-harming. After ten minutes with the client, she gave me the instrument with which she was self-harming and her disposition was completely changed. One of the most difficult things I have encountered at work so far has been convincing some of the clients that I genuinely do see good in them. Many of them are intelligent beyond belief and creative to the extent that I feel more cultured from listening to the explanations of their art and expression. And it takes so much work to get them to believe that’s what I see even just for a minute!

I expressed my first real moral dilemma about the job with a client. He simply wanted a question answered regarding his status and privileges that he was applying to earn. However, the supervisor was involved with averting a crisis at the time, so the client waited and waited and waited and began getting impatient. My issue with residential treatment is that crises need to be managed often and those clients who are experiencing growth cannot be acknowledged as much as they ought to be. There just isn’t the manpower. However, I did manage to play a few games of Uno with the client and talk Harry Potter with him, so I feel I did what I could to be positively reinforcing.

Anyway, long story short, I love it.

In other news, I’m subbing in a spinning class tomorrow. I’m thinking it will be pretty full – it’ll be right after Thanksgiving and I do believe I have some friends coming to the class. So now I’m a little anxious; I have yet to teach people I know personally. They have the means to tease me for my cheesiness and sport psychology background. But I know they won’t because they’re wonderful!

Once Upon a Time

I’m watching “Once Upon a Time.” This has become a Sunday thing followed by viewing “The Walking Dead.” Typically I have to do something else while watching TV – stretch, read, write, whatever. I haven’t written in a while because I have felt completely and wonderfully insane. All my time not spent at work is spent planning, pining, and being excited about my new job and my new life. To be fair, I do a lot of this at work too. (I only have four more half days at the daycare!) My friend Kim yelled at me on our long run yesterday for all this planning business. She makes a valiant point: what’s wrong with just going with the flow, starting a job, and figuring things out whenever they naturally arise?

I love me some structure. It’s easy for me to structure my mornings and afternoons and since I’ll be working second shift, I’ll be running, spinning, lifting, or volunteering in the mornings, working, and then going to bed. I told Kim that I already know I want to go back to school in 2015. I’m not sure what program or even whether it will be to pursue another master’s degree or a PhD…or a PsyD. So there is a lot to consider. However, I have never spent a year and a half researching and experiencing to make a decision, so I don’t understand why this would be any different.

On another note, I went out on Friday with some people from my summer job. To sum up my experience there, here is an Eleanor Roosevelt quote that I just found appropriate for the situation:

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot.

For approximately six years, being unemployed or unsatisfied with my employment situation has been my biggest fear. Perhaps this is a characteristic of people who plan as much as I do. I saw no purpose in attending college and graduate school if it would not lead to full-time fulfillment. Simply being offered something that I perceive as fulfilling has changed everything.

In social situations, I’m an observer, I’m quiet, and I don’t particularly like meeting brand new people. I’ll happily meet friends of friends when I’m out, but strangers are a different story. Regardless, I met a stranger with prompting from the people I was with. I communicated well with many people Friday night and apparently portrayed myself well. In short, I genuinely believe that confidence makes all the difference. After disappointment and uncertainty, no matter how small it seems in retrospect, I achieved something I wanted and got an offer. That alone led to me carrying myself differently.

So to wrap up, I do have a question. Why is it that every time a girl meets a guy in a bar, one of three things must happen? 1) He completely forgets who you are and nothing happens. 2) You become a booty call later. 3) He wants to start dating. Maybe I’m strange (I’m definitely strange), but why can’t you meet someone in a bar and begin a friendship?

I Got an Offer…

…And I accepted it!

I accepted in an extraordinarily awkward (characteristic of me) fashion, but maybe it’s endearing. Just before I got the call, I went downstairs to whine to my dad about how hopeless I was becoming. I dropped my phone on the fireplace and complained for literally two minutes before it rang and I was offered the position. So clearly my new place of employment is psychic and also has a sense of humor. I start November 18th with mass amounts of training.

As awkward as accepting a new job was for me, giving notice that I was quitting at the daycare was even more awkward. I told my director that I needed to speak with her and of course she wasn’t thrilled – I didn’t expect she would be, but I was hoping for genuine well-wishes. Following my short discussion with the director, the preschool teacher approached me with this whole, “I couldn’t help but overhear” business and wanted my contact information for her undergraduate daughter.

This isn’t my worst fear by any means, but one of my preoccupations with starting a career has regarded how many toes I have to step on to get what I want. Before I got my call, I almost wrote an entry about how much I “need” to have something full-time. As someone who has been drilled on the importance of concise and accurate language, I reconsidered what I “need.” I am making payments on my loans with a part-time position at the daycare. I received First Aid and CPR training through the daycare and they paid me the hourly rate that enabled me to make the long commute to and from work. And instead of showing how grateful I am that this daycare hired me when I really could use the income, I am leaving them at the first sign of something better. The working world is a mean and cutthroat place.

So the bottom line is that I’m never going to please everyone. I’ve been doing a lot for me lately and have yet to regret any of it. In addition to taking that job, I got my spinning certification for myself, I’ve been running and eating healthier for myself, and reading to work on myself… Those are the things that are not affected by what I do for a living. I realize that I have not been blogging about this job search for my entire “funemployment” period, but if I had been, it would have been quite obvious that I identify strongly with what I do and I also judge myself incredibly harshly based on the impact I’m having. I’m not exceptional at caring for toddlers; other people are. My place to make an impact is where I’ll be two weeks from Monday and that’s an incredible feeling.

Get Mad, Then Get Over It

I have this friend. He’s the type of person who can connect with anyone, he’s wise beyond his years, and he’s smart. I’m not exactly sure how smart, but most likely somewhere between scary-smart and impossibly-smart. And in case whoever happens to be reading didn’t put two and two together, I do have quite the crush on him and he knows, so if he were ever to stumble upon my ramblings (doubtful), no harm done. I feel like a fifth grade girl…

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, he asked me very directly why I’m angry. It’s true that I’m an angry person; my anger positively drives many of the things I do. It inspires me to apply for jobs, it motivates me to write genuinely, it prompts me to ask certain questions. It becomes destructive when it leads me to be defensive, to lash out people I care about, and when I respond with stubbornness.

There are so many things to be angry about. If you’re reading, you can probably construct a list in your head easily of things to be angry about. I’m mad that my dad freaked out because I did not require a 10-minute lesson on learning how to use DVR, I’m peeved that I forgot to ask for my interviewers’ business cards on Friday, I’m experiencing a little self-loathing because my food intake today consisted primarily of chocolate, and I’m undoubtedly bitter about these job hunting shenanigans.

The last thing I want to do is convince myself that being angry is wrong. I’m disinclined to say that any of those things shouldn’t elicit anger. I think the way to increase my affect is to let the little blessings in life affect me just as much as the setbacks.

Before I got ridiculously sick last week, I went on an amazing run. It was everything a fall run is supposed to be. I let myself appreciate nature and what my body could do for that half an hour and it was spectacular. Every once in a while, I do let myself be affected by happy little things. Today I was excited over leaves floating in and out of a truck bed while my mom and I were driving over to see my grandma. I even find myself happy at the day care. Last week, I was sitting on the floor and one of our toddlers gently stood behind me and ran her hands through my hair for a while. I think the more we can notice here and now, the more joy we take with us, and the more we’ll have to offer.