My Life as a Social Worker Lady Friend

 

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A month and a half ago I packed up a Uhaul and drove my dog, cat, and self back to the Columbia River Gorge.  I gotta say, there is something about being in the cab of a Uhaul with your favorite furry critters and driving across state lines that is quite liberating. And also gives you time to convince yourself that you just may have diabetes because you have to stop to pee so much.  I have had many times in my life where I have been in the cab of a truck with a cat or a dog and my belongings in tow. These little journeys are the highlights of an always emerging and changing journey.

Growth be hard.

Sometimes, I half ass wish that I could just be content with being stagnant… Being forever stuck and happy (and really believing that those two things could exist together).  You know, be 55 years old, have a looney tunes tattoo, and just not care that all of my relationships are drama filled shitshows. But, unfortunately, I read more Brene Brown than I probably should and I become completely passionate about things like “personal growth” and “learning to not be an idiot.” I am a therapist after all.

And, we all all know that while hard (sometimes excruciating), growth, becoming, and deepening are exponentially rewarding.  So much so, that I don’t even have much guilt/shame when I tell my friends that I am turning in early on a Saturday night to go take an epsom salt bath and read about metaphysics.  Or that a hike to the top of a hill in Hood River where I can see two mountains at once (shout out to Mt. Hood & Adams! holla!) gets me all euphoric in a way that booze can’t rival, so I’m out for happy hour some nights.

But mostly, I am just working on laughing a lot.

I am living with my good friend until I can find a place that will accept me, the pooch and the cat. We have earned a bit of a rep with our friends for our, well let’s face it, nerdy existence. We get real excited about green smoothies and the farmers market.   We have conversations on the way home from yoga about how it makes no sense that pizza and beer are allegedly bad for us because our bodies want them so bad. We talk about how it might be necessary to hide the amount of wine consumption from my roommate’s amazing and well intentioned but hardcore acupuncturist. Yes, life with a domestic life partner is pretty sweet! Our good friend (who is obviously blind with insane jealousy) calls us the “sister wives.”  This started after we declined an invitation to happy hour because we were abstaining for health and invited her for dinner.  Apparently a dinner sans ETOH, grains, dairy, and sugar was not very alluring.  Just wait till she sees my DLP4Lyfe lower back tattoo on Monday. Hopefully my new hand sewn floor length high collar floral print dress will show it off. Eat your heart out Inked Magazine.

I have taken a new job as  a therapist for a school based treatment center.  It is pretty much the best job in the world if I do say so myself.  At work we have rules like “No kissing people who aren’t family members” and “you have to ask before you give hugs.”  A typical day includes a student projectile vomiting because he smelled another kids fart while trying to hug said gassy kid, or at the lunch table a little guy telling us he wore his grandma’s clothes last weekend. And then following that up with, “I had to because I pooped my pants.” I wish I was making this up. Everyday is magical and hilarious and sometimes makes you want to plunge your car into the Columbia River on the way home.

I am so grateful.

 

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Keep Calm! I am a Social Worker…

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Two weeks ago, while at work,  I was punched square in the ass cheek by an angry six year old. I am a social worker.

And I love what I do.

To be a social worker, according to popular belief, you have to do two things: 1. Buy a pair of the ubiquitous social worker shoes: Danskos and 2. Mainline coffee. Not really, but my guess this is what most people think about social work.  This job is straight up crazy, but not in the way that you might imagine. If anyone ever wanted to make a hit TV show with all the drama, betrayal, catfights, neuroticism, and humor of your best after hours cable series, make it about mental health workers. Woody Allen characters ain’t got nothing on therapists. There is the old saying that people get into the mental health field to work out their own “stuff,”  and I half-heartedly agree. The problem, however is people don’t actually work out their stuff, they just spew it all over the place thickening the plotlines and making work more interesting.

The clients, in my book, are absolutely amazing. I have been so inspired by my clients over the years. I have seen the depths of suffering and also those moments of sheer joy, and everything in between. I think that I have had the privilege of seeing every part of the naked human body at one point or another. I once had a client who answered her front door pantsless, as casually as ever, and I had to have a conversation with her about how a large t-shirt with a large picture of a cat as her only article of clothing was not appropriate attire for the social security office.

People with no money are often the most generous.  I had a client who used to be homeless for a good part of his life. He finally was about to get an apartment, which for him was more of an inconvenience.  He always complained about the “responsibilities of indoor living.” It’s understandable, and I think we all get that urge to run away from our lives every now and then. He barely had any money to live on, but every Christmas he would donate money to charity. My clients, with almost nothing, would offer to buy me a cup of coffee or volunteer at a local shelter. They were always there to help out friends and family with an open heart.

Being around this kind of struggle, from the obstacles mental illness brings, to poverty, and to the stigma and discrimination of people impoverished or who carry this diagnosis or that, has put things into perspective for me. This is good and bad. Good, for example that I now can give two shits about most capitalistic consumerist bullshit. Bad, because now I don’t have all the energy in the world to deal with drama. At all. If you know a social worker, and most of the time they would like to spend their time taking baths, drinking a glass of wine with a mind numbing book (Twilight anyone?), or watching some HBO series (I love you SOA!) this is why. It is called vicarious trauma, and it is exhausting. It is also called perspective and it is liberating. Because deep down each therapist knows the key to happiness is keeping things very simple and Buddha like. Get mindful, love, laugh, and ditch all the drama and basically everything else.

Aside from being slugged in the ass, I have also been screamed at, hung up on, and had things thrown at me. I have lost my patience, cried at work, cried at home about work, and dreamed of absconding to Southern Italy to open up a flower shop. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Cause I have also had my mind blown, my limits tested, have grown exponentially, held a lot of love in my heart, learned a lot about myself, and been inspired. I have helped little kids defeat Grumpy Gorillas, taught women how to stand up for themselves for the first time in their lives, and helped people living with schizophrenia to make a friend and join a community.

It’s pretty sweet.