One thing about my new role is that I have the opportunity to be present for people while they do through hard times. My dissertation topic focuses on married black women and work life balance. So naturally I’m especially intrigued by clients who match the population that I’m studying in my academic life. Black women have higher rates of depression and anxiety than their White counterparts but are also less likely to seek treatment. Week after week I hear black women tell me that this is their first time in therapy or the first time they’ve opened up to anyone. Many tell stories of being discouraged from going to therapy by their families who say that they just need to have faith or pray more. Others speak of being judged by their faith leaders because they feel like they need to talk to someone and just reading the Bible is not enough. It’s ok to need help and it’s ok to get help. The commonality in many stories is that they are all expected to be strong and hold the family together through anything. They feel guilty crying or expressing emotions because they need to keep a straight face and move on. So many have been just existing in survival mode for so long that they’ve lost sight of their own dreams and aspirations. We have to stop discouraging people from getting help. Stop expecting your friend to be ok because she appears “strong.” There’s usually more going on than meets the eye and we have to stop assuming that things are fine. Because sometimes they aren’t.
I’ve made so many decisions since I moved back the South. Where I was going to live, what I was going to do, where I wanted to go, etc. In addition to starting a new job, I’ve also been tasked with keeping up with another job I have and simultaneously getting another two jobs off the ground and running. The thought of totally working for myself has always scared me to an extent. As an unmarried single person, there isn’t even the “safety net” of a spouse who could hold me down while I got something off the ground. I remember reading a quote that said entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and building a parachute on the way down. The thing about building a location based business is that you have to be willing to put down some roots in order to build up some clientele and network. It isn’t something that happens overnight and it takes some deliberate effort. But maybe it’s time to do something different and consider settling down for a change. While I love the idea of some stability, I also hate the feeling of being stuck without a good reason. And if I have to settle down I want it to be close to a beach where I can see and swim with some dolphins. But the truth is that if I’m taking the fairly big step of renting an office, then I need to do something that actually justifies the monthly fee that I’m paying. Logistically, having even two private clients a month would pay for the office itself. Two people out of a city of several million doesn’t sound too bad. It just means that I need to be strategic and market appropriately. Maybe it’s time to step out and do something different. I don’t love the idea of working for other people for the rest of my life.
There’s something about the month of May that makes me reconsider my entire life. It’s like an internal check-in to evaluate how the year has gone up to this point. It’s also my half-birthday month–which is another reminder that I only have 6 months to go until I’m a year older. Last year around this time I was living in Atlanta and working in a job I didn’t really love. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and I’m happy to say that I’ve had the chance to travel a bit more because that was one of the things I resolved to do last May. Since then I’ve traveled to Las Vegas, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Spain, England, France, Italy, Monaco, and Malta. In addition to that I quit my job and moved across the country to California. It’s been eventful to say the least but I’ve learned a lot and have also acquired a new skill set. Working in a busy hospital and coordinating care will definitely have you learning a lot of new medical terminology that you didn’t learn in graduate school. I also decided to try my hand at teaching and am now facilitating a class of 16 graduate students in a weekly online class. It’s been challenging but fun so far. A lot of decisions were made last May and we’ll see what happens this year.
I’m always inspired by people who go after what they really want to do and who live life on their own terms. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with work. Don’t get me wrong I like helping people, but doing it constantly just drains me. And while I don’t have a bad attitude and I don’t snap at people when I’m tired, it’s just exhausting at times. Unfortunately human need isn’t confined to normal business hours and it’s hard for me to leave something without a sense of completeness. Working in the healthcare field adds another layer because there’s literally always something to be done. Even leaving after a long day of work means that there are still things that have to be done. Today I felt inspired as I received several phone calls from recruiters regarding open positions and I was strangely comforted as those phone calls reminded me that my job is definitely needed. I spoke to a colleague of mine who only takes one contract job per year and spends the rest of her time writing and doing talks on things that she’s passionate about. Having a purpose in life is so important and I think that it’s good to balance helping people with also taking care of yourself. I definitely need to do better.
I was really into the holidays when I was younger. Christmas meant carols,driving around to look at lights, and presents. It’s a time to be appreciative of what you have and remember that it can always be worse. I ran across an article this week that reminded me of my days working in hospice. You can read it here. Like the author, I have also had conversations with people who are terminally ill. Family has always been the number one topic. People don’t care about their houses or cars. They want to know that their families will be ok after they’re gone. It’s so important to appreciate the people around you who have made a positive contribution to your life. But also equally important to reach out to those who struggle during the season. While it’s a happy time for some, it’s also a living hell for others. Life can be unpredictable and messy but also beautiful. Happy Holidays
I ran into this article and found the title eye catching. You can read the article here. The term “mentally strong people” isn’t something that I’ve heard commonly used in any circles. The article had some great points and I liked number two the best, “They don’t give away their power.” Power is something that a lot of people have but never realize it or use it. Thus, they give their power away without knowing it. There’s books you can read about it (i.e. 48 Laws of Power). One way that I’ve seen people give up their power is by losing their cool in a situation that they don’t like. Stressful situations are never enjoyable but they get worse when people totally flip out over something that they can’t change in the moment. It’s at that point that you’ve lost control and it’s in those situations that people sometimes have to intervene and make choices for you. Coming from a background in mental health, that choice often meant putting someone in the hospital involuntarily. Needless to say, the article has some great points and I think that they all are true. But by the same token, it’s ok to not be mentally strong all the time and to seek assistance when you need it. Ignoring something doesn’t mean it goes away. Even if you are “mentally strong.”
One thing that has been nice about relocating across the country and starting something new is that I’ve had the chance to do more work in direct practice. A lot of this year was spent being a desk in my cubicle and while my work had an impact on a lot of people, I wasn’t working directly with clients. One thing that I’ve had a chance to see up close is the fragility of life and how quickly things can change–especially working in a hospital. Instead of being in the background I’m on the front lines answering questions, de-escalating situations, talking to concerned family members, and a list of other things that don’t full under the “medical” category. Each day is unpredictable and there are multiple interruptions and interventions that have to be made in addition to all the daily duties. There are multiple impromptu therapy sessions where I process varying emotions with clients that almost always consist of frustration, anger, and helplessness in some regard. There are constant adjustments to make and people to call or talk to in order to coordinate resources. But it’s made me more grateful for the things that are typically taken for granted, like the use of my limbs or the ability to move around without an assistive device. All that being said, carrying the emotional weight of people who are going through major life changes and have to adjust to a new way of living along with their families can be draining (to say the least). It’s definitely made me become more aware of the need for all social workers (including myself) to do something for self-care. I’ve had to pull some things out of my own toolbox to ensure that I’m able to be emotionally present for my clients. In a profession where burnout happens frequently, it’s imperative to take care of yourself so that you can competently and compassionately take care of others. You owe it to you.