Wednesday, 15 September 2010

what will you do with your wellness?

well it wasn't all that dramatic really, quitting work, i'll be going back as an occasional fill-in worker, and i did this for the first time yesterday. mmph. it's weird, seeing the job after 10 weeks away.

it seemed so hectic, although i only saw two 'clients'. one was the ideal, heartwarming, afternoon session. she had had some support from us before, she was now ready to leave. she had her information, she had her plan. we talked it through, though she had it all sorted and didn't need me to validate it. i wished her luck and off she went. i sighed inside, feeling lucky to be able to come back and get paid to do this, thinking ah... this is a nice job.

the second was a woman i've talked to before on the phone. things are better for her now than then. she has been through extreme and prolonged abuse and is very traumatised. in some ways she's kind of 'difficult to work with' because of the trauma. if she's not happy with the service she goes on about it. she's trying to get her needs met after a childhood, and a decade in adulthood, of having her needs obliterated. when she first came yesterday, and was angry about the service, i was alarmed for my safety for about the third time in all the years i've worked for the service. i realised i'd forgotten to unlock the other door to the room that i'm supposed to use to get out if necessary - the same thing had happened once before and i'd been trapped in the same room with an angry client shouting in my face.

but she soon calmed down and i realised i'd overreacted, i guess i'm out of practice having been away. she stayed and talked for ages. she mentioned that another service in the town had just been in touch again, many months after their first phonecall, and she'd had to tell her story all over again, to yet another professional. i remembered, though i didn't feel i should tell the woman, that the service had said they couldn't visit her until they had done their risk assessment, due to this woman having mental health issues. and i thought how totally the other service would be freaking out now, as she's standing up in room with only one unlocked door, being angry, and i'm a lone worker. the other service would not only have unlocked the damn door, they would send two workers at once, and they haven't even agreed to meet the woman yet due to feeling she's a risk to them and need to do some massive form over the phone to see whether she's too crazy. and in the mean time who works with these crazy women? they are 'crazy' because that's what happens when you are abused, abuse is a crazy thing to happen. it's so important to work with the crazy women! and very few people are really very mad if you listen and try to see where they're coming from and what they need. anyway, i'm glad my service hasn't got itself together yet to the extent that it excludes 'crazy' women. i mean, if i told my manager about this session, she'd want to 'put in place measures for workers' protection' but she's not got around to it, thank goodness.

i really enjoyed the session and i felt good that the woman was staying and finding it useful and that i had the knowledge to refer her to services and groups and books and other things that can help her. she didn't want to access mental health services for PTSD in case she was misdiagnosed and pathologised and i thought this was very wise. i feel desperate for women i work with who are so traumatised to access support for this but it is now impossible without sending them for a general mental health assessment - this freaks me out for exactly the reason this woman was wary of it. people act all kinds of crazy following trauma, and can then get diagnosed with all kinds of disorders, when maybe all they need is acknowledgement that they've been abused, support to safely remember what's happened, for the opposite of the traumatising things to start happening (for example, for their needs to start being met), and support to understand their 'crazy' symptoms as normal and natural responses to abuse so they are less overwhelming. (hey, read especially Judith Herman and perhaps also Dorothy Rowe if yr interested in this stuff)

so yeah and then last night after work i didn't know what to do with myself. i was carrying trauma, already, after only one proper session at work. i feel better this morning, writing, and maybe if i could make myself debrief religiously every time i might not get fucked up. dammit, i love this work. and i know i have a lot to give. but last night i was fighting with myself thinking it's fucking you up, you're traumatised by proxy. and then i was thinking well the understandable thing to do would be to stop doing this work. but then it really does feel like it's my role in life, it's what i do, it's what i'm good at, it's what i've studied and am fascinated by, i can't stop now. and anyway, what right do i have to hole myself up away from trauma? as someone who has been through no seriously traumatising experiences, and a very low amount of the regular, in-society traumas, who carries a huge amount of non-traumatised privilege, i am protecting myself from trauma at the expense of more traumatised people, because i can, and this is as unacceptable as protecting any other kind of privilege.

if i open up my energy to people and support them in the healthiest possible way (which i'm committed to figuring out) then this goes a tiny way to redistributing trauma. i haven't seen this talked about before but it's very imporant to me. we challenge our right to comfort at others' expense, but often defend our decision to turn one's back on trauma and traumatised people - i haven't seen a discussion of privilege in the discourse around supporting. of course i'm not arguing that i should go out and try to get myself mentally scarred for the sake of it. no, what i mean is - if i can be useful with the extra energy that i don't have to spend dealing with nightmares, flashbacks, anger, panic attacks and so on, then i should be! what am i going to do with my wellness? how can i use my wellness most usefully, and maximise it, in order to maximise the wellness of others?

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