growing up.

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm

When I was growing up I always had a picture in my mind of what my life was going to look like. “Most of life” to me during my teenage years was me in my twenties. It was during my twenties that everything exciting and meaningful was going to happen. I do not want to knock my twenties. They have been great thus far. At age 24 though I am starting to realize how much more of life I still have to go. I think that when I was younger I had this picture of me being settled into my life (marriage, family, career, ect) in a way that was permanent and clear cut. This is not how it has turned out to be though. Yes, I am married. We are not though planning on having children anytime soon though unless God tells us otherwise. We may start the adoption process at sometime in the nearer future, but only because it can take so long. I suppose the thing that has changed the most from the picture in my teenage head has been that of my career.

A lot of my friends have started careers. A couple of my friends are nurses. I know people that are teachers. A couple of my friends are pastors. A couple of friends have become missionaries. And then there is me…still in school and never having worked a job more serioius than Starbucks or a full-time job for that matter. Having worked simple jobs all my life, it has been sort of a odd revelation to me recently that I am on my way to starting a career. Ever since highschool ended there has almost been a nonstop flow of college. Going to school has become such the norm for me. I got used to the idea a couple of years ago that what I had thought I would be doing for a career in high school was not in any way what God was calling me to. In some ways this helped me stay in the school bubble because I knew what God did not want me to do, and was not sure what I was supposed to do except continue my education. And so I did…and when God called me to study social work off to graduate school I went.

This past year at my internship has begun to open my eyes to the fact that in a year I will be done with school and looking for a job. While I know that God has called me to also go to seminary I know that right now is not the right time and so into the world of work I will go. Does anyone else get a little scared about having to actually do what they are trained to do upon graduation? I guess I have been a student for so long that the concept of me actually being the one who does something versus learn about it is foreign to me.

Last week though all those foreign thoughts got pulled to the forefront of my mind and then anxiously shoved aside as I had no choice but to go about “doing” what I’m being trained to do… So I have been working with persons who are homeless for about eight months now. It has been hard and eye opening. I work as a case manager and try to get my clients connected with all services available to help them create stable lives for themselves. Throughout the past eight months I have had a minimum amount of exposure to crisis’s. Crisis’s happen fairly often at my agency in the medical clinic or mental health clinic but they rarely involve me. So far the closest I have come to crisis was a woman who had been off her meds for a few days and was starting to decompensate, and two men who suffered from depression and were struggling…in each of  these cases though I had assistance and for the most part I never had to make any final decisions…and then there was last Wednesday.

Every morning when you walk into the agency the front entrance is filled with persons waiting to do an intake, use the laundry and shower, or see one of the health clinics. Its hard to notice everyone in there because there are always so many faces. I said good morning and started for the stairs when one of my coworkers stopped me and pointed at a woman. I recognized from the previous week when we had done an intake together. She was crying. “She wants to see you” they told me. I didn’t even remember her name. I told her to give me a few minutes and then raced upstairs to look up her file and importantly her name. One of my coworkers from the job training department followed me up. She explained to me that the woman had come in that morning asking for me and had proceeded to tell the front desk workers that she was going to kill herself. She went on to say she was going to do it at our agency. Mental health was called and after talking with her they decided that since she knew me that it would be best if she waited for me. I understand this. They were under the impression that I had a working relationship with the woman, which is always desirable in a crisis. However from my point of view the words “BUT I’M JUST AN INTERN” were screaming through my head.

It is worth mentioning that my supervisor was not in that morning. The head of our mental health clinic talked to me for a few minutes giving me reminders and then told me he was leaving for a couple of hours but would have someone followup with me afterwards. “WHAT?”

My coworker offered to stay with me and I gladly accepted. I went downstairs and brought my client up. As we walked towards my office I remember praying for God to give me the right words to say. We began to talk.  I asked her what was going on. She sobbed and talked about how she was tired of being alone. She was alone in the world. She was sleeping on the street. She was cold and she was tired. It was heartbreaking. Loneliness is one of the most devastating things I have ever seen. I heard the questions I have been trained to ask coming out of my mouth. With each question came a response which would lead to other questions. I told her that I had heard she was talking about suicide. She said she was. I asked her if this was something she had thought about before. It was. “Have you ever attempted suicide before?” No. “Well can you tell me a little bit more about how you are feeling this time?” and then of course “Do you have any sort of plan for how you would commit suicide?” She did.

While anytime a person is suicidal is a big deal; it is always a lot more complicated if the person does not want to go to the hospital. I was lucky because my client was willing to go. In fact I think she was relieved to go. I called for an ambulance. They asked me questions that reminded me how much I still have to learn. I had forgotten to ask her whether or not she had weapons or pills on her. My coworker and I gave her something to eat and drink and then worked to get her thinking towards the future. We tried to draw out any hope we could find. We worked to show her that she mattered and was not alone. When it was all said and done we gave her a hug and walked her to the ambulance.

I hope she has gotten the help she needs. I hope she has had a warm bed to sleep in. I hope she is seeing someone and perhaps receiving any medication she needs. When it was all over I was in a daze. Someone from mental health did follow up with me . After talking for awhile I started crying and I said something about how I felt replied that I sounded angry. He was right. I was. I was angry at my agency allowing me to handle the situation by myself. Obviously my coworker stayed with me but neither or us had any real crisis experience. I was angry for the casual way one of the other case managers handled the situation when I asked her to be the client’s case manager. I was angry that I could not reach my supervisor over the phone. I was angry at how unprepared I felt.

In the days following last Wednesday I have thought a lot about what happened. I have thought about the fact that I was allowed to see the client by myself. While supervision is always needed I believe, I have started wondering if the reason everyone seemed so nonchalant about me seeing a client who is suicidal is simply because it was expected that I could handle it. That it is something that as a social worker I can handle. I guess I hope that they would not have sent me in there if they did not think I could see the client . The thought kindof terrifies me though because I still feel inept to handle something so serious. I’ve started realizing though that I am not just entering a career next year after I graduate…I am both learning and practicing right now. The word “practicing” seems like a cruel joke when your “practice” is with someone who looks at you and says they want to kill themselves. I don’t know. I just don’t know. It is just still hard for my mind to process that I am starting a career where I am entrusted with things like this that scare me.

I suppose the work of the kingdom is always going to be a little scary though in that it involves people and all the things they experience either good or bad. Needless to say this is not where I would have envisioned myself years ago. It is funny though because just now as I sat here writing I remembered one night I spent at church as a kid of probably about age ten. Twelve at the most. I remember that I went up for an altar call and one of the older youth leaders came and prayed over me. I do not remember everything she said but the gist was that she felt one day I would work with people who were struggling. That I would counsel them. It is pretty incredible and humbling when you realize that God really does have a purpose for your life…and then when you follow it you will be exactly where you need to be even when you don’t realize it…and that he/she will help you remember this when you are doing something so simple as writing a blog. huh. crazy.


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