Sunday, February 21, 2016

Be Kind

I often say that being a social worker is to have your heart broken daily. We see people who are in pain and who are struggling for things that most people take for granted. You learn to value even the small triumphs and, if you have empathy, you share the pain of individuals that are essentially strangers.

Having an overly developed ability to compartmentalize, I tend to be able to snap back pretty quickly, and carry on, even after having a woman cry to me about horrific abuse that she'd kept hidden for decades, but is finally reaching out for help, or whatever other scenario arises at that moment. Sometimes, though, there are cases that are familiar pain. Situations where you don't have to empathize to understand the pain, you just have to remember. Those are difficult.

Don't get me wrong, having endured the struggle means being better equipped to help, but those cases stay with you longer. Those are the tears you never forget, the people you continue to think about and pray for months, and even years, later.

Last week, I had one of those heartbreaking cases. Obviously, I can't disclose the details, but it certainly reminded me that some losses are felt forever, at least in some form.

If that had been the only hurdle, last week, it would've been manageable. Naturally, my life isn't that simple, and it was combined with an overly extended schedule (more so than usual) and some pretty significant stresses. The primary of which being meeting with my daughters' therapist to review Beautiful's treatment plan.

Due to the way things have progressed with visits with Wasband, and her increased anxiety, she had done an anxiety and depression assessment. Keep in mind, this had been done, previously, with no cause for concern. This time, though, she is officially getting an anxiety diagnosis and is showing as moderately depressed. This is sudden, and has only developed in recent months. When discussing all of these things, with her therapist, it always seems to come back to her dad (which is, of course, why he's now ordered to complete counseling but has so far not even scheduled it).

I cannot overstate how devastating it was to see that my previously well adjusted, happy daughter now reports that she "often" wishes she were dead. My heart hurts for her. I'm angry at her father for his contribution to this, and the fact that he doesn't seem to care. I believe that, if he can't prioritize the needs of his kids, when needed, he should just leave them alone; because they felt much more stable and were better adjusted when he was staying away. But I try not to think about that, because I don't want to invest energy into being angry.

In any event, I kept it together, all week, and saved my meltdown for Friday night. I let the kids fall asleep in front of a movie so that they wouldn't know I was crying in my room. When friends texted to chat, I politely told them that I didn't want to talk and they left me alone.

The next morning, I woke to a text that said, "Hope you're alive". I was still feeling some way, so I just said "I'm alive" before closing my eyes again. Then came the response "Good. I have had many a dark night. It's good to survive those." Wow. I hadn't even realized my response the previous night would cause concern, despite how out of character it is for me. I guess it never occurred to me that people worry about me.

I thanked my friend for checking on me, as I really hadn't realized how "not myself" I had been. In fact, I thought I had hid the pain pretty well, so I was surprised when it was seen as a red flag.

Don't get me wrong, I was not suicidal by any means, but my friend couldn't be sure so reached out. I remember sending that exact "hope you're alive" message to this same friend a couple years ago, after more than a couple sleepless nights, trying to talk through it, after my friend expressing to me the hopelessness that those who've struggled with suicidal ideations are all too familiar with. Thankfully, my friend has survived all those nights, and was still around to check on me. I am grateful for the existence of each person in my life. You ALL matter, and your life IS important.

It made me think of all the times, over the years that I'd done the same thing for friends, and even people I barely know. And I'm eternally grateful for the times people have been there for me, when j desperately needed it. Because, when you see someone drowning, you throw the life preserver that's sitting there, on deck. Maybe you won't be able to save them...but there's a much better chance than if you don't try at all.

So I made this post on my personal FaceBook, Saturday morning:
There have been many times I've wished I could drop everything & travel across the state or country, to be with a friend who needed somebody. Usually, I cannot, so I do what I can & listen.

There have been many sleepless nights, over the years, spent on phone calls or texting folks who were struggling, but I always wonder if I helped at all. But, this morning, I got a text from one of those friends, checking on Me & I realize how much it can matter just to have someone be grateful for your existence.

So I want to remind people that you can make a difference in the lives of other. Everyone has struggles, but the world is a much better place when we look for ways to help others with their burdens.

Even if you don't know how to help someone with whatever they're going through, just listen. Be there. Without judgement. Without religious guilt/advice. Just listen & let them know that they matter.

Honestly, I didn't expect anyone to read such a long social media post, but I wanted to put it out there, just in case.

As it turned out, I had multiple people thank me, and one tell me that it led to the mending of a previously estranged relationship. So, I'm glad I put it out there.

And now I will make the same request of everyone who reads this. Please, take time to check on those you care about. If you see a red flag, say something. Look for ways to help others in any way possible, even if it's only by being there to listen.

**In case you're worried, I am fine. I followed the advice I once got from a wise friend. Take one night to feel sorry for yourself and meltdown. The next day, though, get up and figure out which direction to go, to move forward. And, so I did. I feel better, now, thanks to the kindness of my friends, and feel like I can, once again, give strength to others.

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