“Impossible” → Lyla Foy
“Stay Alive” → Jose Gonzalez
Several months ago, I had an “I am Woman, hear me roar!” moment. I finally landed a “big girl” job (which to me, personally means that I was finally out of the Customer Service/Sales circuit and into something within my future career field – English Education). I was hired at an organization as a Support Specialist, which I was initially told is essentially a Teaching Assistant for kids with disabilities and behavioral issues.
I. WAS. ECSTATIC. I was so proud of myself, which is a rare feeling for me. I felt like I was worth something, and other people noticed. I felt accomplished.
After a couple months I began mainly working in the Adult Program, mostly in building and mostly with people with Autism, but also a few community clients with Depression and PTSD. I quickly began to realize this was not the job that was initially described to me.
One client is Non-Verbal and can get instantly upset seemingly out of nowhere. I have been screamed at and slapped in the face several times. It is sometimes hard to remember she is upset and can’t communicate what she wants or needs, which surely causes more frustration, and that the lashing out is not personal, even though it stings physically and emotionally.
Another client has anger issues and in order to work with him one on one, you have to be CPI trained (trained to put him in holds, not if, but when he becomes violent).
Another client, a community person, is homeless and jobless and it is my job to essentially be his life coach and keep him moving forward and on track. Which is very difficult when he wants to drink himself to death.
Several other clients, over the age of 18, some with Autism or MS or both, are quite cognitive and verbal, but cannot toilet themselves. Which is….well….yeah…
And yet another, a young girl entering her Senior year in High School suffering from ADD, PTSD and Anxiety, so naïve, so vulnerable, so sweet.
All I ever wanted to do when applying for and accepting this position, was to teach someone something. To make a difference in at least one person’s life. To be a constant. A mentor. To help shape a life and see it grow and succeed. To learn something myself.
There have been ups and downs, progress and backtracking for all. But after one particular week of several slaps in the face from one, another receiving death threats and needing to be reported for possible suicide watch, another soiling herself at the park and then having to get into my car, and yet another, needing me to report to Child Protective Services for possible in home abuse, I began to go into mental breakdown mode. Was this the rough and tough real world my parents always told me about but I never believed existed?
I felt lost. Like I was a failure. I felt heartbroken for not being able to help and save everyone. I let them all down, I let my supervisor and fellow employees down, and I let myself down.
The stress continued to build and after weeks of debilitating anxiety attacks, severe depression, feeling as if I can’t do a thing right and I am not helping anyone, today that changed.
Upon leaving I had a client (the homeless, jobless, “drink himself to death” client) tell me I “have been a Godsend” and that he “wouldn’t have been able to go on had I not been there to help the way I have.”
Never miss an opportunity to tell someone how you appreciate them. Even the tiniest of compliments can pull someone back to a happy reality. And even if you feel like you aren’t making a difference, if you truly care, then you are.
Do good. Be good. Spread the love.
And that folks, is my lesson of the day.