Life and Work, Work and Life… lasting effects of the work you do

I went to a workshop recently to learn about Trauma Exposure Response and the effects of secondary trauma on people who work with trauma victims. The speaker was Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. I saw her TED talk, so I had a little insight as to what the workshop would cover but was pleasantly surprised at the knowledge I gained and the feelings it brought out of me and others in attendance.

While working in mental health/ social services for 15 years, and dealing with my own stress, family conflict, grief/loss, etc. concurrently, I know that life and the type of work I have done are not easy. I have had good days and bad days, success, failures, internal conflicts and personal conflicts, concerns about safety, sadness about how I tried to help someone which did not work out,  and I have seen substance abuse, child abuse, the list is endless. I realize that I have faired much better than other field workers and yet the job and life take their toll all the same. You and I and others have to figure out have to live life while addressing theses issues with and for others on a daily basis.

A few topics came up during the course of the workshop which are not in my cup of tea, but I kept an open mind and I am glad to draw from the knowledge well at any time. I am sure that there are some differing world views, but I chose to focus on why I was at the workshop and to learn how I can get back on track and feel better.  I realized that I spend more time than I should focusing on what isn’t and how I wish it would be. I have learned about being mindful, concepts of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (including Radical Acceptance), stress management, anger management, the five stages of change, and more. I have tried each of them and other coping methods, including exercise, but understanding how everything fits together and leaves long-lasting effects was powerful. Knowing that you need to take a brief walk at work is not the same as making a plan to manage your stress and exposure to trauma so you can live and work in healthy ways. I am now aware of this, and have a long way to go toward fixing, reconciling, and mending. My first step is to read Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” , and the second step is to make some healthy changes, including regular exercise and mindfulness. So far, I am enjoying the book and working to implement Laura’s suggestions.

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

Long day… Expect the unexpected

I went to work today, had a list of tasks to complete, and whoa! Things went a little different than I expected. Without the specifics of my job, let’s just say that you learn to expected the unexpected when you work in social services/mental health but sometimes that is not enough.
I was tasked with writing a discharge letter to a complex, non-compliant client that I have worked with for a year… not fun. I am a professional and I try to remain somewhat detached but I don’t like hurting someone, regardless. I was also tasked with helping a team member’s client get to treatment, which felt good but it was because my team members were dealing with an unfortunate turn of events. Such is life… and a reminder not to take life for granted.

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken…

Growing up, I remember my Dad saying, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I looked up the origins of this saying, and found that it was featured in a cartoon a long time ago, that has been attributed to John Buchan, a Scottish novelist, unionist and Canadian politician, and that it has been used as song lyrics, first by Maurice Chevalier and later by the Tragically Hip. No matter where my Dad got it from, I can relate to it and the words have stuck with me.

courtesy of

I have worked in social services in some variety for the past 15 years, with youth, family, elderly, homeless, mentally ill and drug addicted people. As I mentioned in a previous post, I like helping people whether I am at work or among friends. This does not mean that my job(s) has been easy, that I have not gone through burnout, and that I don’t have days when I fantasize about winning the lottery and walking away from the world of social services, and work, forever. I try to have more good days than bad, I do the best I can to do my job, and I try to not bring others’ problems home with me, which is a lot easier than it used to be. I have a set schedule now rather than a mostly fluid schedule, which means I am usually done with work at a certain time, but my day lacks flexibility. I don’t have to take phone calls once I am off the clock, which fluctuated when I scheduled my own appointments and I was trying to get in touch with working parents.

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

Some days I find it hard to get up and go to work to deal with others’ problems and dysfunctions while I am dealing with stress and dysfunctions in my life and coupled with the reality that life is not getting better or easier for most people, me included.  I struggle with the limited time I have in the evening and on weekends to relax and do things that keep me sane, after I help Boyfriend with daily apartment tasks, such as dishes, cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, playing with the cat, and getting enough sleep. Exercise, writing, watching baseball, talking with family/friends and playing tennis are things that I enjoy. The tough thing is that if I take time to write, I am probably not going to exercise, play tennis or do much else, especially during the evening. It’s a juggling act for me, and I know this sounds like nothing for someone who also has kids, but this is enough for me. On good days, I feel like I can do what I need to do, I relish in getting all of my home and work tasks done and I believe that things will, and can, get better.

I doubt that I am the only one who feels this way. Life can be great and yet we all have days when we not only weaken but we want to hide under the covers and not come out. I find strength in the support I get from Boyfriend, who has a bad back and other injuries that ail him, but he never complains. I find strength in our one-year old cat who loves us and brings us her toy mice in the night, and in the clients who are truly grateful for my assistance. I find strength in my ability to get up, even when I don’t want to so I can fulfill my responsibilities. “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken,” and I try my best to keep going.

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell