I Chose This.

Social work school is trying to kill me. Actually, I think it’s out to get me and all my classmates. Our hair is turning grey and falling out. Toe nails come off. We lose weight; we gain weight. We get migraines. Some of us get Shingles. Others go to the hospital because we think we’re dying, but really we’re just having a somatic panic attack.

I’ve talked to other friends who have gone through advanced degree programs and while they share the same feelings of anxiousness, overwhelming pressure, waning confidence, and sleep deprivation, they don’t recall themselves or their classmates experiencing such physical manifestations of their stress. My classmates and I have also had many in-depth discussions about why our program makes us feel so horrible about ourselves. I think the main problem is that you have to think about yourself too much.

Take this semester, for example, when my clinical course work focuses heavily on trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. This coincides with my field placement, which houses clients who not only go through the trauma of homelessness, but have experienced multiple traumatic events. In my own life, I’ve experienced two traumatic losses: my brother was killed by a drunk driver when I was 17 and my mom, who dealt with mental health issues pretty much her whole life, committed suicide when I was 25. Fine. That’s the reality of my life,, and I’ve done my best to make sure those things don’t prevent me from moving forward. But now, I go to field, immersed in trauma-informed care, and all of these thoughts and feelings that I was sure I’d moved past resurface. Then I go home and read for class about trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Then I write for class about trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Then I go to class to discuss trauma, loss, and mental health disorders. Hearing these personal topics discussed in a detached, clinical way sometimes makes me feel a little sick and I can feel my composure dissolve. I think about walking out of class. On rare occasions, I do walk out.

Staff and faculty lecture my classmates and I frequently about self-care. This concept is such a joke to me. Since we have course work in addition to our field work, we don’t have an plethora of opportunities to distract ourselves or take naps. We’re always thinking about what we’ve seen and experienced. We think about how things make our clients feel; how it makes us feel; how our clients’ feelings make us feel; how our feelings make our clients feel. Too many feelings; not enough breaks.

I love what I do. I can’t see myself in any other field, but I do struggle sometimes with the fact the I’ve chosen to pursue work that is often very painful and doesn’t always warrant great feelings of success. Of course, after graduation and I’m back in the work force, I will have the opportunity to go home at the end of the day and disconnect without feeling neglectful of other responsibilities. I know I can make it until May; I’d just like to make sure my toenails don’t fall off in the meantime.

  1. November 17, 2011 at 22:23

    You will absolutely make it to May and beyond. Just remember to breath, and do judo, and eat, and write, and share and ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. And I’ll be over here praying for you. (I’ll bet I’m not the only one) ❤

    • November 17, 2011 at 22:35

      Thanks, Brandi. As struggle with my own limitations, I am understanding more and more that I need to reach out to all the amazing people in my life. A lot of the times, we go through similar things and chose to deal with them alone instead of relying on each other.

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