Thursday, November 13, 2008
I work late every other Monday in order to provide support to a patient's mother and 2 children. This is a family that is facing a myriad of difficulties, one of which being the teenage son has just been diagnosed with severe OCD. This is a family that definitely benefits from my visits and I'm glad that I can support them. This past Monday I met with the daughter first and then had a lengthy visit with her grandmother "Marge." Marge talked about having to be strong for everyone else and reaching her breaking point that day. She finally cried for the first time that she can remember in a long time. It was such a privilege to be there for her in that moment, letting her know that it is normal to feel the way she feels and to affirm that she is strong in spite of what she views as weakness. As I was leaving, Marge thanked me for visiting, saying she was glad that she had someone that could be strong for her. Then she said, "You have such a hard job being there for everyone else. Do you have people who are there for you?" This is not the first time a patient or family member has asked me or the other social workers this question but for some reason it really resonated with me this time. I reassured her that I did have people there for me but as I left the house I wondered if that was true. My stock answer when people ask me how I can do my job is that I pray a lot...and that's true. My coworkers and I also lean heavily on each other, especially since we don't get much support from our administration. If not for my amazing coworkers, I'm not sure any of us could do our jobs! It helps that we have some pretty special patients and families too but knowing that my coworkers are with me in the trenches goes a long way. I know I have their support but I realized as I left Marge's house that I don't share my work burdens with many people in my personal life. Yes, sometimes I grumble about my administration but rarely do I talk about my professional struggles, the moments where I question my calling or wrestle with the loss of a favorite patient. My perception must be that my friends and family wouldn't understand, possibly because most of them claim they could never work in hospice. This doesn't mean they don't care about what I do but I must believe that they could never understand. That's not fair to them or to me. Work occupies the biggest chunk of my week. It's time that I started to share my work struggles and triumphs, beyond this blog, with the people who love me. I will never tell Marge that her innocent question made me think but I hope that I can look back on this moment and realize that this was when I started to be more open and vulnerable regarding my work struggles with my inner circle.