One post in the entire month of February? I know, right?! The truth is, I've been pretty checked out of everything. I tell most people that what I'm in right now is a "funk"; more accurately, I'm in the midst of a depressive episode.
I've suffered from major depressive disorder most of my life, sprinkled with bits of generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress. I've been in and out of therapy for what feels like forever, and up until about a year ago, I could have sworn the stuff would never work for me. Fortunately I am in treatment, and I have a rad therapist. Which brings me to wonder, why in the hell did I decide to be a therapist?
At NYU, we had a presentation that kicked off our professional development day, and a few of the speakers touched on the topic of secondary trauma. It got me thinking a lot about how I've been processing stress. My placement aside, I've been experiencing a lot of loss in my personal life. That coupled with the stories I have to hear and process at work--it's a lot for me to handle being only 5 months into this gig. It makes perfect sense too, because as studies have shown, listening to traumatic stories will cause trauma for the listener--or secondary trauma.
For the month of February, I really disconnected from a lot of this social work stuff. It's not to say I've been up to nothing--more on that later. I really need a chance to recharge my batteries, to get myself up and running again post-burn out. This whole situation though has me wondering--if I am struggling this month during grad school, what is my career going to be like? How can I possibly hold down a job? How can I ethically allow my patients to count on me when I could at any moment spiral into another depressive episode and need to take this time to recharge? Recharging and time away from things is absolutely vital for my depression. How do I prepare my clients for this without causing doubt in their minds about quality of treatment or going a little deep in the self-disclosure wing?
Sometimes I wonder, maybe I shouldn't be a social worker.
But the reality is, there isn't much else I can do. First, I would be doing social worky type of work regardless of whether or not I was a social worker. At least this way I can get paid for it. Secondly, what field besides social work is going to be as accommodating to mental illness? Can you see me walking up to an investment banker boss and saying "Yo boss, I have this disability that you can't see, and I swear I'm not lazy, but I really need some time off to get my shit together." Oh hell no! I'd be fired on the spot. I won't even get into right now about how being fat complicates my depression in so many ways. In the health advocacy and social work scene, my disability, while sometimes misunderstood, is still respected. Most everywhere I've dealt with this has been willing to work something out. So I guess, really, I'm in the best possible spot.
That doesn't mean I am going to stop thinking about these issues. Dealing with your own mental health issues as a social worker I think is a really unique thing. I am really fascinated about how to best approach this with client relationships. Do any of you have experience with this sort of thing? How did you approach it? If you don't have experience with this necessarily, how do you approach needing to temporarily break a client relationship, due to health issues or a death in the family or anything that will cause you to be away for some time? How do you do that without damaging the relationship?