When I started writing this blog, I stated in a ‘musing’ that I started my career as a writer and somehow ended up a therapist. There are a lot of people that would see the two as very different things; however, my love of each lies within the fact that each is its own way of giving voice or assisting someone to voice something. I learned early on that people and circumstances (the world essentially) will try to silence a voice (many times for most) and there is nothing more devastating or frustrating to me than an individual who has given up their voice or doesn’t feel worthy of their voice, for whatever reason. I often write from perspectives of voices that I feel have been silenced, in hope, that someone will read it, hear it, and recognize similar situations when they present themselves in real life. The truth is nobody can take away our voice. The decision to let it go is entirely our own; however, anyone will tell you that if you scream enough and nobody hears, you’ll stop. When I feel defeated or I feel like my voice is just too hoarse to make a sound because of all the noise I’ve been making to be heard, I’m learning these are the times when I need to be loud. As a therapist, I can’t tell you how much noise I have to make to get someone to hear me and find their voice or to fight systems that are built to suppress people’s voices. It’s exhausting. The number of times someone re-finds that voice or finds it for the first time, are far and few between. There are more days I leave work feeling like I lost the battle versus won it. People often make comments (often when their defenses are in high gear) like, ‘you don’t care. It’s your job to care. It doesn’t matter to you because you’re here to get paid.” They used to make me angry, as any therapist/social worker will tell you, we probably make about what a teacher makes with our Master’s Degrees and all our post Master’s Degree hours, but I see it now as what it is, a defense. Where these comments once brought on anger, they now make me sad. As a therapist, my hour with a client does not end when they leave. Yes, there’s the paperwork, which is time consuming, but my clients go home with me. After thirteen years of so of doing this, my first clients still show up long after discharge. The time I spend researching new ways to approach something because I want so badly for the client to find their victory, the comments that come up in conversation where I am silently reminded of something unique to a past client, the wondering after discharge, “Is so and so alright?” Each client I’ve seen becomes a part of me, whether it was what would be called a ‘successful treatment outcome,’ or not. The thing I did not learn in school is how the stories, the lifestyle, would change me, for better and worse. I do know people have their own reasons for going into a ‘helping profession.’ It seemed interesting to me at first, I think, because I loved the stories. It’s changed over time. The truth is, I believe, most people in the helping professions could tell you about a time when being in a ‘helping profession,’ saved their own life. The majority of poems I write are not autobiographical. They might contain elements of some truth, but they’re not my story. The poem I share today is really my story. I am sharing it today in honor of all the individuals in the helping profession who give up parts of themselves every day for others. This might be missing a holiday with family, it might be the distraction you carry throughout an evening with loved ones because you’re really still with your patient and the events of the day. It’s a lot of things. It also is a thank you to the patients because, whether they know it or not, they are changing us and sometimes helping us without really knowing they’re doing it. I wrote this poem in a time when I was dealing with an enormous amount of grief and loss. During that time, being away from my reality, my own feelings, being allowed to focus on something other than me, saved me. So, this is to the patients who allowed me to assist them in trying to find their way, when I had totally lost mine.
I did not yet have the interior resources to dream.
Our bodies often decide to betray us when our minds are lost.
I was living by the beeper. Called to the hospital
In the middle of the night, to hold yet another broken spirit.
As I drive the stars seem to be shrieking,
People go crazy most of the time out of fear of being broken.
In my season of pushing those who were the sweetest to me away-
All I could do was scream but no sound ever pushed through my lips.
Somehow I allowed everything to need me,
and pushed everything I needed out of sight.
Perhaps it was easier being the needed one, the healer,
The one who never had to look both ways.
I was struck by a semi truck of sadness.
In a ruined body, I was determined not to let anyone see my soul had
Shattered in the same way my leg did earlier in the fall.
In those hospital halls, cold and sterile,
There was no way of knowing what I would see tomorrow.
It might be an overdose, it might be an aborted soul,
It might be me dressed in different skin and circumstance.
When they couldn’t dress, I put their hands through their clothes.
When they couldn’t bathe, I sat in the putrid smell,
And when they couldn’t speak of the violent acts that spoke for them,
I lay myself down like a stream and contained the pouring rain.
In the shortened days of nights grown long,
I lay in a dungeon of my own undoing
Scared and brittle as a husk in a later autumn wind.
Clinging to that beeper,
Because I needed to know that someone would need me again
Like cheap hooker, I needed to hold onto the idea I had something to give
Because when I pinched my skin
I knew for sure I was not there.