Monday, June 30, 2008

the benifits of boundaries

I recently had a client come into detox who I really liked. I like most of my clients, but this client was different, I could totally have been friends with her if we'd met in a different context. We're close in age, live very near each other, frequent the same places, are in similar income brackets, similar levels of education etc...

It was an interesting experience, because I got to see how beneficial good professional boundaries are. On a slow night in detox I sat down at a table with a few clients making beaded jewelry to try and talk to them in a non threatening context. The others cleared out and the client and I wound up having a really great talk. It started on the outer level and we were probably contributing about equally to the conversation. Suddenly it occurred to me; "shut up, it's about her". Best advice I could give myself. After I started really listening, reflecting, and asking some open ended questions the conversation began to move from the outer level to an inner level and we were able to talk about some deeper stuff. In fact, she came and found me in the office to talk more later, bringing up some other personal stuff. It was a really great reminder of paying attention to context and really listening.

It also made me think about my job. I spend a lot of time doing laundry, cleaning IPDA cells, and driving people around, oh, and I wash I lot of dishes. Further, a lot of my clients are pretty much permanent residents of the shelter and have no current desire to change. I have skills to help people make changes. I took a whole bunch of counseling classes as part of my BSW and while I use my "attending behaviours" all the time, I rarely get to use much theory working in the environment I do (I mean, theory is part of everything, but not). I like what I do. I like that I'm comfortable there. I just know that I could do so much more. Maybe that's a bad way to look at it though. Maybe I just need to figure out a way to use my gifts and skills with this population I so much want to work with. Thoughts for a day when I've had more sleep...

more about sleep (or lack there of)

I realized that I have more blogs labeled "sleep" then I do "social work" in my blog about social work... interesting. I wonder if there's a hidden meaning there.

In any case, my schedule is pure evil for the next week. It started Friday. I did street ministry starting at 6PM and then worked from 11:30-8:00AM. Then Saturday 11:30-8AM Sunday morning. Then church, then a 1 hour nap and then back to work for 3:30PM - midnight. Bah. I now have two days off though, which is very needed after being at work 17 out of 24 hours and only getting an hours sleep in between two eight hour shifts. Then starting Wednesday I work Day, Night, Evening (again with only 7.5 hours between my shifts), Evening, Night. Oh, and first evening there, I booked off, so I could be at street ministry. Yeah right apparently. I called and complained, but if there's no one else to work it...

Oh well. The other staff are really supportive, well, some of them, and I'm young, lol, I should bounce back. My stomach is not too happy with me today though, so hopefully it gets a little more normal feeling tomorrow.

the end.

Friday, June 27, 2008

sleepy little social worker

With my job the way it is, my doctor has given me permission to sleep as much as I want. Or well, I was kinda worried about just how much I've been sleeping, and she said it was okay, just sleep when I need to.

The past two weeks, I've had a heck of a time dragging myself out of bed, no matter what time I'm trying to get up for. I just don't want to wake up, and then despite the fact that I'm tired, I can't sleep. High anxiety, random hyperness, you name it, I have it. Yesterday and today were my "weekend", and now somehow my body wants to sleep properly.

I'm working nights starting tomorrow, for at least two days in a row, so I need to be on a night schedule. I tried to stay up late last night, and only made it till 3AM. I woke up at noon. Which is nine hours sleep, but lately I've been having to pry myself off the pillow at 11:30. It's only just after midnight now, and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open. Bah. I REALLY need to sleep all day tomorrow. I need to sleep till like 3 or 4, because i have street ministry at six and then work at 11:30. If I wake up before 9, I'll wind up being up for 24 hours straight, and I just don't like doing that.

So here's to me staying up till sunrise! (yeah right).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm a what what worker?

I had a job interview a week ago for a full time nights position as a crisis worker at the shelter where I work. The interviewer asked me how it fit with my overall plan as a professional. I gave him a quick answer about how I'd be there for at least a year, and how I wanted to get my MSW at some point, but it got me thinking about what exactly a social worker is and whether I'm doing "it" or not.

Most people think of social workers as worker in Child Welfare (DCFS, CFS, CAS etc). Other people think of social assistance or housing when they first hear "social worker". In fact, while social workers do those things, they also work in hospitals, clinics, geriatrics, schools, counseling centers, crisis lines, large companies, health care services, insurance agency, shelters, churches, and well, pretty much everywhere. Social workers are often part of multidisciplinary teams working in palliative care, aging, and mental health as well as education. As a student I learned as much from the psych nurses and occupational therapists on our team as the social workers, if not more, about working with serious and persistent mental illness.

I tend to think that social work is more of an attitude then a profession title. When I did a practicum in mental health, the nurses, occupational therapists, and support workers were all "social workers". Some people in the profession would get upset with me saying this, but I believe it to be true.

Social workers are people who look at situations holistically. We consider the whole person, the biological, the psychological, the social and the spiritual. We are people who realize that problems do not exist in isolation. It's very important to consider a persons entire "system" when looking at the health and mental health. Whereas some people see health as simply biological, or depression as a person struggle, social workers work to see the entire picture and all the factors that contribute to personal well being. Social workers go beyond the person and pay attention to the political and systemic issues at work in situations. We advocate for social justice and policy change. Social workers are advocates. We help client's work their way through society's systems, to understand, and to have their rights fulfilled. We interact on a sometimes daily basis with nurses, doctors, lawyers, advocates, parents, children, families. We are people people (well except those who work in policy analysis and stuff, but that will never be me. And even then, they're doing it for people).

So is my job now social work? I would have to argue that it is. Though I work a lot of nights, don't carry a case load, and am called a "crisis worker", I am still a social worker. I care about people. I realize that though they are coming to a shelter they have greater needs then food and shelter. That being said, I also realize that though they have other needs, it can be hard to work on things on an empty stomach with no sleep. I realize that winding up in the drunk tank is more then personal failure and yet client's need to take responsibility for their actions. I understand that our chemical detox unit is both an end and a beginning. I recognize that in order for things to change there must be change in society as a whole, and yet I recognize that change must come from within. I have realize that I have huge power to effect change and yet I realize that I can't do everything.

In my job right now I have the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. And that, is what I think social work is all about, no matter what area of the field you are working in.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

detoxing from what? and/or what doctors should talk to their patients

We run a "non medical" chemical detox unit. This means we don't have any medical professionals on staff. Before a clients comes in to detox they have to get medically cleared by a physician (or nurse practitioner) and have their medications listed on their medical clearance form. When they come to book their intake appointment they have to have all the meds on the form and enough to last them 10 days.

I am continually amazed at how many medications my detoxing clients are on. And yet really, it makes sense. Long term substance use creates medical problems. These require medication. Psychiatric problems and substance use goes hand in hand, these require medications. And many nice doctors will prescribe a benzodiazapine to help with the detox process. Again, pretty normal. But it still surprises me.

What makes me mad however is the number of clients who have no idea what they're taking or why their taking it. We dispense client medication as per their prescriptions, and I can never get over how many clients are clueless about their meds. Many of them only take their meds on a regular basis when they're in detox, but still, it bothers me (and reminds me of another subject which is the starting and stopping of psych meds).

A couple days ago a young woman and her mother came in to get the girl into detox. She had a prescription (not yet filled) for olanzipine. Olanzipine is a fairly heavy duty antipsychotic. From what I know and have observed, it's generally not prescribed first...especially when the patient is not psychotic. But whatever, I'm not a doctor and have no medical training. What bugged me, is that this girl and her mom had NO idea what the medication was. None at all. Her mom thought it "might be like valium". And that was it. I can't imagine going to the doctor, getting a prescription and then taking a medication without knowing what it was supposed to do! And with all the potential side effect of olanzipine, starting it while detoxing has got to be hard. The two asked me if I knew what it was, and i started to explain, but realized I shouldn't be explaining this, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a pharmacist, they need to be talking to someone who knows.

Bah. I have so many clients like that. We have this program where I live called "It's safe to ask", which is supposed to encourage doctors and patients to talk to each other; in particular about medications. I guess it didn't work in this case!

ps. just cause someone uses crack doesn't mean they're psychotic when they're not on it!

sober v drunk

Sobriety is an interesting thing. So is intoxication. As is the difference between the two of them. I find it especially interesting the different decisions people make when they're sober vs when they're intoxicated and how this is different for different people.

At work, we have rules about sobriety and detox. Basically, you have to be sober for every step of the process but it doesn't matter if you're intox in between. You pick up your medical form while sober. You bring it back and book an appointment while sober. You go to your intake appointment sober. Plain and simple. Some people are so caught up in their addictions that this is very hard for them.

The reasoning behind it, is of course that you can't make rational potentially life altering decisions while you're intoxicated, which makes sense. On the other hand, some of the people I work with really aren't ever fully sober until they've been in detox a couple days. It takes a long time to dry them out of the almost constant supply of alcohol and solvents. I had a woman in IPDA once for eight hours, and she said it was the most sober she'd been in 3 years. I'm fairly sure she was heading home to drink.

Another interesting thing, is that some people only want detox when they're drunk. When they're drunk they're saying "give me a form, give me a form", which we don't, but once they're sober they're like "oh no, forget it".

Really, what is intoxication anyway. Is it a blood alcohol level of .08? Or is it different. Is the client who is partially intoxication all the time really intoxicated? Or is that just who they are. Or is that a very cynical way of looking at the world. One of our regulars, who I really don't think I've ever seen sober, was supposed to be heading into detox tonight (he's more excited about the free meals then detox at this point though I think). I'm very interesting to see if he sticks it out and what he'll be like in a few days if he does. I'm sure he's been there many times, but I've never seen it, and I'm interested to.

I'm too sleepy to be blogging, I bet this doesn't make much sense at all... sometimes I just need to write though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I <3 HP

My black cloud is still following me around today, but there were some definite breaks for sunshine. Mostly though, I just want to be miserable about not getting that job and curl up and do nothing. So, I will. For a couple days. Then I'm getting over it and moving on. One will come up eventually.

In any case though. I did have a fun story for today.

Everyday after we serve our 1:30 soup we put on a movie. I'm sure we're breaking a million laws by doing this, but it's what we do. I can pretty much guarantee the movie theaters aren't losing revenue by us doing this. We only have a limited number of movies, and it seems that the clients have seen them over and over and over again. Further, most of the movies we have are violent, bloody, gory and loud. This is what people seem to be into, but I can't help wondering if it contributes to some of the violences and loudness inside the drop in.

So, today I brought Harry Potter I and made them watch it. Most people filtered out after soup like always, but this one guy was just enthralled by the movie. It was very cute. He's an older man, not very well spoken, heavy drinker/solvent user, but he has the cutest smile. He grins at me every time he sees me and it makes me grin too. Anyway, I tried to talk to him, but he was busy watching the movie. "Funny movie" he says pointing at the screen. While I've never thought of the movie that way, I'm glad he did. And, it was nice not to be listening to explosions and gunshots while trying to get work done.

Next time I work in the afternoon I'll bringing HPII and so on. After that, I'm thinking RENT. And well, that's basically all the movies I own, so I'll have to hope some other staff will bring in some quieter ones. Or maybe not. Maybe if that's what they like, that's what will watch. I just can't help thinking it's a bad idea to watch so much violence on such a regular basis.

Juxtiposition of Reality part 2: Why I don't care about the new iphone

Most of the time I go about my day to day life and just sort of take certain things for granted, reality for instance. Every now and then reality steps up and smacks me in the face. For example, my favourite blog, Shrink Rap, has been talking about the new iphone. But they're not the only ones, a lot of people I know are quite excited about the iphone coming to Canada and the new iphone in general. And I got to thinking about whether or not the iphone would have any impact on the people I work with, and what they would in fact do with an iphone. This made me laugh, and I thought I would share some of my laughter with you. It was also hard, and I thought I would share a piece of my ongoing struggle with society as well.

The thing that comes to mind is how amused some of the people at work would be by the "etch e sketch" feature. Many of the people I work with have had permanent brain damage from sniffing and drinking various solvents and non-potable alcohols. They no longer function on the same level as most of society around them, and I think they might find this amusing; particularly while intoxicated.

The second image in my head was of a sudden influx of drugs into the poorest part of town and a new breed of iphone carrying drug dealers. People will sell anything to get drugs, and I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't be able to hang onto something this valuable for long. Not all drug dealers use drugs, so it's a little easier for them to hang onto their possessions.

Then I thought about what a different place the drop in would be if everyone sat around listening to music with ear buds. One of the greatest things about work is the sense of community among the people, and I think something huge would be lost of everyone was off in their own little world all of the time. There might be less fights, but I don't think it would be worth it to lose that sense of community.

I also considered the fact that many (but not nearly all) of our clients are illiterate or computer illiterate and how this might impact their use of their iphones. On the other hand, this might be a great teaching opportunity, and a chance to give people some marketable skills. Besides that, it's a whole lot easier to get a job if you have a phone! People could call them for interviews, set up meetings etc... And think of the opportunities for them to use the internet to connect with the outside world!

But the thing is, no one is going to come around giving my city's homeless people iphones, and if they did, it would be a huge waste of money. There are so many more beneficial things we could do with the money; like provide vegetables, and a larger, less crowded space to sleep. How great would it be to never have to turn away a cold, tired, hungry person! Or maybe, instead of having a sock exchange we could give out brand new socks each time; or at least not wash them quite so many times.

And this is where I get hung up. There are people suffering, and the money invested in creating the iphone could have been spent in dozens of different ways to work to alleviate suffering, but I don't think that makes the iphone bad. In fact, I think it's kind of cool, and if anyone I know ever gets one, I'll definitely be "etch e sketching". So sometimes, instead of trying to reconcile those two views in my head, I just don't. It's sort of like, I care so much, that I can't care, because it would be too hard, and then I wouldn't be able to care as much.

So, I don't care about the new iphone. It's just easier that way.

Monday, June 23, 2008

the other reason I'm in a bad mood

It occurred to me today that even though I'm riding my bike and eating less, I'm gaining weight. Not a lot or anything...but enough that I shouldn't be. So I took a look at what it could be, and discovered the culprit.

Starbucks Pumpkin Scones.

I wouldn't be surprised if I ate three of these a week. And they come packed with 500 freaking calories and 20 whole grams of fat... oops? So to add to my bad mood, I have to cut back on my favourite food. They have very little actually nutritional value.

Turns out the drinks aren't so bad. A light grande cafe vanilla frapucino has under 300 calories and less then 3 grams of fat. Of course, they're bad for my budget, but at least they're a source of calcium. And calcium is good for you.

But sigh. I LOVE pumpkin scones. They are so yummy. Rich, thick, tasty. Alas, woe is me, my indulgence must come to an end.

this was going to be happy

I have many happy things I want to post about. I really do. But right now, I'm in a bad mood. A black cloud has hung over my head all day. I didn't get the full time job I wanted at work, so I'm still stuck on random crappy shifts. I have no sense of permanency and still get all the stupid jobs. I get the "next position", so who knows when that'll be. And my boss told me right at the beginning of my shift, so I had to work the rest of the day pretending I wasn't frustrated and upset. But, I sure didn't stay for overtime today.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

why is it so wrong to care?

I may be new at my job, but I am not naive. I am not "not hardened". I am not hiding from reality. I just happen to care. The job I have now isn't my first experience with the population, far from it. I've seen it all before (well, not all, new and weird stuff happens everyday, but still, it's not "new"). And I still care.

A woman, who came in to IPDA (the drunk tank) as a Jane Doe (and probably should have gone to the hospital not us), had gone for a swim in our city's gross, disgusting and COLD river and was picked up extremely intoxicated with no pants on. When I went in to wake her up there was a puddle of urine on her cell floor and it took me a HARD shoulder pinch to wake her up. I would have gone for knuckles to the sternum next, but rolling her over would have landed her in the urine. And you know something. I felt bad for her.

I was talking about it with a coworker, and my coworker felt no sympathy for her what so ever and gave me a bit of a lecture about the fact that I had some. She pointed out that people are responsible for their actions, and that these are the consequences of her actions. Get drunk, party loudly, do stupid things, wind up in the tank. Plain and simple. And it is, I firmly believe that people are responsible for their actions. I don't think that has to stop me from feeling bad for them. It takes a lot before a person winds up half naked and dragged in. I have no idea what her life story is. But you know something, it doesn't matter. Because what matters is what I see before me. A wet, smelly, dirty, intoxicated, half naked woman. And I feel for her.

I don't think that makes me a bad social worker. I really don't. I'm writing about her tonight not because I'm "taking her home" with me, but because I'm pondering the thoughts of my coworker. She will not keep me up tonight. I don't think I let my sympathy get in the way of my empathy either. If I had been there when she was released I certainly wouldn't have bent over backwards to excuse her behaviour, but I would listen, find her some try clothes and try and connect her with any needed resources. I would try and understand what brought her to that point. And if she didn't want to talk, that's fine too.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that I want to care about people. I think that is a big part of who I am, and I can't see that changing anytime soon. When I can't care about and feel some sense of sorrow for the people I work with, then I don't think I should be doing this work. On the other side of the coin, if I start caring too much, I start obsessing and despairing on a regular basis, that's bad too. If it effects my work so that I'm breaking rules and messing with the policies, that's a very bad sign. Right now though I feel like I have a healthy balance, and I pray that as I continue, I'll be able to maintain it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

it has begun

I get to make my first "official statement" on Monday. Joy of joys. I'm sure it will be the first of many! One of the people who came into IPDA has complained that the police detained them when they were not intoxicated. I happened to be the intake worker. Thus, I have to make an official statement. Should be "interesting". I still don't know who the complainant was, although i have my suspicions. My boss acknowledged that I might not remember, so we'll see, we'll see.

See the thing is, who is brought into IPDA is entirely at the discretion of the officers on the scene. I can say no if the person is unconscious or so badly hurt that I think they need to be taken to a hospital, but I can't say no because I don't think the person is intoxicated. That's not my call. It's not supposed to happen, but we do occasionally get someone who is clearly not intoxicated. How does this happen? Well, the police don't do any drug tests or breathalyser tests or anything before they bring someone in. Lots of people ask for this, and it's not given. And of course, we don't have the equipment to do that ourselves or anything. Once someone is in our custody, we have to hold them for the minimum time of four hours, we don't have a choice. So if a person is not intoxicated, they get pretty pissed off, which can make the seem intoxicated anyway!

So, I don't know. I hope I remember the situation, and if I don't, I'll just say that. Because really the only thing I can tell is the truth.


It's 2AM and I'm not sleepy, but I couldn't think of anything to blog about. So I google image searched the word "random" and decided I would blog about something on the first page. So here goes.

This is actually a very cute story. Part of doing a detox intake includes searching the client's possessions (and person, if we think it's necessary). This means that I get to put on blue nitrile gloves and dig through client's stuff sort of like I work in airport security! To make it less awkward I try to do it while they are filing out a form or something, so they're not just sitting there staring at me. And I always ask the "is there anything I should know about" question. We don't have a lot of IV drug users, but I really don't want to come across a dirty needle!

In anycase, as I was searching this particular males stuff I came across a stuff animal. He said oh, that's my lucky lion (or something, I can't actually remember what it was). He bought it from a friend in preparation for detox, because the last time he had a successful treatment program and stayed sober for quite a while he had a lucky stuffed animal. Okay, that's kind of cool, whatever. As I keep searching, I pull out a far more raged animal. Turns out, it's the first one. He still has it. It's gone with him through tons of ups and downs, crack binges, oxycontin highs, moving, evictions etc... and it looks like it got the worst of it. But it's still there, and coming with him to detox once again.

I thought it was really cool, that this man could carry those with him. I mean, this is no "wuss". He's tattooed, done his time, and used just about every drug in every kind of way. Sort of makes you realize how we're all the same, and how we all have a human side.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

eat your vegetables!

I don't write about it as much, but in addition to my work at the shelter, I'm also the summer ministry student at my church. What exactly this means, I'm not sure, but this week it means watching Veggie Tales. Veggie Tales are Christian kids cartoons with bible stories and life lessons told by talking vegetables. It's kind of hard to explain.

Because my church meets in a movie theatre, we thought it would be cool to do something movie oriented for kids this summer. So, we're having cartoons on the big screen, and I get to preview them all! That's a lot of veggie tales folks.

I'm amused by the fact that there is actually a lot of humor for grownups thrown into the videos. Very amused in fact. It makes things a lot less painful. Because, while veggie tales are fun and all, they're not exactly intellectually stimulating or all that funny if you're over the age of 12.

And now, off I go to watch another one, because this silly girl slept in till after noon today and is now WIDE AWAKE!

Something Beautiful (part two)

One of my goals at work is to try and get to know the people I work with as people; not just "the homeless" or "the ones in detox". It's harder then it would seem. Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of opportunity to simply sit with clients and listen. Street Ministry is a good time for this though, so I'm hoping I can do some of that listening there and have it benefit me in my job. The overlap is good sometimes.

In any case, I recently had a very good conversation with one of our regulars that touched me a lot. He's another one whose life has been so damaged my drugs and alcohol. I wanted to know more about him, to know who he was despite his disabilities, beyond his difficulties. I asked him "If you could do anything in the world, no holds barred, what would you do". He looked at me, and said "well I would help people". And that says so much to me; it really touched me.

"Well I would help people". Hardly the answer you'd expect from someone like him. The kind of guy many people cross the street to avoid. The guy passed out on the corner, the guy lying drunk in the middle of the road. What does he want most in life? Not another beer, not a smoke, not a clean bed for the night, to help people.

Of course, his answer might change if I ask him again tomorrow, but I know that the spirit is there. I watch him; when he's sober, and he really is a very kind, generous person. He opened a door for me yesterday (the he asked me for an opening fee), he took out the garbage for a coworker today. I just wonder; how can I help him help others?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

hunky doory (i don't know why)

I think between the time I got to work and the time I left work today my schedule for the next week and a half changed 6 times. I am not impressed. Oh well!

In other news, work was good today. IPDA was empty for quiet awhile and then the intoxicated descended on us like a swarm and I had six in a row.

I was talking to one of the guys whose in IDPA a lot and is really quite a friendly guy. He has had his life very damaged by his use of alcohol and solvents. I sometimes wonder if he's been on Thorazine, because of the way he walks, but he seems slightly young to have the shuffle. Anyway, I asked him why he drinks, and he said "something to do". I pressed him further, and he said "passes the time faster".

Wow. What reasons to drink, and yet they make SO MUCH SENSE. When your homeless, you don't have the same kind of structure and stuff to your life that someone like me does. My calender is jam packed with writing, white out, and scribbles. This man's calender is empty. There's nothing there for tomorrow, the next day, the next week, or even the next year. So what DO you do?

And on that note, I end, because while I have many answer, my energy levels are somewhat...zapped.

Monday, June 16, 2008

hard days night

Today was a hard day for me. I found it very emotionally draining in a way that work usually isn't. I think it was also a lack of sleep thing, and a possibly too much coffee thing.

I worked till 3:30AM last night. So of course by the time I got to sleep it was almost 5AM. Up at 11 to pick up best friend at the airport (I am SO glad she's home)! then work at 1:30. I was supposed to work till 6, but they asked me to stay till 10 (and same thing tomorrow). I agreed. It makes it a full shift instead of the 4.5 hour things which are stupid. But, since I hadn't planned for it, it just seemed harder.

Anyway though, the client's in IPDA just REALLY got to me today. Sometimes the client's talk to each other, and whatever, it's annoying, but have cell sex (like phone sex, but between cells), what do I care. I just don't want to see you doing it, so don't do it in a cell with a camera. Anyway though, a woman told the man beside her that she was suicidal, and wow, he just went at her like crazy. It finally got so bad I had to have the police move her to the other end of IDPA. He was telling her over and over and over and over again to kill herself. And he was giving her ways to do it and on and on and on. I felt sooooo bad for her. SO bad.

Anyway, things were just a little wonky today. And somehow it really got to me. I'm looking forward to the fact that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities, and hopefully a work day which doesn't dig into me the same way today's did.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

shopped out

I'm not really the type of person who enjoys shopping...I'm just not. Never have been, probably never will be. But, once in a while, I go on these marathon shopping trips and get it all over and done with at once. I did that today, and even bought some cute stuff for myself for no reason other then that I wanted it (well, and that I still had Christmas money I hadn't spent).

Anyway, mostly I tried to get clothes that I can wear both to work and out. Because seriously, work is gross and I certainly won't wear my nicer clothes there, but I think my clients deserve me looking decent, and like I put at least a little bit of effort into getting ready. What does it show them if I show up all gross in bad fitting clothes. On the other hand, I don't want to appear over dressed. So sadly, all the nice "social worker clothes" I bought myself before grad, are pretty much out of the question.

So today I bought yet another pair of jeans (they even had SHORT ones), and a few shirts that I can wear to work. Then for myself, I bought this super cute purse, which is actually a brand name (which is kind of scary), a wallet I've had my eye on for a while, and this super cute hat. It was on sale. That is how I justify it. Oh, and these light weight black yoga pants. They're supposed to be crops, but I'm so short that they come down almost all the way. I haven't decided if I'll hem them or not. If they're long, I can wear them to work for night shifts, whereas if they're short, I can't.

After shopping, roommate and I went and had sushi. We were very shopped out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The IPDA challenge

So, the longer I spend at work, the more I realize that IPDA is a revolving door. On any given night I do between 10 and 20 intakes. If it's a really slow night I'll do less, but it's not usual. Of these, I maybe see 2 or 3 names that are not in the computer already (we have records for the past 10 years). Of course some of these people have been in IPDA 2 or 3 times in the past 10 years, but some of them are "the regulars". These people are in there at least every month, often more. So what do you do?

For the people who are new, I always try and make sure to talk to them. Some of them, you know are incredibly embarrassed about the situation, living a perfectly "normal" healthy life, and will likely never be back. Those people you don't need to give a lot of support to.

It's the other ones, the young ones, with that dead look in their eyes, the woman who says it's the most sober she's been in 3 years, the men who are looking for the nearest vendor on the way out. Those ones, I always want to give an extra word to. Unfortunately, we don't get a lot of time for "counseling" when we're doing discharges at the end of the night. There's this push to have people out by the start of the next shift, and so we need to get them out as fast as possible (read: I don't agree with this). I always tell people about our detox program; the opportunity to get clean. If it's the right time of day, I invite them upstairs to get soup and coffee, or a snack. I try and show them that I care, get them a jacket if it's cold, a clean t-shirt. How do we work so we don't create the revolving door of the next group.

Because, there are the people who we see on a very regular basis. We've had people show up twice in one day. We discharge them sober, they go drink some more, and get dragged back. They sleep upstairs when they don't get dragged in. They're the ones passed out on the corner, passed out in the park, passed out on the stairs of the shelter, they're the ones staggering through downtown, panhandling at the bus shelter, and scaring people away from the bank machine. And I don't know what to do with them. I really don't. I have always held out that there is hope for everyone, but sometimes, I just don't know. I really don't. Have these people's brains been so damaged by solvent and alcohol that they can't make that choice not to drink? Is it that there is nothing else in their life to do, or look forward to? Is it just such an ingrained habit that doing something else seems impossible? What must you have been through to have your life consist almost entirely of using until you pass out, getting sober, using till you pass out. Isn't there more to life then that? But is there for them?

I just don't even know what to say. I give them dry clothes to replace their urine soaked ones, I offer them encouragement (go upstairs, don't go out and get drunk), we talk about their health, and the consequences of their actions. But it never seems to stick. Does that mean we give up? I don't think so. But I'm also not sure where to go from here.

laundry day

It's laundry day for this girl. I do SO much laundry at work, yet I never seem to manage to do my own. It drives me crazy. I sometimes feel like taking a couple items to work each day and sneaking them in with the work laundry just so I can have clean clothes on a regular basis. That, and sometimes I really want to take off the clothes I'm wearing and chuck them, I haven't got to that point yet!

That's one thing about my job that I find hard though. Included in the crisis worker job is a whole lot of cleaning. Apparently, it's supposed to remove hierarchy, so that everyone is equal and no one is stuck with all the gross jobs. And in some ways it makes sense. Whoever is working in IPDA cleans the cells in IPDA. I can't imagine if I had to call someone each time I needed a cell cleaned when IPDA is full. It would be ridiculous. The person in detox washes all the detox laundry. Makes sense. They see when the basket is full. However, they also wind up washing all the kitchen laundry and laundry from the front. AND they wind up spending forever steralizing dishes. Because everything used in detox has to go through the sterilizer, and only the staff can use it.

So, sometimes I feel like a maid. There are some great things going on in detox, and the potential for some great conversations. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time handing out towels, opening lockers, washing dishes and doing laundry. Staff are getting frustrated with it as well, it's not just me. But, that's one problem I haven't heard anyone come up with a solution for yet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

This silly girl worked another double shift yesterday. 3:30pm-8:00AM baby!

Yeah. So basically, they'd better higher me for the full time nights job I applied for because the only reason I am doing this is so that I will look good for that job.

I slept all day today, which was absolutely awesome and amazing. And I am quite pleased with myself. I will also sleep tonight. I just have to get some food in my system so I don't wake up all shaky in the morning. And, I gave away tomorrow's night shift, so I get all day tomorrow off too! Yay!

I'm watching myself though. No more doubles for at least a week. I need to take care of myself. While I am able to sleep it off, it leaves me tired for a couple days, and I need to make sure I don't do too much afterwards.

I really like what I do, I really like where I work, but there are changes that have to be made. Even I can see that, and I'm brand new (which is maybe why I see some of that). There is no way that a shift should be down two people on a regular basis, even after calling your reliefs. It just shouldn't happen. That's why I did that double. Even with me, they were short staffed. Which is hard for everyone.

Top 10 Myths of Mental Illness

I really like this article at Psych Central by John Grohol. I like most of what he writes and this was especially good.

The article talks about the top 10 myths about mental illness, and I think it's quite bang on. There are a lot of misconceptions about mental illness (and mental health) out there. And really, there is still a huge amount of stigma attached to being mentally ill as opposed to physically ill. A huge stigma. You just don't talk about your relative in the psych ward the way you talk about your relative on the cancer ward.

In any case, it's worth a read.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

strange things I saw today

Two funny things I saw today.

1. A man sitting in a yoga pose, on a bus bench, wearing a Tai Chi t-shirt... fine.

Weird, he was smoking.

2. Drove past a nursing home. They are celebrating their 50th and list their major sponsors...fine.

Weird, they're sponsored by the local funeral home.

rain rain go away

To be blunt, yesterday sucked. It sucked big time. I woke up to a grey sky and the sound of rain. Getting out of bed seemed painful. I had to buy bus tickets. The credit card swipe seemed painful. Bought printer ink, again, pain. Finally got to work, and well, it seemed painful too, imagine that.

Driving scares me. Driving downtown scares me more. Driving in the rain scares me. Driving in rush hour scares me. Driving with a bunch of people in the van scares me. Guess what I did yesterday? I drove downtown in rush hour in the pouring rain with a bunch of people in the van. And, we all survived!!!

I was supposed to end a six, but evenings was short, and since I only came in at one thirty I offered to stay "as long as they needed me". I wound up putting in more overtime. Only an hour and a half, but yeah. Although, there really was an advantage for me because then I got a free ride home instead of paying to take the bus in the rain. Plus that extra 9 bucks is worth what, 1 trip to Starbucks???

IPDA was VERY quiet yesterday. No one was drinking outside, too wet. The drop in though! Insane. Crazy. Everyone was grumpy, wet and smelly. Well, the staff weren't too smelly, but still. The clients were yelling at each other, and us. The staff were grumping at each other and then clients. It guessed it, painful.

Then IPDA got insane. I did 17 intakes again yesterday this time in less the 7 hours. That's too many, and most of them were in the overtime part of my shift when I was tired. See there was a big rock concert in town... and so alcohol use was definitely occurring... Plus, we had to IPDA a few of ours, or well, get the downtown patrol to do it, because they were passed out or creating a disturbance upstairs.

And yesterday, I just felt... zapped. I'm not sure what it was, maybe the lack of sunshine, maybe I didn't have enough coffee, either way, NO energy for anything. Sigh. Thank you for listening to me whine.

Sunshine after the rain

It's SUNNY today!!! A huge improvement on yesterday. And my entire mood has shot up with the sun. It's also my day off...unless they call me, which they might, but I would prefer they didn't. Maybe I just won't answer... I need this day for me! (well, and to do church stuff).

Sunshine is so awesome! I can't wait to go outside. I have to trek off to a Dr. appointment ways away. I was thinking about biking, but I don't think I've built up enough endurance yet. I might go for a bike ride tonight instead. Because of all the rain, I've been having to take the bus a lot more then I would have liked. But, it's sunny today. And as of right now, that's all that matters!

Monday, June 9, 2008

say what?

So, I realized that I've been drinking too much coffee and not enough water. Not really a great thing for my body, or my level of jittery-anxiousness. When I was at the grocery store last week, they had a sale on some new flavoured water stuff. The kind where you add the little packet to your water. In fact, they had a new flavour! Raspberry Peach. Those of you who know me, know how excited this would make me! So I snatched it up.

When I got home I read the package more closely, not only is my water now yummy Raspberry, but it contains both prebiotics, and 3grams of fibre. Excessive much? I mean, it's my water! Everything I buy now has something added to it. Bah. I mean, I'll agree, I could probably use all the good bacteria I can get considering the number of times a day I use hand sanitizer at work, but still. And seriously, making fibre your friend is a definite good thing. But wow. I just can't get over the way food is made these days.

Oh, and did I mention my beverage is BRIGHT RED? Yes, because after we add all this healthy stuff, somehow we still feel the need to add a whole bunch of red food dye. Bah. I love the idea of flavoured water. It tastes good, and I enjoy drinking it. But honestly, I would drink it no matter what colour it was. Stop dying my water!


I am NOT a maid.
I am NOT a servant.
I am NOT a gopher.
I am NOT a dishwasher.
I am NOT a stair master.

I am however, a university educated social worker with experience in the fields of addictions, mental health, domestic violence and homelessness.

Unfortunately, that stuff doesn't matter at work. None of it. I mean, I kind of knew what I was getting into, but kind of not.

I did 8 loads of laundry tonight. The laundry is in the basement. I washed dishes, dishes and more dishes. I filled buckets with clean water, I emptied buckets of dirty water. I folded those 8 loads of laundry. I bought junk food from the vending machine for people in the shelter who aren't allowed to go to the vending machine in detox (just this once, i said, trying to get on their good side). I opened client's lockers. I gave client's towels, pajamas, soap etc... I woke people up for group, I counted heads, I made notes. Did I have time to actually TALK to anyone?

I did 1 intake. I managed to spend 30 uninterpreted minutes with my intake. It was awesome. That stuff, is why I'm a social worker, and that stuff is why I have my job. The poor guy was scared out of his mind. From a small town, first time doing this, he's worried his addiction is going to kill him. To get to detox, you have to come in through the shelter. It's a pretty freaky place if you've never been in a shelter before. He was very intimidated. Talking to him, reassuring him, listening to him. That stuff is the good stuff.

Unfortunately, in this work environment, we don't have people to do all the crappy stuff for us. Which is good, in a way, it eliminates hierarchy to an extent. But really, if only I could have spent all the time I spent on the laundry with the people in detox.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

wise friends and double shifts

One of those wise friends asked me if I was over doing. I laughed and said, "of course not, I'm doing less then I've done in ever". She pointed out however, that jobs last a lot longer then semesters and I'm usually falling apart by the end of the semester... something to think about, because I hadn't considered that when I figured out how much I'm doing.

In other news on the overdoing it side, I worked my first double shift on Friday. 16 hours of work, but for me, a 24 hour day. I worked at church in the morning, went to the shelter, worked, went to street ministry, and came back and worked another 11 hours. I wound up working with all three shifts, and experience which can only be termed "interesting". Each has such a unique personality and way of doing things.

For example, I got in trouble for reading the newspaper in IPDA; something I do all the time...on evenings and nights. I forgot that the person upstairs, who's from the day shift, is very legalistic. I put a bucket under a leak on day shift, and then evenings was upset I hadn't phoned the guy who fixes things. And I did something or other on evenings that nights was upset about. Oh well. It was still a good experience for me to have, and I think I could do doubles in the future, as long as I didn't street ministry and my other job. Not a great thing to do on a regular basis, but it's good money for overtime, and sometimes, things just have to be done or the place doesn't function.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

and she'll have fun fun fun till her daddy takes the T-Bird away

At Street Ministry Friday night I was talking about the fact that I like my job. Our summer student asked me a bunch of questions about what I do, something I found hard to answer because I do so much and yet so little, and then said "because it sounds fun". And I shot back right away, "it's not fun"! Then I had to think about what prompted my answer so I could explain better both to him and myself.

The truth is, my job, for the most part, is not fun. But that's okay, because I like it, and I find value in what I'm doing. Because there's a difference between having fun, and liking something. I don't necessarily have "fun" intaking people to IPDA. But I appreciate that in our society, it is important for people to have a safe place to sober out where they are protected from themselves and others and others are protected from them. I don't necessarily have "fun" dishing out soup day after day, but I still think it's something worth doing, and I know that people appreciate it.

All that being said, there are certainly fun moments on the job. Interacting with coworkers. Going on van patrol and doing crazy things. Pranks. Laughing with the clients. So many fun moments. And the fun moments can make some of the crappy moments seem more worth it.

Yesterday my supervisor was teasing me, and I stuck my tongue out at him. In front of the police. I totally could have been reprimanded for that. Instead he just laughed and said he never thought he'd see the day when I did that. My angel wings are too prevalent. Then we all laughed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

oh to have a box

Sometimes I think I need to grow up and stop reading this site, other times I realize that if a website can make me laugh just about every time I read it, it's probably a good thing. I don't think we laugh enough.

On the subject of the picture though. I don't know about other cities, but the homeless people here generally don't live in boxes. They might put some cardboard on the ground if they were going to be sleeping outside, but generally the idea of "living in a box" just isn't reality; at least around here. Part of that I suppose is our climate. The face of homelessness looks very different in a place that doesn't get to -40C and have 2 feet of snow.

There are so many stereotypes about homeless people and the more time I spend with them, the more I realize that while some are totally justified, most aren't true at all. For example, you would be very surprised at the number of people who leave our shelter each morning to go to work. But, myths are stories for other posts, and I should get off my bed and do something...maybe. The rumor that I have a hard time with mornings, is definitely based in fact.

juxtiposition of reality

I don't think I ever wrote about this, and I was definitely planning to. It happened when I was sick last week, and so I think sleep was the most prevalent thing on my mind at the time.

It amazes me the vast differences that occur inside a city. Where I work is the "worst" part of town. Where I live, is the "trendy" area, but you'll always see street kids, pan handlers and people camping by the River. It's an awesome place to live. Side by side the street kids are more well off people walking to the expensive Sushi places and college students shopping at the boutiques. Older people live in the high rises and condos along the river and med students study in the Second Cup. It's sort of mish-mash of people and cultures, and I love it. This is my reality.

Last week after working a night shift I went to deliver fliers for my church. It was gorgeous day out and I was happy to be "free". As I walked and prayed, I took notice of the area and atmosphere around me. It was so...different. There were so few people out. The houses all had alarms and sturdy doors. Big houses, big cars, perfect landscaping. And it was so quiet. I watched 3 little blond girls riding their tricycles in the street while mom did some gardening. I watched contractors putting on a new deck. And it all just seemed surreal.

I am always the first one to say that not everyone has gifts to work with the homeless or in the inner city. I'm the first one to say I'm not anymore special then anyone else because of what I do. But this version of reality just sort of struck me last me. Something I like to ignore. Which is funny, because most people try to ignore my reality, of homelessness, poverty, addictions and unwashed flesh, and here I am, trying to forget the fact that people live in such affluence. It doesn't make sense. I'm not sure quite why my mind is set that way, I don't normally think about it in these terms. But it's true. I try and ignore the fact that there are people with money residing only kilometers away from people who have nothing. Maybe it's the only way I can live with myself and the world.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

you can't have it both ways

Something I've noticed about the staff at work, is that they like to complain, but they don't like to deal with the solution. It's starting to really get to me.

Yesterday I heard the same staff complain, within the same fifteen minutes, about not having enough staff and about having to train staff. It baffles me. Considering just how much complaining goes on in that building about not having enough staff, you would really think they would be excited to have new staff to train. But no, apparently this is a huge burden on them. I don't see it. If you want new staff, you have to train them. It's just the way it is.

Further, stop complaining about casual staff getting to book days off. That's why we're casual. We don't make as much as you. Don't treat us like we should be working 40 hour weeks. Cause guess what, we don't have to! And, most of us aren't going to. That's why there's supposed to be 15 of us.

I don't know. Part of me really really likes my job, but sometimes the staff just get to me. It doesn't seem to matter what happens, if they can find something to complain about, they will. And maybe I'm saying too much here, but really, enough is enough. I really have to watch myself to keep myself from joining in the complaining, about somethings, but new staff? I won't complain about that!

Sitting with feelings (part 3)

In addition to having good friends, I also have wise friends who give me things to think about and ponder. And in typical fashion they have done so again. In the post "sitting with your feelings 2" I talked about how long we should sit with "bad" feelings. Herman asked "are they bad feelings or are they just uncomfortable" which of course, led me to thinking...

When do feelings become bad? Do they ever become bad? What then constitutes a bad feeling? A lot of things pop to mind when I ask those questions, for instance I might say that feeling homicidal is always a bad feeling, but I wouldn't label feeling suicidal the same way. I would say that feeling taken advantage of sucks, but I would also say that it can lead to a great deal of learning. I guess I would say that bad feelings feel bad. But, are all things that make us feel bad, bad feelings? I would say no.

I will however stick with my original position and say that there is a time and place to sit with your feelings and a time and place to move on. I think that if I was to have sat with some of the feelings I've had in the past for an unclear amount of time I might never have gotten as far as I have. I think one of the things that enables me to do my job is that fact that I am able to move on from things. But, maybe moving on, is different then not sitting with. So many things to think about!

Further, when is sitting with your feelings the lazy thing to do, the easy way out. When is it easier to hurt, then to challenge those feelings and move on. Isn't it sometimes easier to be a "victim"

Just some thoughts...

something beautiful

We do our best to keep the drop in/shelter area clean. We close for an hour twice a day to do just that. Volunteers sweep and mop the entire area with disinfectant, clean the bathrooms and the shower, and do general tidying. Staff are responsible for keeping the offices clean. Either way, it gets dirty very quickly. We serve a lot of food, and a lot of that food winds up on the floor.

This week the cook handed out bananas to everyone sitting in the drop in. As people were peeling the bananas, a man got up and spoke to the crowd. This man is someone I've "known" for a long time. I see him every Friday night at street ministry as well as at work. He is chronically homeless. He will probably never work. He uses solvents, drugs, alcohol; whatever he can get his hands on, and he winds up in IPDA often. He is so brain damaged that he walks with an uneven gait and can be hard to understand. His message though, really touched me.

"You all know where the garbage cans are, let's keep this place clean, it's our home".

That's so special, and so humbling, because for many people, this is their home. How ironic that we call it a "homeless" shelter. This man will likely never function in an independent living setting, but here, on our floor, he has found a home. How much more is a home, then walls and a bed. How much more is a home then a personal address. How much more could I appreciate where I live.


Let me start this off with a disclaimer: I have the utmost respect for the police. I really do. They do an amazing job despite complaints coming at the from just about every direction while putting their life endanger daily. This is just one situation and what time in life. Not a blanket statement about law enforcement. That being said...

There is the one officer that I see A LOT. And see the thing is, he drives me crazy! He's a young looking guy, actually, I would describe him as baby faced, and he's quite short. I think maybe, he's trying to prove himself.

Unfortunately, the way he tries to prove himself is by being a real jerk to the client's he brings into IPDA; and he brings a lot in. Granted, his job is basically to patrol downtown and keep things safe and free of people passed out on the streets. Thus, bringing in people is his job. But seriously, this guy is psycho sometimes. And he's violent towards the clients which pisses me off. Maybe it's justified, maybe it's not. Honestly, though I see different pairs of officers all the time, and none of them behave like this guy.

For example, he had this old guy, arthritis, partly deaf, he was being a bit slow getting his things off (see: intoxication). And he just grabbed the guy and his head wound up banging the plexiglass a bunch of times. It was pretty hard to watch. Then they threw him in a cell without a mat. So this poor old guy had to lie on the cold, cold floor. He did that the day before too, only the guy was naked, and had to lie on the cold cold floor. Bah. The guy was intoxicated so he stripped, he wasn't violent at all. The very next cops I had come by I asked them to throw a mat in for me. And thankfully they were nice enough to do so.

So yes. Perspectives. I see people differently from the police for the simple reason I have a different relationship with them and a different job. It's a lot easier for me to be understanding of a guy who I talk to everyday and know a little better, then for the police who are dragging him off a street corner drunk for the 10th time that month. When I have them in IPDA they're in a cell not doing anything, and I'm safe, whereas the cops have to bring them in against their will often. They do the hard work.

I don't know. It's a lot harder to have respect for someone when you're out their scooping them off the street AGAIN then when you're inside watching them sleep on a mat in the shelter and barely being able to get up in the morning because their arthritis is so bad.

Monday, June 2, 2008

boundaries and being a good person

I have been apart of a variety of non profit organizations through both work, practicum and the fact that my father runs one. Donations, are a huge part of these organizations. Not just donations of money, but donations of well, stuff. And so, these organizations are always seeking (or at least accepting) stuff. Seems simple right? Places need stuff, people bring it. Things get slightly more confusing when you work there apparently.

In every other place I've worked/volunteered/been a part of, the staff bring in donations. There is no pressure to do so, no expectation (or at least none I've felt), it just happens. They have stuff, the place needs it, wow, look at that. Why would you give your clothes to Value Village when the place you work gives out clothes too. Why throw up all the extra food after a party when you know that people you work with are going hungry? It just makes sense. And it is very possible to do this with good boundaries. And besides, what are good boundaries anyway, what's right for one person might not be for another. And for that matter, what is the significance of material possessions in determining boundaries, but alas, things for another post. The point is, they bring in stuff.

So three times now, I've brought stuff to my new job, and three times now I've gotten weird looks. The first time was socks. There was this amazing amazing deal on socks at Walmart and so I bought a pack and took half to work and half to street ministry. No big deal. It cost me as much as two lattes at Starbucks. Everyone thought I was strange. Then, I noticed that we were short on men's clothes so I asked some guys I know if they had some used clothes. They did, and so I dragged in two garbage bags of men's clothes. More weird looks. Finally, there was the food thing. My church had a youth event and we had left over food. Naturally, they gave it to me to take to work. I'm used to the weird looks by now, but seriously, is it that weird? What were we going to do with 2 dozen hotdogs and assorted juice and breakfast foods?

My question is, does no one else at work ever bring in stuff? How weird is that? Is there some sort of policy about it? Is it just tradition? Are we that attached to our stuff? Well, I can say one thing for sure, I'm not stopping. When I have clothes, I'm taking them to work. Well, probably half to street ministry, half to work. It just makes sense. When my church gives me extra food, I'm bringing it. And when there's an amazing deal on socks, guess what, I'm adding them to the sock drawer (ditto if it's a deal on men's underwear).

I am SO blessed. I have SO many things. I have so many pairs of socks and underwear I could probably go three weeks without doing laundry if I could find them all at once (it'll never happen). I have enough money that I go to Starbucks probably 3 times a week (ouch, that sounds bad now I write it) and Tim Hortons 2-3 times. Sometimes both on the same day, especially if I'm working nights. I have an awesome apartment, a great bike, a savings account, a computer, a bed, and all sorts of books I've never read. Am I blessed? I think so. It's certainly not breaking my boundaries to help out the people at work by giving more then just my paid presence. Cause honestly, words only go so far. Talking to someone is great, but giving them a brand new pair of socks might just make their day.


Working evenings seems to suck the life out of me and my day. I'm not sure what it is exactly, I just know that things aren't quite right for me when I work evenings. I start at 3:30 and am off at midnight, it's an 8 hour shift just like any other, but somehow I seem to have no energy or time for anything else. I dunno. Maybe I'm just weird.

I've been sleeping a lot more since school ended too, I have more time to sleep and so I sleep more. I'm hoping that part of that was the chest infection and that now that it's gone I'll have more energy. I don't know though. Maybe I just need to get into some sort of rhythm, but that's kind of hard with the way my schedule works. I have a whole new sympathy for rotating shift workers.

Today I had a nap, which was awesome. I'm getting to sleep faster sometimes now, which is a goal of mine. I'm trying to learn how to take 20 minute power naps, but I'm really bad at it. To work on this though, I've been getting to bed when I don't have hours and hours to sleep. Then the trick is falling asleep at all. We'll see. I'll get there yet.