Monday, December 15, 2008

overwhelmed - or something

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed these past few days. The enormity of the problems I see on a daily basis can be kind of consuming. For the most part, I'm quite good at maintaining a healthy distance, putting things in perspective and staying positive. This past week however there have been a few situations which have been hard and the mind numbing cold just doesn't help anything.

This week for the first time I found someone sleeping under a heating vent, by choice, not because they were passed out drunk. For some reason, this really touched me. When I asked them why they made that choice, they simply said they had no place to stay. Another person, in a doorway, refused even our offers of a blanket, let alone a warm place to stay. A man what I believe was an actual heart attack. I have a lot of people with chest pains, most of the time they beg for the ambulance. This man, clutching at his chest, gasping for breath, wanted no help at all (note, we called and he was taken to hospital). An unrousable man later told us he wished we had just let him die. And of course, the girls working the streets just keep getting younger and younger.

I am sick of fighting with the other shelters. The politics of homelessness are stupid and frustrating. I'm sick of watching my mouth and having my actions be dictated by our directive not to do anything to make the clients go to the media. Why, because they are, they're making good on their threats, and we can't afford the negative publicity. I'm sick of not being able to say what's really happening because we're not allowed to say negative things about the other shelters (although I do understand this). I'm sick of not having enough space for freezing people.

Working in the drunk tank is also difficult. Until you've done something like that, it's hard to explain. It's hard to explain the death threats, the law suit threats, and the constant insults. It's also hard to explain how it can break your heart to have to lock someone up and forceably hold them. On the flip side, it's also hard to explain what it's like to have to kick people out of a safe warm place because there are drunker people coming in.

Of course, my heart is not literally breaking, and for the most part I am able to put aside all this stuff and effectively do my job. I'm able to go about my everyday life and not think about this stuff. These past couple days though, it's just seemed a little much. Someone at church said I looked sad, and i just didn't know how to explain. There's just so much, so much I see, and sometimes it just gets to you, especially as my clients start to worry about Christmas. I'll go to work tonight, and I'll do my job with a smile, just like always. But inside, inside I'm a little sad tonight. Sad because a job like mine has to exist, and sad because its just seems like we're not doing enough. Sad because people are hurting, and there's only so much we can do to change that.

maybe I just need a good cry...


cb said...

To be honest, this is why I have found that even socially, I gravitate towards people who work in the same, or similar fields. It's something that is very hard to explain to other people when you see some things that just get to you on a daily basis. There isn't a solution but one thing that I found hard was just letting go at times I wasn't at work. It is absolutely vital though.

Still Dreaming said...

I too tend to gravitate towards people in the helping professions. My best friend has very similar interests and understandings as me. thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate them.

Amy said...

I think it's sometimes hard for people outside the profession to understand. When I tell people that I work as a social worker at our hospital they will say, "Oh so you help people get into nursing homes?" When I explain that, no, that's not what I do and some of the things that I do, you can almost see them thinking, "Wow, what a kill joy!" So, it's easier to talk to my teachers, social workers, nurses...basically all those front line folks.

Lisa said...

Reading your post, I could relate to what you wrote.

As a former foster child and head of my state's chapter of former foster children, I have noticed that something about this winter seems to be chilling the hope inside many foster care alumni.

Some days I am in overdrive, trying to make a positive difference.

Other days, I go to ground, in order to maintain my own physical health and emotional equilibrium.

One thing that has helped me is to establish five ground rules in terms of helping others:

Whether or not a situation arises wherein I actually have to articulate these boundaries to others, it really helps me as the "Helper" to be cognizant of where my boundaries are...

You seem to care very deeply about your work. Have you created an internal definition of where your boundaries are?

Wishing you the very BEST,


Lisa said...

PS - another thing that helps is Stephen Covey's circles of:

- Circle of Concern
- Circle of Influence

Because, a lot of times, working with people in need can spark our concern, but our ability to help might be limited:

However, if we are faithful within that circle of things which we can influence, we can often create a "ripple effect" that leads to positive transformation in the areas that we care about....