I've been at my clinic for a few weeks now and am just starting to work with my own clients. For the first few weeks I was observing my supervisor and other therapists while they worked so I could see different techniques and become more comfortable with the process. It has been an intense month of learning, not only about the clients but what I am feeling myself. And there is one thing in particular that has been keeping me awake at night...
Who decides which one of us is sitting on either side of the desk? Who decides which one of us needs the help and who gives it? Who decides which one of us had the blessings in life to have an education, a family that cares, and opportunites galore? Who decides which one is sexually abused by a family member? Who decides which one of us has no running water because her father is a crack addict? Who decides which one will cut her arm so deeply just to numb the pain that is life?
How was I born with all of this privilidge? What did I do to deserve it? What did she do to deserve the life she has?
And... how in the hell can I possibly help?
We study in school how to process what we see and hear, we talk about self-care and avoiding "compassion fatigue" and burnout. But until I began to see these things on a regular basis I didn't realize how important taking care of myself really is. There is no way for me to be effective if I can't work through these things.
So, how did I answer these questions? What did I do to work them out? Honestly, for the first time in my life, I've taken true solace in my faith. And although that is still somewhat undetermined (raised Catholic, but by no means practicing) I HAVE to believe that there is something bigger than me out there that knows how this will all play out. Because I can't do this job if I believe that this is the only shot these people get. I've discovered that my belief in a higher power has helped me to hold on to the idea that this isn't it for them. This thing they are calling life--living in horrific circumstances, being told constantly that they are nothing and having that reaffirmed day after day--this is not it--this is not their only chance. I believe that their struggles will be rewarded, either in a beautiful afterlife or another go-round here on Earth where they keep improving on the previous life, until they too reach the beautiful afterlife. Either way, it's totally cool with me...as long as this is not it.
Talk about gaining perspective. This month has been a crash course in perspective. Everyone's struggles are real, we all have a certain capacity for pain. But what some of these people have endured in lifetimes shorter than mine has been mindblowing.
So sure, I've learned all the skills in school to be able to do this. I know all the theories, strategies and processes proven to help. But, really... who's helping who?