Saturday, October 15, 2011

They don't have jobs yet, but they're alive.

So many moons since I've written anything at all, let alone made time to blog. I've abandoned many things, so I could play with a tiny baby that came into the world through the particulars of my body. This little life has been more compelling than anything, but now the world has intruded into me enough that I feel I have something to say. Anyhow, I'm dead sure that my blog is a dead space right now, so I can say anything I want here, and it's kind of liberating.
I feel like the world has been showing me its harsh side lately; the agency where I've been therapizing for a long 5 years has been cutting clients right and left. Budget cuts galore, and a new Director who excels at the clerical and needs a little softening around the edges. She keeps her cards close to her chest, so I don't know her well, and want to be tolerant, but it's hard, as the loss is so great... My bones ache as I prepare discharge paperwork for the clients I have seen almost weekly for 4-5 years. She is getting constant pressure from fiscal, so I feel for her, but she's edgy, so it's challenging. This is how it's going down. She came into my office to explain why we have to discharge people (valid-ish reasons) but then asked if really I think we've helped any of them (my clients), anyway, because they so often miss sessions. And, really, have any of them gone back to work? Isn't that our intention, to make sure they get back to work? And if we cannot claim success in that arena, what are we really doing? WELL, I said, they are alive. They are not in jail, or whoring, or on the streets, or on drugs, or in abusive relationships, or dead. They are not working, but they are also not dead.
Of all the clients I've seen there, almost all have been suicidal at some point; some rabidly so, in a very direct sort of way, and some in all kinds of other more oblique ways. One was a prostitute, a satan-worshipper, and a meth-head, who would go out on the weekend and beat guys bloody... Invariably, she picked the biggest bullies to take down, because somewhere inside her the kindness was influencing, if not running things, and she had a soft-spot for the maligned... she rooted for the underdogs. Now, she sits with more more wide-eyed than a child, with rapt attention, as we talk about deciding to make being at peace the biggest priority in you, and what that does to one's life. We've had conversations that have etched themselves on my soul; about letting anger be a fire that purifies, about letting others be who they are, and finding a way to be so settled in our own skin that we cannot be offended by anything; not anything. We have talked about finding forgiveness for everyone; even the men that abused her when she was wearing Hello Kitty shirts and thought that everyone's daddy hit their mommy. Her PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is extreme, and it's oh so easy for her to get triggered-- one wrong tone of voice used to trigger her kneejerk defenses, and any criticism would make her question the validity of her whole being, and take her to the edge of safety, where suicide was an option again... But she is so much stronger now, and living so much more often in the center of herself. We talked about radical, unshakeable self-love, knowing what one is made of, and how to hold that stronger than anything, even when every affront feels like it caves in the ground beneath her feet.
Another one of my clients didn't leave the house at all for a while -- much less go job-hunting... because of such intense anxiety that she would literally crap her pants almost every time --- though in her charting we call this 'bowel incontinence'. She was from LA but years back got run out of town by gang members who were trying to kill her because they'd killed her boyfriend and she'd witnessed it. A tight spot to be in, and she was extremely suicidal. By some fluke she seems to be off their radar now, but she still doesn't sleep well at night, and keeps the curtains drawn and lights off when she is home during the day. She later fell in love to someone else and was married to the guy who, it turned out, wasn't just cheating on her but had another whole family in Mexico. So she has, shall we say, some trust issues. Besides me, she doesn't talk to ANYONE about anything; so having a place to come where she can actually vent, and trust, is invaluable. So, that's correct; she hasn't managed to get a job, she's still on CalWorks (welfare) after many years- and on meds, etc... But she has managed, finally, to go to the doctor, and is actually in love, and her kids are happy and healthy, and things are good, overall. And she's alive.
Another one of my clients was 270 pounds or something- since she was raped she spiraled into a pattern of blocking every emotion with quart upon quart of ice cream, and huge doses of self-hatred. She also had 170,000 dollars worth of debt, and multiple suicide attempts. She's not working yet either, but she's got a beautiful child, and another on the way, and she makes lovely, dainty jewelry by hand, and tells innocently sarcastic jokes and makes me laugh, and I love her. I love them all. I will miss them. I hope they get jobs, because it's seeming that the safety net that's held them for this sweet slice of time is riddled with holes. I'm sad I won't be part of the net for them any longer, but hope that the self- recognition that they found in our conversations will continue to grow inside them. I hope that grace holds them, and keeps them safe, and getting stronger... and alive.