Making a Difference – Even if We Never Know It

I have a love/hate relationship with my job for many reasons – the first one being I don’t even like admitting to the fact that I am a caseworker for child protective services. Nobody likes caseworkers – they automatically bring up a lot of negative feelings and stereotypes. I like to think that I’m helping children who can’t help themselves and that I’m making a difference in families’ lives, but sometimes it can get really discouraging. There’s laws and regulations we have to follow, so we can’t always give the families what they truly deserve. Sometimes we’re so overloaded with cases that other cases have to get put on the back burner. Sometimes we are dealing with crisis after crisis on our cases and we have to put our own families on the back burner. Sometimes our clients let us down over and over so many times that we think there may never be hope for them.

But we, as social workers, aren’t in this profession for the thanks. We have to remember that it is our calling to serve our clients. We are the people who are there in their worst hour. We may never know the impact we have on a client (or anyone we meet for that matter), but that makes it all the more important to treat them with kindness. Leave a lasting impression. You make more of an impact than you know – do you want it to be good or bad?

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I once had a client (a teenage girl) tell me that a former caseworker had made a comment to her that no foster parent would ever want her because she eats too much. WHAT?! My heart broke for this young woman. I wanted to strangle the caseworker who had said this to her. This teenager, who already struggles with depression and self esteem issues, will likely go on to have body image issues and that comment will ring in her head for years to come.

I would love to hear your stories (good and bad) about your experiences with child protective services. I am trying my best to be conscious of how I interact with my clients and how I can make a tough situation just a little bit better. I’d like to think that even if I don’t hear about the good things now, they come down the road.

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Credentials

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I graduated last weekend with my masters degree. I should feel accomplished, right? Relieved? Excited? All of the above?

….but I don’t feel any different.

Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet. I’m done with school FOREVER. One thing I am looking forward to is having more time to spend with my husband. We got married last August, right when I was switching from a part-time to full-time student. It will be nice to have the time to focus solely on on our marriage! (I was going to say energy, but I certainly don’t have any of that to spare.)

Even though school is done, I do still have one more test to study for – the licensure exam. In Pennsylvania, once you get your MSW you can take the licensure test to become an LSW. That’s my next goal!

(Impatiently) Waiting…

I had a bunch of tests done a few weeks ago (doctor’s orders) – like seriously, everything under the sun. I figured if these tests don’t get me some of the answers I’ve been searching for, then it might be time to give up.

My healthcare providers have an online thing called MyChart, which means I get to see my test results as soon as they’re posted! Good? Bad? I’ll let you decide. Anything out of the “normal” range gets posted with a big red ! next to it. Cue the anxiety. And the googling. What do I have?!  What does this mean?! What do I do about it?! Why hasn’t my doctor called me yet?!

So I know that I have a bunch of tests that came back “abnormal” but I have to wait for my appointments with my respective specialists to figure out what these results mean!! HELP!

Searching for Answers

I can’t remember the last time I felt good. Yes, some days are better than others, but for the past….10? 15?… years of my life I have generally suffered through each day with some sort of ailment or another that the doctors could never figure out. They seem to be *kind* of connected, but not enough so for an obvious diagnosis. As a kid I always had random aches that were explained as “growing pains” and my parents often told me I was like the princess and the pea (meaning I was too sensitive and dramatic, for those who don’t know that story).

My daily headaches began when I was in middle school, probably around age 11 or 12. I tried countless remedies but nothing made a difference. In my middle school and high school years headaches were just a normal thing for me. I never went anywhere without my Excedrin, a water bottle, and some snacks. I was always tired during the day, but wide awake when it would be time to fall asleep. Waking up in the morning, I would literally wonder if someone had drugged me – that’s how awful I felt!

“I want you to get a sleep study, I think you might have narcolepsy.”
yeah…right…sure I do… [I thought my doctor was crazy]
but it turns out I actually did.

So I thought I finally had my answer. But after taking my sleep medications for the past 2 years now – I’m still sick. I’ll always be sick. I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I am going to have to be on medication for the rest of my life. Then there’s also the question of which symptoms might actually be side effects of my various medications. Too many questions – not enough answers! It doesn’t help that I’m so indecisive. Yes, I am functioning better than I was, but I still truly believe there is something the doctors are missing. I’m sure some of my doctors think I’m a hypochondriac (as do my parents) but the symptoms are real to me and therefore have to have an explanation of some sort, right? Especially because I tend to downplay my symptoms. I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I’m tired of explaining things over and over and then having people not believe me anyway. It’s often a cycle of me trying to stay strong until I get so tired of being “sick” that I break down crying. I need to stop hiding behind my shields I’ve built over the years.

try to remember:

I need to focus on all of the answers I have already found! I’ve made a lot of progress in my quest to solve my health issues. I’ve also accomplished A LOT despite all of my challenges. I have a tendency to downplay my accomplishments… almost like I attribute them to a fluke thing. When I stop to think about it, I should be proud that I was able get through high school and college with great grades, while looking back having undiagnosed/untreated narcolepsy. I should be proud that I pushed through my headaches and made it to classes, events, and everything I was possibly able to. I have a lot to be proud of. I need to focus on the good things rather than dwelling on what can’t be explained.

 

But, who am I??

I recently turned 25, but no – I’m not having my quarter life crisis. When I stop to think about it…I’ve really never known who I am.

I think the underlying reason is that I don’t have a “thing,” you know?  Let’s think back to elementary school – that’s when kids started defining themselves into groups based on their interests and hobbies. We all knew who loved what – a fact hasn’t changed in adulthood! People still define themselves as dog-lovers, football fanatics, bookworms, etc. I have just never found something I truly love that much. Have I just not come across my passion yet? Maybe I don’t have one. I’ve always struggled with picking favorites in any category. It’s not so much that I’m indecisive, but rather that I don’t see the necessity in choosing one color over the other when they’re all so pretty!

Now, don’t get me wrong – I certainly have interests! I’m not some boring girl who sits around doing nothing. But I don’t have any hobbies. Throughout college I told myself (and others, as if I had to explain my reasoning!) that I just didn’t have time for hobbies & that I had to focus on school and work. After graduation, I threw myself into a really stressful job and I was also dealing with some health issues – so, again, no time (or energy) for hobbies. Then, I went back to grad school WHILE planning a wedding and working full time! The wedding became my hobby in a sense. Being engaged was my identity and planning the wedding was what I did for fun. Now I’ve been married for 6 months and I graduate with my Masters degree in a few months, so I’m beginning to feel a little lost again.

But why can’t I just be me? Why do we feel the need to define our identities??  

For those of you who DO have those things they can cling to and identify with, I admire you! I don’t want you to think this post is in any way meant to tear you down. Everyone should embrace the things they truly love and enjoy. My point is this: if I don’t have anything I feel particularly passionate about, I shouldn’t be made to feel like I am missing out! I’m happy with my life how it is and I don’t need a hobby to define myself.