Thursday, September 15, 2011

It’s 2 am and I find myself unable to go back to sleep….thinking about my former client, what his worker said about the Masters in Social Work degree, about my own experiences, and whether this is something that would work out well for me. I find it a little amusing and endearing that two of the people I know and love who have this degree were instantly offended by that guy’s opinion that this is an “easy” degree to get. One finally agreed upon “differently difficult” when I pointed out that it would, in fact, be a whole lot easier than, for example, the Masters in Botany that I had hoped to get (actually, I wanted to go to the doctorate level, but that seems sort of laughable now, so whatever). Suppose I could be naïve, but the psych classes I have taken so far have been easy for me compared to the hard sciences. The one tricky thing is that the “hard sciences” (and now it sort of makes me smile because Dr. Barney, huckleberry expert of the world, whom I was very privileged to have the opportunity to talk about plant breeding with, ruffled my feathers a bit when he called botany a “soft science”) are easier in that there are things which are certain and objective. My experience has been that the psych fields attempt to be objective, but in comparison, seem wildly subjective and full of assumptions, value judgments and attempts to make people feel good in various ways (hmmm, that wasn’t very succinct). Which means that there aren’t as many strictly right answers, but also there aren’t things you can rely on to be strictly true either. Given the level of fun that I had in Ethics class, that should make me happy, but when it’s people’s head we’re talking about possibly fucking around with…..then I’m not so happy about coming to decisions in that way. As a whole though? Yes, I do think it would be an easier degree than say, pitching everything I have into the botany major and trying with all my might to pass those chemistry classes. As far as I can tell (could be wrong!) there would not even be a Statistics class (that has got to be wrong…these people should at least understand statistics, surely??? If this is right then something is fucked up).

The time when I worked in that field was both one of my most fulfilling and most frustrating job experiences. I have Asperger’s, and for me, hearing the words, “because this is the way we do things here” or “Because those are the rules”, is wholly unsatisfactory. I want hard answers (see above for difference between hard and soft sciences!) that make sense and in my experience, this field can’t be much relied upon to provide that. I hated the senseless, agency serving paperwork that was almost solely for ensuring that the person continued to provide revenue and that we had done our job, even if we hadn’t. I still remember the day when an autistic client got through to me that she was synesthetic. We’d been spending hours every week trying to get her to speak about appropriate topics and not to talk about nonsense (it infuriates me that they felt the need to be the arbiters of what was and was not nonsense). For me, it was a breakthrough moment. Now I knew why she thought pink was soft and why red was high pitched in tone. Everything she did made so much more sense! I rushed in there excitedly, only to be given a bland agency-like look and was told to mark that she was still not doing well on sticking to appropriate speech. That pissed me off. My client had just become a hundred times more interesting to me than she already was, and all they cared about was trying to cram her into their little brain dead, sheeplike world. After all, if they were to acknowledge that it was not in fact inappropriate for her to talk about her sensory perceptions, then they would have to change her plan……and that couldn’t happen.

Maybe the agency I worked for was particularly bad. However, the mindset behind these plans…..the seeing people as revenue generating problems and disorders rather than wellsprings of potential and interesting differences who need to develop the tools to make it in the cold world of conformity……that really turned me off. I know that not everyone in the field is like that, but at times, I wonder if it is possible for a worker to benefit the client in spite of the bureaucracy paperwork surrounding the case. We don’t ever grow evenly. Sometimes a person will need to spend a lot more time in one area of their life than another and they really, really need to tend to that instead of whatever the flipping paperwork demands. I think about a client with MR who had been raped. It was all she talked about, because she had not received trauma counseling for it or if she had, she wasn’t over it yet, and I felt like if she needed to talk that out and get it off her chest, then that was the issue at hand. It wasn’t anywhere in her plan. At all. I don’t think anything about it had been written in her notebook. I only found out because she told me and when I inquired of my co-workers and overlords, it was confirmed with the opinion that said client was “looking for attention” and “should get over it”. It takes all my willpower not to wish that those women knew what that kind of trauma is like…because nobody should know that…but god, they could at least have some compassion!!! I know….have felt her pain….but it was not in her plan to seek resources to enable her to recover from that trauma. As far as I know, she is still walking wounded and that brings tears to my eyes.

I can’t work in that field. There is too much pain, it strikes too close to home, and I can’t deal with being surrounded by people who care more about the paycheck than the clients. I never could leave it at work…. If I could help them, it’d be different. But I know what will happen. My hands will be tied again based on societal expectations of “appropriate” and “acceptable” behavior and what can and cannot make money for the agency. Yes, I am that cynical.

I want to work with autistic kids but….in my opinion there is still not enough neurodiversity acceptance going on for me to be able to do it. Maybe I could get that degree and just do art therapy with it? I don’t know…..I just do not ever want to be in that horrible position where I know that I am not helping my client, that what I am being told to do is not working, but I am told to keep doing it because it is in the plan, without any real regard for whether or not the plan is actually helping that person, again. I felt like it was fraud, like we were ripping the government off and using disabled people to do it. One of the more intelligent clients had already realized this. I could only admit my shared disillusionment, but there I was, showing up every day at work, faithfully collecting my paychecks every two weeks. I felt so guilty…knew that I was failing them but was powerless, hands tied, to do much about it. Maybe not all the agencies are like that. Maybe….hmmmm. There has got to be a way…. I think of Camphill. Perhaps the thing to look at is how much choice I would have in who I worked for. A lot of these people are not getting what they need. Speaking honestly, I don’t know that I have been getting what I needed, but there were exceptions, and what a world of difference they have made.

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