Running Up That Hill

She spoke out of the side of her mouth on a sunny Seattle morning,  “I lost 4 kids to the state. I was the one who wasn’t supposed to make it, but I did. It took two decades and finally my fifth child to get it all together, and now I help parents who are in the exact place I was in. I went to rehab and all the classes. I did everything it took to get my son back. I was clean and sober but still toxic inside for a long while.” #relatable

A room full of social workers sat quiet and stunned by this woman’s incredibly powerful story. Her vulnerability was buoyed by the steely strength reflected in the angular ridges of her sharp cheek bones. She was made of true grit, borne with cards stacked against her, and full of personal tragedies scattered throughout her life.

She didn’t talk about many generations of societal oppression, decades of prejudice, inequality, poverty, denial of rights, betrayed promises, lack of resources that are disgustingly common to so many Americans & people around the world.

And If she only could, would she make a deal with god? Would she want to shout profanities to the mountains too? How many of us have done the same only to hear the resounding shrill of well-meaning Christians but not the voice of god. The void of silence is deafening. At least it is quantifiable. As much as it sucks at least silence is real.

The hardest part about social work is that there are just too many underlying factors that have brought families to their lowest points. There is often a lack of knowledge of the resources available not to mention the Manila and brown folder bureaucracies sidestepping the way to freedom.

Parents and caregivers are often depicted and treated as villains– when in truth they are often using substances to self-medicate, to just get through the day, to function in a world that sees their disabilities and mistakes as another reason they are unsafe, unfit, worthless, unsalvageable. There are those who have committed unspeakable acts against vulnerable children and who should have no access to their children.

Washington has a ton of resources available to aid parents and children- related to housing, mental health, medical care, counseling, dietary needs, summer camps, and programs that work to strengthen parental skills and personal development. The strengthening of our most vulnerable populations should never be seen as a handout. There are millions of people who have not been afforded opportunities that so many of us have taken for granted because we lived in two-parent households and graduated from school districts that reflected a certain tax bracket- or those of us who barely made that echelon and have been trying to keep up with the Joneses and the Richers, who often live a very guarded and gilded lifestyle- putting the blinders on to the plights of people living across town and sometimes just across the street.

But now I have felt the harsh judgement from people who used to be closer than family. The darkness enclosed like a coffin, like an abusive lover holding you down along with your shame. And then I held myself in the lair of guilt and self-recriminations. I will make sure my clients don’t go it totally alone.

I’m the one who made concessions and apologies but have not gotten any in return. I didn’t hold certain people accountable for being there for me when I needed them. I let them off the hook now. This bitterness does not serve me. The reminiscing over the wounding only infuriates the healing. It takes a while to get your life back on track. Especially when you’re the one responsible for the fuck up.

Part 2: A deal with God

Not gonna lie, this transition has been amazing, but quite solitary; it’s not terrible it’s just different than I imagined. It’s also just the beginning.

I had been living in patterns of devolution for months. A persona unrecognizable to others who knew me well. I hit upon a rage that had never been expressed and a volatility of shockwaves that rippled beyond the bounds or intentions of my person. It all had to burn away before I would have accepted a bipolar diagnosis and that I needed help- that I needed to change some ways of living.

Moving is an inherently solo journey- one I’m so fortunate to be complaining about. Things could be seriously so much worse. I’m very thankful they are not. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of amazing people & friends physically present in daily life.

I wish could take back and redo a lot of last summer. I wish I was over it all. Most days I am. For awhile it was all I could think about. Now I’ve accepted that it’s all part of the ebb & flow of healing.

Sometimes you wonder if you’re alone because you want to be or b/c you’re the problem. Maybe it’s your time to “work on things,” but when does the working cease? When is someone finally worthy enough?

The annoyingly spot-on answer- You’re the only 1 who can determine that for yourself. And in case you want to argue spoiler alert- the fact that humans and this Earth even exists is a 1 in a quadrillion chance miracle. *don’t @ me on that math. 😂

A client told me if he had known what would have happened he’d have done it differently. Wouldn’t we all? He strangely didn’t seem completely remorseful couldn’t figure out why at the time. Then it hit me- he’s accepted the reality of awful circumstances that led him here and apart from his family. I’m grateful the stakes have never been that high for me.

This current journey into social work is much different than it was in Texas for many reasons. I now know what it’s like to feel out of control, embarrassed, regretful, alone, sober, forgiven, in treatment, and finally becoming the best version of oneself.

The ones who have seen the error and changed course- those are the ones who are worth fighting for, and deserve the resources to get their life on track, to get their children back.

How many times have you regretted an action and let it play out over and over in your mind? You remember the events that led up to certain actions and thoughts. Your body revs with anxiety as you relive the event in your mind. When recounting or thinking about a trauma the human body cannot qualify whether that action occurred in the past or present.

Whatever you focus upon will also reflect in your body as your neck tenses, heartbeat increases, etc. In essence we are reliving that past trauma every time we talk about it which often causes involuntary physical reactions. It feels like a haunting at first but distance from a problem or a helps one to see things w/ perspective. Never underestimate the power of your breath in a chaotic situation & therapy to address everything else.

It’s true you can’t win every time. You can’t save everyone and there are some relationships not worth saving (which is tough b/c I’m a life long friender.) My sister gave me the gift of being present while I confronted the personal beasts raging in my head and heart. She gave me the gift of family. My dad gave the gift being there without me even knowing it. So many friends have done the same.

All we really need is someone who will stand with us between the raucous & silent phase of darkness. Western skies are filled to the brim with nights made of stranger diamonds.

There is a beauty in new beginnings- wildflowers blooming in wind. Fragile miracles embedded in the tomb of dirt and earth. We are plants bursting through soil. That initial thrust must have been initially painful, but so worth it now that everything has bloomed. Trust the process for if you are trying- the harvest will eventually bring its bounty.

 

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