Hey Everyone!! :-)
One of my very good friends works with developmentally disabled individuals. Specifically, she specializes at working with both children and adults whose developmental and intellectual disabilities make it difficult for them to control their more violent impulses (which, just for the record, is a fairly uncommon problem among the developmentally disabled population as a whole). As a result, for the last ten years her work environment has been such that at any time she might be attacked by one of her clients. These attacks might take the form of hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, head-butting, etc. Some of her clients have been children, physically smaller than her, but some of them have also been teenagers or adults who were physically larger and stronger than her. Below she describes the emotional toll working with such individuals has taken on her over the last decade, but she also explains her motivation. Personally, I find this woman to be one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. It's truly amazing how she finds the strength to "keep on keeping on," and I think just about everyone can benefit from her message of hope. She's one of those "everyday heroes" that we so often take for granted, and I'm honored to welcome her on my blog today. I hope you all will as well. Take it away, Kate! :-)
The last time I got hit on the head with a step stool while I was driving I pulled off into an empty parking lot, got out of the car and locked it after turning off the ignition and sat down on a curb next to the car. Then I cried. Not because of the pain, although my arms hurt from being grabbed and twisted to bruise me. I cried because I was so damn tired. I was weary in that bone deep, bleak emptiness kind of way that no amount of sleep or coffee will ever cure. In that instant, just for those minutes, I gave up. I quit. For nearly a decade I had lived under the gun every work day, every shift, every moment of my sometimes sixteen hour days. And in that parking lot on that Wednesday, I was done. And so I cried.
That giving up lasted about five minutes. Ultimately, there was still a child in the car that needed to go home and needed to be fed since he had just thrown his entire meal at my head while I was driving. He was going to need to be given a clean shirt since he couldn't stand wet clothing on him and he'd dumped out his apple juice and he was going to need to be restrained if he didn't stop coming at me when I got home. So I got up, brushed off my skirt and took a deep breathe before returning to the car and getting in to drive us home. We made it home and he didn't attack me, astonishingly, instead he simply retreated to his space in the living room and hung out for a while.
That child is now in a state run facility for children who experience both developmental delays and extreme behavioral issues and that facility has fifty staff per home that help do what I and one other person did for three and a half years by ourselves 90% of the time. He is doing well and I am extremely glad for it. I will likely go visit him soon after he's completed the process of settling in. I am a little less tired these days, the bruises have healed and inside when I wake up I can look at the sun without feeling as though there is nothing left inside of me.
This is my job. I chose this route and I love what I do with all my being but there are days when I give up. I have to. If there was no room in my head for failing or letting go; if there was no space I could just stop and cry, I would never make it through. Sometimes, we have to let ourselves give up for a moment or two so that we can find the strength to continue the climb upwards. You have to get used to the bruises, you have to get used to the fact that you, as a human being can do things wrong and sometimes, even when you do everything right, it still doesn't work.
You have to learn to give up and fail gracefully. You have to learn to not fear that moment when you can't go on for one more day, you can't give it one more shot you are so done that you can't even remember why you started. In those moments there is a certain peace and rest and it's okay to feel that way. Honor those feelings, experience them as a perfectly valid response to an extremely frustrating experience that requires super human effort. Sit on that curb and cry. Those moments are cathartic and if you allow yourself to experience them you are much more likely to get back up and try again.
People say things like “Never give up!”. Give up all you want, just don't keep giving up. Find that space in you where you know who you are and what you do, where you honor the essence of the journey that you voluntarily undertook by standing up and starting to walk down that road again. You are much, much stronger then you know and there is, after all, things that need doing which you are uniquely qualified to do. So after you are done giving up, make sure you go back to what you love and what drives you because those things are inherently you and without them you will be less than what you are now. Give up sometimes so that you can keep going.