I have witnessed a lot in the past 16 months of crisis counseling, and as I sit on my last day, having discharged my last client last night, I feel so much hope in my move forward. But there is also this lingering sense of heaviness from all that I have witnessed…
I accepted the job, as a Crisis Intervention Specialist, working with youth 3-18 and their families in King County, 24 hours after I learned I was pregnant. So my first 9 months on the job I was pregnant and the 2nd half of the job I was a new mom. While I have been employed there for 16 months, if you take out the maternity leave in the middle, I’ve solidly worked there for 1 year. But 1 year feels like an eternity. There are things I have seen, and witnessed, and felt that are hard to put into words, hard to describe to people who haven’t been there.
Like, how do you explain the feeling of arriving at an apartment, to find a 250 lb naked teenage developmentally delayed (can’t speak or understand language) girl from a foreign country sitting on the stairs and realizing that she is the client. Naked. And what goes through my mind is, “my schooling did not prepare me for this.” To be body slammed and try to explain to the family through an interpreter how the mental health system works here in America.
How do I explain the smell of a pre-adolescent who hasn’t showered or changed clothes for the past 3 months because she sees a bloody axe wielding woman in the bathtub. How do I explain the condemend house infested with fleas with the family living in the basement? Or the 13 year old who was pregnant and kicked out of her house by her aunt, who said it’d be fine if she just went to live in a shelter. Or the 5 year old who put his mom in a choke-hold while she drives down the freeway. Or the meth-coke-crack-oxy-marijuana-alcohol abusing 15 year old trying to stay sober in a family of addicts.
Or what about the 12 year old prostiting herself because she heard her birthmother did drugs and was on the street and she hoped that maybe she would meet her out there, somewhere, sometime.
I have seen so much, and yet, what I have seen doesn’t compare to how much my family’s have seen. And I am leaving this position changed, in a way that is hard to put into words. Not much scared me before, but now there is very little that I am really afraid of in reaction or relation to teens or their families.