Self Care…

I had a hard week last week, both at work and in my personal life.  I struggle with high levels of anxiety, but it comes and goes so I never can really predict it.  When I was in college it would get so bad that I couldn’t breathe and my chest was in knots.  Now, it’s not quite so bad, but I can feel it building until it almost gets to that point.  Anyway, last week (Tuesday?) my anxiety really took over and I was having a hard time.  My boyfriend had some friends over and I couldn’t bring myself to socialize because I was so uncomfortable and anxious so I ended up just hiding in the bedroom with one of the cats.  To me, that’s not okay.  I appreciate that it helped reduce my anxiety level and that he kept coming in and checking on me and was worrying, but I don’t want to be that person who just hides whenever people are over.  I didn’t really know what was causing me to be so anxious, but I think I finally figured it out.

I worked with an individual last week who had been sexually assaulted the previous weekend.  After they told me their story I did everything I could to be supportive and helpful, but their situation was tricky as they had been pressured into filing a police report by the roommate and parents.  This normally could be a good thing, but they explicitly expressed that they didn’t want to go through the court process and couldn’t handle the trial and everything that came with charges being pressed.  However, they had just seen their assailant in class and felt as though they needed to tell the detective assigned to the case (which is a whole other story…).  I tried to warn them that because sexual assault results in criminal charges, it is the state who is pressing charges against the assailant and not them as an individual.  This means that once the police have a certain amount of information that can lead to an arrest, they must make it.  I was concerned that because they said they didn’t want to go through this process, that they would end up being cornered and forced to do something they weren’t ready for.  Now, I start off every session now with the disclaimer that “everything you choose to tell me will remain confidential, what we talk about is completely up to you and what you are comfortable with.”  As I have talked about in previous posts, I always check in with other staff members after a one-on-one to process and debrief.  For this particular individual I thought it was especially important because my supervisor has a better relationship with campus police than I do and may be able to offer better guidance to the individual or talk to the police and see where the case stands.  After I talked to my supervisor and the executive director they felt that the student should be contacted to offer a few further suggestions about what might happen and things they could do.  I wasn’t 100% comfortable being the one to contact her has they had not seemed comfortable giving me their contact information, so my supervisor said she would contact them.  At this point I was beginning to be uncomfortable with them being contacted because I was worried it would be seen as a breach of confidentiality and that the student would feel betrayed and wouldn’t want our support or services anymore.  I realized days later, that I was carrying that worry and stress of wondering how the student would perceive that contact and that was causing my high anxiety levels.

Since the beginning, I have had self-care preached to me repeatedly.  I got the message, that it is important to take care of yourself because what we do is hard, and we need to be in a good place in order to help these individuals.  I always thought I would be fine and could handle it, but this week I really struggled and am trying to find good self-care techniques.  Even writing this, I feel a slight tightness in my chest and the fluttering feeling in my stomach that is the warning sign for me to relax and take time for myself.  Right now I’m relying on reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and various blogs (www.thebloggess.com, www.filing-jointly.com and www.sometimessweet.com are my daily reads) and Netflix/Hulu to get me through.  I’m trying to find new ways to do self-care, and I really should get back into the gym, but it’s so hard when I get up at 5:30am and don’t get home until 6pm to get motivated to go work out.  I need to work on that.

This four-day weekend couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’m looking forward to spending more time with family, friends and my partner without the stress and anxiety of work for a few days.

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Today has been very slow, but I am completely okay with it because the rest of the week has been very hectic.  This post is going to include a little more of my personal life than I usually share, but I will try to keep it focused on work. This is what my week looked like (and the reason I am 100% okay with a slow day)

Monday (which also happened to be my birthday):
-slow day until I was on my lunch break and halfway through my sandwich a Direct Service (someone who needs to talk) came in.  I was working with them from about 1:15 and then at 2:30 they decided they wanted to go to court for a protective order, so I went with them to that, but unfortunately the courts are understaffed and there wasn’t a judge there that day so they had to fax the petition to another court and wait to hear back.  The courts close at 4:00, and it was 4:30-4:45 before we heard back that the protective order was granted.  I then had to return to campus, make copies of the paperwork, do a mini-strategizing session for the hearing (this Wednesday the 14th) and then leave a message for my supervisor because I wasn’t going to be in the next morning. I usually leave the office at 4:30pm but didn’t get in my car and head home until approximately 5:45pm.

Tuesday:
-I went to court with a client I have been working with since the beginning of October.  During a domestic violence incident, the police arrested the victim and this was the arraignment for those charges.  I arrived in court at 7:40am and met with the client to discuss what was going to happen, what they were nervous about, ways to calm down and not get too anxious etc.  At 8:00 we went into the court room where their lawyer was supposed to meet them as court went in-session at 8:00.  The lawyer didn’t arrive until 8:20am and caused my client to be the last person to speak with the state prosecutor, thus the last person to be arraigned.  (For those unfamiliar, arraignments are like a cattle-call where they have many people come in for one session and each has to go up individually and say whether they plead guilty or not guilty and then either find out what fine/consequence they have or set a trial date). In the middle of all of this, the abuser showed up to receive more property that was left at the apartment.  We had not known that they were going to be there, which was unsettling and I worked with the client to process that.  All in all, I left court at 10:45am, but luckily my supervisor gave me the afternoon off since I had been in late the day before and gone in early that morning.  Also, it was my significant other’s birthday and got to spend time together. That night we had several friends over to the apartment to celebrate our birthdays, which ended in my significant other getting very intoxicated and me only getting 3-4 hours of sleep.

Wednesday:
-Because our crisis center is on a college campus, we rely (like many/all other centers) for volunteers to staff our crisis line and serve as advocates.  In order to find volunteers, my center offers a credited course open to students.  They are required to participate in a 30+ hours training (per state coalition requirements) during class-time as well as document their reactions/feelings/thoughts to the material.  The class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, with a different topic each time.  This day the topic was the conduct and mediation process on campus (i.e. how students who are found guilty of violating the student code of conduct can be charged/banned from campus) and I was in charge as my supervisor was unavailable.  Towards the end of the class, I received a text from the office saying we were paged by the hospital saying there was a survivor there for a sexual assault exam and that I should head over there (it is protocol for the hospitals to page the local crisis center before meeting with the survivor).  I got to the hospital at approximately 11:15/11:30 and checked in with the nurse who does the exam.  She said the survivor knew I was there, had spoken with our office over the weekend and was unsure if they wanted contact with me today.  This is usually what happens and I didn’t think anything of it and said I would be in the waiting room if they should want to speak with me.  After 2 hours, a staff member came and told me that the survivor did not want to have contact with me, but that I could pass on information.  For every hospital/police call we take, we bring a little envelope of information on our services/resources etc.  I came back from that and did some general work in the office for the rest of the day. Of the whole day, I would say I was in the office for about 3-4 hours (instead of the usual 8-9).

Thursday:
-Each month we host a “volunteer appreciate day” during which time there are refreshments and craft activities for self-care and all students who work with our office are invited.  This month being Thanksgiving, we did turkey themed crafts.  I managed to burn myself with a hot glue gun so badly that I have a blister. Moral of the story: I am not allowed to use hot glue guns.  While the day was not filled with direct service, it was a busy day with lots of people in and out of the office.

Today:
-So far I have not really done anything except replenishing our supplies for tabling (each week we have an information table in the university center to spread the word about our office and educate the students) and go to lunch with a friend.

Next week is a short week for me, which I will gladly take. Monday the office is closed in observation of Veteran’s day, and Friday I have a meeting off-site all day. 

Happy Weekend!