I’ve spent nearly all of the past year working with people who are homeless, addicted, mentally ill, and mentally disabled. I had an especially rough night tonight. Death, drugs, alcohol, violence, and insanity all played part in what quite possibly could be the hardest shift I’ve ever worked.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately, (that’s what I tend to do when my heart gets full) thinking about what I need to learn from where I am now. I know that there’s a lot. There’s a lot to think about. Part of me feels a little bit like I’ve floated over this part of my life, and that’s a coping mechanism, it is. Another part of me knows that it’s taken strength, restraint, determination, compassion, understanding, a little bit of the floating by and a hell of a lot of patience to get through everything I’ve been through this year.
Tonight I want to curl up into a ball and disappear. I have a hard time not dwelling on myself, on the effect this night has had on me. When I do focus on myself, I get lost in a sea of hopelessness. Odd.
So, tonight as I was driving home, the thought came into my mind, “Take a step outside of yourself.” What a novel idea. The instant I allowed myself to take a step outside, I was relieved. Definitely weird. It took taking a step outside of myself to discover that I am not the victim here. I am not the one who died. I am not the one addicted. I am not the one who can find no other way out than violence. I am not the one who is lost inside her own mind.
I am here because this is where I want to be. I was not forced here by circumstance. I chose to be here because this is what I want to do. This is where I want to be. I love these people- damaged as they may be, and I’m committed to helping them.
If you counted up the number of “I’s” I used in the last two paragraphs, you would have no idea that I had just taken a step outside of myself. But it took that step outside to get beyond the mental distress and to find the perspective that I need to survive and to move beyond that and thrive.