Yes, I Have A Working Toilet

In Personal, Work Related on September 20, 2012 at 10:28 am

I complain. A lot. I think it’s in my blood. My mother’s a complainer, my grandmother, and probably her mother, as well. I like to think that even as complainers, we are also very thankful people. Generally, we are. I appreciate what I have, such as my job.

My job, which I give a brief description of in my “who, me?”, has put me through some of the most stressful periods of time in my life thus far. With deadlines looming – or passing much too quickly – and mountains of paperwork. With days upon days of meeting after meeting. With 12 hour days and no time for lunch. It definitely takes the right mindset to not completely lose it. But then again, it takes the right personality to get into this field to begin with.

Unless you are familiar with the population I work with, it can be difficult to understand. These people never get “better”, I suppose would be the most mundane way to explain it. The most fitting example is what I was told upon taking this job: you can spend 10 years working with a full grown man to get him to learn to tie his shoes. 10 years of going over the same instructions over and over and over again with no guarantee that he will ever actually learn it. But one that one day, after those 10 years, that he ties his shoe on his own, or even remember just one step of it on his own, is one of the best things to ever witness. And that is the required mindset of working with the MR/IDD population. So you can see why it takes a certain type of person to do my job.

In addition to this, my job and the people I work with have the ability to change a person, or even highlight their short comings. As I stated before, I feel that I am a grateful person. I don’t take things for granted, just like you, right? That’s what I thought, as most people do, but I was wrong – as most people are. I realized this when I was assigned a new client on my caseload. She was early 40’s and had been removed from her mother’s home by the state, where she had been shut away in a basement in extremely unsanitary conditions and charged with caring for another individual with a more severe diagnosis than her own. She was dirty, physically grimy, with lice and pink eye that she’d had for God knows how long. Her mental health was even more unstable and she was placed in the psychiatric hospital for a 72 hour hold to try to stabilize her. Part of my job for her was to help her begin to plan her knew life. After the hospital, she was given a new home with 2 roommates and I was responsible for filling out loads of paperwork on her that would provide any information about how she wants her home, day, and life to look. One of the assessments had questions such as “are you interested in getting a job?” or “are you interested in learning anything new?”. Her responses were all the same. She didn’t know. She was still terrified, she had been torn away from her family (no matter that they had mistreated and neglected her, they were still important to her), and she had no idea what all this paperwork was about. She simply did not have answers to the questions, until we got a little further in.

“What do you like about where you live?” It was one of the last few questions and was possibly the only one that she had a real answer for. When she gave her answer, I had to remind myself that I needed to remain professional, and that was one of the hardest things for me to do. I asked her this question and she responded almost immediately: “The stove. And it has a bathroom with a working toilet.” To this day, I think about what my response would be. Similar to what I looked at when considering to move into my current apartment, probably, I would say “Oh, I like how much cabinet space the kitchen has. I like that there is a fireplace. Oh wow, 2 patios.” Never once do I say “I like that this house has a refrigerator in it.”. That’s something that is supposed to be in every house, that’s not a luxury! But then I am reminded that it isn’t.

This made me realize that while I am thankful for the things I have, I am not nearly thankful enough. This event occasionally pops back up in my brain and I can feel my heart break because I know she’s not the only one having to live like that. I have no room to complain about my life. Yes, it gets tough. Yes, I get frustrated and overwhelmed. But at the same time, I remind myself: yes, I have a working toilet, and I should be grateful.


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