Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life in a locked facility

For the last 13 years I have either 1) worked and gone to school or 2) worked two jobs. Thirteen years is a long time. I don't even like to admit I'm old enough to have been working for 13 years! But, well, I'm tired. Really tired.

My current full time job is as a clinician in a preschool partial hospitalization unit. That means little teeny kiddos who get kicked out of "regular" preschools and daycares. Typically for aggressive behavior. The kids who hit, kick, bite, throw things (like chairs and tables). The unit is locked. Non-staff must be accompanied by staff when they are visiting the unit. Parents don't get to meet other parents or get to know their child's classmate because of confidentiality. It can be intense.

It is pretty much a daily occurrence to hear crying, screaming, and swearing on the unit. Three year olds with quite the vocabulary of profanity. Chairs get thrown. Punches get thrown. Once even a window was broken. And a bus caught on fire. Because a kid got ahold of a flare. It can be intense.

I deal with parents on a daily basis. I have heard all sorts of explanations and excuses for their child's behavior or for not attending session. A parent once cancelled session because they had to do laundry. I kid you not. I meet with parents who want to medicate their kids into submission. I meet with parents who are in denial that their child truly needs medication. It can be intense.

I see poverty. I see abuse. I see severe mental health. In my face, up close and personal. I've been sworn at and hit. I've had things ripped off my walls. I've had lamps tossed. I've had milk poured onto my carpet. I see toddler tantrums and grown up hissy fits. I call Child Protective Services. It can be intense.

Sometimes staff makes inappropriate jokes after the kids leave. Because if we didn't laugh, we would cry. It can be THAT intense.

Then I go home and parent. And sometimes go to my second job. And try to maintain a healthy marriage. And some sort of a social life. It can be intense. And exhausting.

It isn't all bad. Just yesterday I went to a dance party for the kids who had been safe all week. A gym full of kids doing the Nae Nae together. I got hugs from two of my kiddos who moved up to the school age program. I hear from parents, grandparents, foster parents, and legal guardians who finally understand what is going on with their child and how to effectively help their child. Not every day do I see the good. Lately seems to be a particularly bad string of bad days. But there are good moments. Intense, exhausting moments.

Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work. Just like I am not cut out for anything the involves more blood than a paper cut produces. Most people realize pretty quickly they aren't right for the job,  but we have some martyrs. Those who complain about anything and everything and constantly try to get others to do their work. But we have some people very passionate about helping kids be the best possible version of themselves. People who can engage the tough kids, form relationships, and motivate kids to do better, try harder. People who can engage with parents who are victims of poverty, abuse, trauma, a failing system. Parents who are mentally ill and can barely care for themselves let alone their child or children.

I have thick files on kids who have been here six months, nine months, a year. Kids who will always need treatment and kids who should have never been in treatment.  I get buried under mountains of paperwork. I don't always return calls within 24 hours. I go home and can't always muster the energy to cook. I blast music in my car to erase the day before I put on my parent hat. But sometimes I still dream about the injustices of the world. I am rarely shocked by them, but I am still moved by them, the injustices of the world. And hopefully I always will be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Daily wake up call

For at least the last two weeks someone or something has woken me between 4 and 5 am. Like clockwork. I think it has been 2 weeks, but my sleep deprived brain cannot remember. It has been long enough that my body almost anticipates the disturbance. Another few days of this and I will wake up without cause, just because it has become routine.

I am a terrible sleeper. Have been for as long as I can remember. Now, before you given me your sleep remedies- don't. Warm milk makes me want to throw up. Nyquil gives me scary weird lucid hallucination like dreams. Lavender? Melatonin? Tried them. No success. White noise. Check. Consistent bedtime. Cool, dark room. Done and done. As for other remedies, probably tried them. Or there is a valid reason why I haven't or can't.

Often I read until the words blur on the pages. Surprisingly, since Punky was born, I actually sleep better. Pure exhaustion. Until recently, I had significantly fewer nights when I couldn't fall asleep. And I could get back to sleep after waking. Now, as it grows much to close to the start of preschool, extra curricular activities,  and her 4th birthday, Punky needs me less and less at night. But there are weeks still that she wakes and needs the reassurance that I am just in the other room (no you cannot sleep in my bed), the shadows are nothing to be afraid of (you have a nightlight here, here, here, and here. Sigh, yes I will leave the hallway light on), you can get out of bed to go to the bathroom without me.

On the nights that she sleeps soundly, someone (the Huz, used to being up all night for work, laughing as he plays his game with some other nocturnal being, directly under our bedroom)  or something (train, cats, dog). Usually the cats. Well, Pete. He rarely wants attention, but when he does it is 4 am and he gets it by headbutting my jaw or laying across mu throat. Or wanting to play. With old man cat, Fritz, who wants no part of it and just wants to be curled up at my feet. So I have to corral a cat, which more often than not involves me sitting on the floor, coaxing said cat out from under the bed under the guise that I want to pet him, carrying him out of the bedroom, dashing back to close the bedroom door, wrangling the other cat, shoving him out the door while trying to keep the first cat from slipping back in. Hissing. Bloodshed. Tears. Why, you ask, do I let them in in the first place? Some nights I don't. I kick them out prior to settling in with my book. And then I get the 4 am meowing and Fritz throwing himself at the door trying to get it open. And if I forget to do the super secret lift the door when you shut it so it fully latches routine, he succeeds. He is a persistent old man cat. Nothing short of throwing at least 2 pillows at the door will get him to give up. Of course, if this whole process makes enough noise I risk waking the dog. Or the kid.

The joys of pet ownership.

The Huz, of course, is oblivious to all this. 5 nights a week he is off being a super hero of the cable television world, making sure insomniacs everywhere have their choice of infomercials. On his nights off he is either 1) engrossed in his game, headphones on, having a grand old time yucking it up with whomever it is he plays 2) asleep on the couch 3) turning in for the night (day) just after I've gotten settled back into bed and am almost ready to drift off, again oblivious to anything that has occurred in the previous half hour. This occurs precisely 15-30 minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

The Huz could sleep standing up in the middle of a hurricane (I exaggerate, but only slightly). He is snoring within seconds, while I resist the temptation to smother him and usually end up just getting up. I think it no small accomplishment that he has survived 8 years of sharing a bed with me. If I'm ever on trial for murder, you'll know the sleep deprivation got the best of me.

The Huz will be moving back to day shift soon, and while there are many positives to this, I was finally getting used to sleeping without him next to me.

Sleeping. The true test of relationships.

(King size bed, best decision ever.)

I admit that at least one morning a week I get to work and spend the first half hour staring at my computer screen not doing anything. And not for lack of work to do. Some mornings I contemplate a caffeinated beverage. My senses quickly return and remind me caffeine doesn't wake me up, it just makes me jittery enough to not sleep hours and hours after I have consumed it. Truly. I can't make this stuff up. I am much too tired.

But if you see me sitting somewhere, staring off at nothing, don't say hi. I might just be sleeping with my eyes open. And for your own safety, you shouldn't wake me.