Wishing that my job wasn't needed anymore. Knowing that it will always be needed.
It's a fine line to walk when you are good at that job. Because in order to be good at it, you have to care about the people. But you have to be careful. Because caring can also lead you into the sadness.
I was pretty good at leaving my job at the door. Coming home and enjoying the life that I was living watching TV and walking my dog. Partying with my friends. Dating and kissing boys. Never once feeling like one of them might hurt me the way that I know can happen. Always aware of those red flags. I walked away a few times because of them.
But I learned fast that letting a client in was important because they know if you are full of shit. My aim was to never be full of shit. I missed the mark sometimes but I aimed to always be true. Real. Never better than. Human.
This was never more tested in me than when I met her for the first time. She was rough. Angry. Loud. She had three kids and she yelled at them a lot. Most people she came to meet were put off by her or treated her as less than. She spoke in slang, broke rules and was battling a monster of a crack addiction. She was easy to write off. And that's what most people did. She wore her bruises like battle scars claiming she earned them. She said that she always fought back and I never doubted that.
It took weeks, but one day in my office I broke through her walls. I saw her. Scared. Raw. Unhinged. Afraid of ruining her children's lives. Vulnerable and childlike. Of course this really pissed her off and she was quick to rebuild that wall and storm out. But little by little, she let me see her.
Over the course of the next four years, she would be with us three times. Between her second and third stay she called me saying that she was giving up her kids. The addiction had won her. She couldn't stay clean. She couldn't stay away from him. She wanted a better life for them. I listened. And then I asked her if she wanted me to hold her hand. To be there. Someone who wouldn't judge her. Someone who knew that she loved her kids. Someone who knew that she wasn't throwing them away but instead trying to do right by them. Did she want me to come?
It was the hardest day. Her anger and walls were on display for all to see. She acted as though she didn't care. Laughing off awkward jokes with a court officer. But then, alone in a conference room, she broke. "Why can't I stay clean? Why can't I stay away from him?" "They will grow up hating me" "I'm fucking trash". I can still hear her. My heart started beating too fast. Tears came to my eyes before I could stop them. The pain radiating from her was impossible to dodge. "You are not trash", I said as I reached out to grab her hand. "You are not". "I know. I will always know how much you love them. I see it. I know it. I'm on your side." She let her tears come. I couldn't answer her questions. I could only be there. I could only witness.
For the next three years, on Monday mornings she would call the shelter to check in. It was a lifeline for her. If I wasn't there she'd say something rude and hang up. She is who she is. But if I was in, her voice would change. She'd tell me about her week. We'd talk about her kids and she'd tell me about the vague updates she would get about their pending placements. Five minutes was her limit. Then she was off until the next week.
Two months before I left my job she stopped calling. I never had the chance to tell her that I was leaving. My thoughts bounce around from her being in jail. Perhaps she had gone back to him or worse. I will never know. But I think about her. And I hope that she is ok. When i think about her, I wish that I could tell her that I am still on her side. That I still believe in her. And that I never gave up on her.
So today, I pass the Purple Purse (see below) in her honor. And in honor of all the victims of domestic violence that are trapped. The ones who have fallen into the depths of addiction to cope. The ones who have no one to hold their hand and no one to call.
Will you please pass along the purple purse?
From the Allstate Foundation's site: "Throughout October, hundreds of purple purses carrying domestic violence
information will be given to Allstate employees and agents, local YWCAs, government officials, celebrities, media and domestic violence leaders to pass along between friends and family. Each time a YWCA purse is passed and
registered on PurplePurse.com, The Allstate Foundation will donate $10 back to that local YWCA."
And YOU can pass along a virtual purse too. This is how...
Follow this link, you can pass the purse on through Facebook and The Allstate Foundation will donate $5 for each pass to the YWCA to support programming that supports victims of violence and empower women.
800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to a safe computer at a library or friends house and visit the website http://www.thehotline.org/. They can help.