Introvert Life

A Double Life: The Unsocial Social Worker

In honor of Women’s History Month and Social Work Month, I wanted to reshare an original guest post I wrote, debuting on Jonzelle Anderson’s Perfectly Imperfect (no longer active).

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I am a licensed social worker, I have worn many hats: therapist, case manager, program developer, grants writer, and community educator. I am big picture orientated; I believe a small positive change in someone’s life can promote an everlasting effect and change their future. It is a rewarding field to be in, albeit underappreciated, understaffed, and underpaid. I am in the business of changing lives, how could I not love that?

Well, there is this one thing I should probably tell you about, I do not like people! Here is a trade secret, a lot of us don’t for one reason or another. For me, it is because I am naturally an introvert, constant social interaction is not my jam. Secondly, I have social anxiety, which has been with me since childhood; this leads to daily uncomfortable feelings and thoughts that I have to fight through, much like chopping a machete through a bramble-filled jungle. Every day is purely exhausting and I try to keep my head above water. Not all people who are in need of help are thankful, some are outright ungrateful and disrespectful. Then there is the system a deeply flawed network of interconnected agencies and organizations that are “doing their best”. Have you ever had to call up Medicaid? I do not recommend it, but we do what needs to be done. At the same time, you are not only fighting for your clients, but you are also fighting for your own sanity. I will take a moment to mention that sometimes the source of frustration comes from within the four walls of your employer, plagued by years of burnout, unethical behavior, and hostility.

You might ask yourself “well gee, why do you do it?” Honestly, I ask myself the same. As someone who struggles with their own mental health issues, I know first-hand how important it is to have a strong support system. There are too many people out there who are alone and feel they do not have anyone. I became a social worker after my brother was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, I witnessed countless children being shoved around and mocked. There were all these professionals, but no one wanted to understand or take their time. During grad school, which was a tough couple of years, my peers inspired me. They too were living with mental illness; we were all told that we were broken, but there we were trying to make sure that, if nothing else, one person would not feel the same way.

To reiterate, I still do not like people. I am one bad interaction away from being a full-fledged recluse. Helping people activates a different part of your brain; it is not about you, it is about them. At the end of the week, I do not want to be bothered. I am physically and emotionally drained; I am powered by the satisfaction that perhaps someone does not have to worry about housing tonight or after years of being unemployed, someone will be starting a new job on Monday. Will I be itching for a career change? Probably. But for now, my compassion is not depleted and I can still face another day.

You’re welcome, world!

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3 replies »

  1. I’m glad you are fighting the good fight. It is a hard field to be in, especially when you suffer from mental illness. I tried; took some courses towards my Master’s in psychology but the course work caused me to decompensate and spiral into some seriously problematic areas. I regret that; I wish I could have stuck it out and worked on helping others.

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  2. I am in awe of the power of your compassion to put aside your own social anxiety to help the vulnerable. This was really refreshing and uplifting to read. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

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