I don't think it's any secret that I love my job. Seriously, today I said "Magic Cooch" and "Bologna Toilet Baby" in an official clinical meeting. To the Chief of Mental Health. To say my job is awesome would be an understatement. A co-worker of mine calls himself a "care whore" since we are paid to care about other people. I prefer to think that I care for free and charge for the paperwork, but in part he's right. And sometimes that part is really really hard.
I have been working with a woman for several months who has spent most of her life incarcerated. I've worked really hard to earn her trust, and she's worked really hard not to trust me. Despite this I think we do have a pretty good clinical relationship. I like this woman. I care about all of my clients, but I genuinely like her. She's a smart ass. She doesn't put up with a lot of drama or bullshit. She's kind of mean, but has a tenderness to her as well. But she is so, so sad. So sad that my eyes tear up when I sit in a room with her. So hopeless that when I say I care about her well-being she can't hear my words. So desperate that I think she'd do just about anything to end her pain.
It's such a weird dynamic, because my purpose is to care about people but my job, and my sanity, require a certain amount of distance. On top of that, there's the philosophical question. Do people have a right to live, or not live, their life the way they choose? I believe suicide is tragic, and in most cases cowardly. However, I wonder how I would feel if I were faced with a lifetime of incarceration. Especially here. I'm not sure how long I would want to do it, how long before I lost hope.
It's so hard, because in this case I feel like a serious attempt is inevitable and so it's become a waiting/guessing game. Luckily, she feels safe enough with me to tell me how she's feeling so that I can help. I hope she continues to trust me, and that maybe, maybe we can find some hope that she can hold on to. Even just a little.