Here's the thing - I suck at keeping quiet. I suck at sugar coating. This is why I'm not a lawyer but perhaps I should be. I have definitely considered going to law school purely so I can bully people and fight on an even battlefield.
I didn't go to graduate school and amass school loans that may outlive me to be a wall flower. I didn't intern at a therapeutic residential treatment center for a year and a half - unpaid - to sit in a room with the door shut and hide myself away.
I care too much and it is a problem. My husband tells me to leave work at the office and when I'm home, just don't think about it. I get it but I also know, that's not me. When I was first starting out all I could talk about, think about, dream about were the kids I worked with. Before decided on becoming a therapist I considered being a special ed teacher. After a year spent as a paraprofessional in my towns alternative middle/high school while teaching night school and tutoring kids who'd been expelled, I spent four years at CCMC School which is only a school in the loosest of terms. It's largely a catch-all for kids who are simply incapable of being in the mainstream because they are too dangerous. I left there after getting punched in the face by an 11-year-old boy who outweighed me by about twenty pounds. And the real reason I left was because I pressed charges and the bitch troll principal had the audacity to tell me that doing so could "destroy him as a person." How you say that to someone whose eye is blackened and partially swollen shut is beyond me. I walked out that day and never went back.
I quickly learned that teaching was not for me. I was always way more interested in how the kids were doing emotionally and what was going on at home than in attempting to teach them math or reading. Because kids who are that sick, that traumatized, and that unsupported at home do not have any interest in academics. We were told that getting these kids to a fourth grade reading level was the goal and it was about a 50-50 shot that we'd be successful.
At the residential I had the opportunity to see kids in their "home" environment. Even though every single kid there wanted nothing more than to go to their real home, even if their parents were abusive crack heads or in jail. That's where I learned that kids love their parents no matter what. I had a teen whose parents raised him in various crack houses and prostituted him for drug money from when he was a toddler up until someone finally noticed and got him out of there. By that time, he was nine years old. He was sold for sex from the ages of approximately two years old until the age of nine. And guess what he wanted more than anything in the world?
When I met Brandon*, he was 15. Tall, dark black with hooded eyes and an intimidating demeanor he had been through the system for years and was at the residential as a condition of his parole. The minute he'd been old enough to count he began selling crack, cocaine, heroin, you name it. He constantly got into fights with other kids and was not particularly popular. However, once he got comfortable with me and let down his guard his favorite thing to do was to sit on a couch together and have me read him books. Any books. But preferably books with a meaning to them like The Giving Tree or even Calvin and Hobbs.
Kids like him, experiences like that, they changed me on a cellular level. I was not the same person leaving that place as I was going in. I thought I'd seen things before that but as it turned out, I had only scratched the surface.
So on a day like today, when my dear client, Betty, tells me things are looking worse and worse for her, and that the lawyers say I have to keep away in order to protect my credibility, all I can think about is those kids. That boy was just one of the approximately 30 kids I worked with during my time in residential. He is just the beginning of what I saw and experienced.
It's a bitter pill to swallow. But it's the only one I've got.
*Name has been changed