Internship. The one thing as a social work student I was anxiously awaiting. I applied for the most competitive internship at my school. I wanted to learn as much as possible so I went for this particular internship. We started an intensive pre service training. Former students told us “this is going to be hard but it will be worth it.” Now although I believe in the good of humanity and I am a dreamer and idealist at my core I never thought internship would be easy, I didn’t go in thinking I would change the world. Let me tell you one thing though, I never in my wildest dreams expected it to be THIS damn hard.
I had this huge what the fuck moment. I think we all did. We started to question if we could do this and I mean truly do this. By this I meant direct practice. We all know that people are complicated. Our inner lives are complicated, our relationships, hell even our food preferences can be. I started to have to ask myself “what does it mean to truly see someone in the pit of their mess, destruction, and unease?” I had to really critically think of my biases and yes I had to admit to myself that I did not like some of my clients. *GASP*. All of the idealistic social workers (like myself) probably cringed while reading this. The core of the social work profession is this idealistic type of framework in which we see the world. A core value is dignity and worth of a person. This isn’t always how the world works and you guessed it this isn’t always how social workers see the world. We don’t always like our clients and sometimes we have to talk about it with our supervisors and our therapist (in my case it was both.) I had to really look at myself and use some self reflection. Sometimes I didn’t do the right thing by clients. Not intentionally but I still had to acknowledge my wrong, forgive myself, and move on.
The what the fuck moment didn’t end there. I continuously have several of them, several times a week. You see your worst fears sometimes in clients, sometimes you see parts of yourself too. You begin to realize how close we all are to homelessness. It is such a humbling experience to work with the people I get the pleasure of working with. They have a resilience like no other, and strength that is unrelenting. The crazier part? They are painfully similar to the rest of us. They experience grief and loss. Some have higher education. They desire to be loved to be apart of something. They aren’t too different from you and I. You begin to realize that they aren’t very different from many people you know. I believe the important part of empathy is learning to humanize just about everything you can.
Some people also have untreated mental illness…it is shameful to me how the general public acts like illness above the neck aren’t important. Mental illness is due to a chemical imbalance. Mental illness is no ones fault. Mental illness is treatable. I talk with some very sad people who are really just sick and lack the resources to take care of themselves. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal please reach out to a loved one, a friend, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
In short these what the fuck moments don’t seem to be wavering at all. You are constantly faced with the unfaceable, and challenged by the most challenging things both professionally and personally.
So far internship has been one HELL of a ride and it is just getting started. I love being a social worker although I don’t like it some days. To my fellow interns and everyday super heroes thank you for all you do, the service you provide, and the love you give. The world needs more people like you
Sending all my love & light