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Part 2:  The woman I’ve become

Oh, how much has changed since I survived & graduated high school (class 2004).  The teen years weren’t horrible; I continued to excel, & ended up graduating as Valedictorian, & I had a small group of friends that I loved.  But I was eager for more that high school didn’t provide - I wanted to go to college.  

College (majored in psychology, minored in African American studies) was the time that I became independent in a safe environment.  I learned how to take care of myself by learning life skills like washing laundry, how to manage money, time management (& mismanagement.. plenty of late nights in the dorm writing papers & talking with friends), developing adult interactions with my professors that were unlike the ones I had in high school, learn that I’m responsible for myself & my education - no one else was, & how to deal with people who loved me, & didn’t.  The latter was a true test because I was treated differently by some because of my disability, & it hurt.  It took me graduating & distancing myself from certain individuals for me to know that yes, not everyone will be accepting of me, but there are many folks who would.  

That fact became true when I went to grad school.  It was grad school where I “reinvented” myself, so to speak.  I went “back home” to my alma mater, but I wasn’t the same 18, going on 19 Vilissa - I was 24, going on 25, & I knew who & what I was.  I was more confident, knew how to value my education more (& yes, time management was on point strong… as you get older, you value sleep, lol), & I was serious about doing this social work thing, which was what I went to school for this time around.  At the time, I didn’t know that disability advocacy would be the work I’d do with my education, but I was open to learning any & everything that was provided to me by my professors, whom I built incredible relationships with, as I did in undergrad.  

After graduating with my MSW, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to make an impact, but doing the “traditional” social work jobs (case management, therapy/counseling) didn’t make my heart sing.  What did?  Telling my story as a disabled Black woman, gaining a firm grip of being proud of belonging to 3 minority groups - African American, disabled, & female.  It took me connecting with other disabled women, esp. disabled women of color, to strengthen that pride, & to figure out how to make this into a career.  I took a leap of faith on July 19th, 2013, & created Ramp Your Voice!  RYV! is my way of empowering disabled women who looked like me, but were ignored within the disabled community & the racial/ethnic groups they belonged to.  My advocacy is inclusive for all disabled persons, but it is disabled people of color, & women of color, that I focus on.  

Through the missteps & triumphs of finding myself, my pride, self-love, positive body image, knowing that I’m deserving of love & a supportive partner, & knowing that being “different” is a blessing, I have no shame.  There’s no room for shame within me - God gave me this life, which is a hard one to live, but as my favorite poem from Dr. Maya Angelou states, “Still I Rise.”  I rise above the ignorance, the prejudices, and even when I stand in my own way…. I rise higher and higher.  No one, not even myself, can stymie my progress - whatever I’m here to do I’ll do until I take my last breath, & dammit, I’m no where near done. 

Dear Social Work Student

I see you. Yes you, the social work student that at 8:00 PM is struggling to keep their eyes open. The social work student that isn’t even sure what fun looks like anymore…oh yes, I see you. I see you because I’ve been you…..and this is my message to you.

Welcome to the world of social work. For whatever reason, your life has lead you here to work in the service of others and I couldn’t be prouder. I understand your frustrations with going to school for social work because in a field of helping others sometimes it feels like you can’t even help yourself. I have felt the shame of being at my internship and realizing you are so tired that you could fall asleep during one of the most important points of your day. I understand what it’s like to leave an internship, go to work to make a little money, then go back to your internship the next morning after staying up to work on papers. I understand feeling like you’ve missed out on being able to be social even though social is even in the name of social work. God, do I understand.

And I still see you…

The worst part is, sometimes it feels like interning, class, papers, studying, tests, and work are all things you have to do just to get to the point where you can add BSW/MSW to the end of your name. You’re right, it is everything you have to do but you are doing SO MUCH MORE. You wake up in the morning and go to an internship where everyone present may not appreciate you to your full extent yet you still take everything in like a sponge. You work tirelessly through your assessing and intervening. You may have counseled the mentally ill or ensured that the patient down the hall has the resources they need to be able to leave the hospital. You may have counseled someone as they received their cancer diagnosis or ensured that your dialysis patient is adjusting to their new life…yes, I see you. You may have just ensured that a family had food on the table, clothes on their backs, and even a roof over their head. You may just followed someone to the edge of life then masterfully walked them back by reminding them how much they are needed or how much is left. You may have saved a child’s life from a home that does not appreciate their beauty and importance. Oh yes, I still see you. You may have just assisted a mother that lost her only child, or a child that lost their only parent. You may have just helped someone pass from this life to the next with honor and dignity surrounded by their loved ones. The list goes on an on because your job never is really done. Even though you feel like their aren’t enough hours in the day….you have donated those hours to countless lives that will never forget you. I see you for your ability to make lasting change, to shape the world, and still function (even when you think you can’t) and there is no amount of praise that I could give that would amount up to what you deserve.

I wish I could tell you that you will never have to worry about feeling how you do when you graduate but it’s not in me to lie to you. It will get better, that I promise, but there will be days when you feel like you have given everything you had. There will be days when you think you will pass out from exhaustion…BUT YOU WILL MAKE IT. You will go to work and feel unappreciated but walk out knowing that you are the glue that holds so much together. Take care of yourself because you are truly a gift to the world. Treat yourself with the kindness, compassion, and care you would give your clients….you deserve it, 

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ReMoved and Remember My Story

This video project follows a little girl and her brother in their trip through the foster care system and court trials for their mother’s custody. The reality of the children involved in the care system - how they react to life, feel about themselves - is often overlooked. What is focused on more heavily is the potential abuse of both the care providers and parents, the difficulties of case loads for social workers, and the outside perspective of addictions, gangs, and other deviant behaviour many foster kids resort to. 

Kristina Marcelli Sargent is a child therapist who combines her creative talents with her passion for mental health through her beautifully illustrated books aimed at enhancing socioemotional development.   Her first book, Buttons The Brave Blue Kitten, is a story designed to help children (aged ~3-8) develop empathy. It is available on Amazon for $16.61 and the Kindle version can be downloaded for only $3.99. Follow the links below for activities she created to accompany the book.

Furry Feelings Chart: This activity is aimed at helping children increase their feeling identification and self-awareness skills.

Furry Feelings Cube Game: Make your own feelings cube, then take turns rolling the cube and either acting out the feeling (having the other person guess) or telling a time you felt that way. Another way to play is to tell okay things to do with the feeling that was rolled. For example, “it’s okay to be angry. When I’m angry, I like to take a quiet break.”

(Makorra Smut Week Day 5: Clumsy First Time)

A/N: If you love fluff then grab a pillow to hug and scream in and don’t pretend you don’t do that shit when you have feels.

Rated M

Korra was good at lot of things. Fighting, bending, being a loyal friend, but Mako’s favorite thing she was good at was kissing. And since they got back from the South Pole after getting her bending back, they did a whole lot of it.

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Note that cooperation among students is encouraged, and competition will not benefit anyone in this system. The purpose of professional school is not to work for grades, but to prepare for practice that will contribute to collective well-being and social justice; grades are not a reflection of your value as a human being!
—  my professor/role model/mentor/hero
Focus on Healing, not Healy

Yes, Sam Healy is a scumbag on Orange is the New Black.  It’s easy to complain about the depiction of the social work profession or the general lack of knowledge by the producers regarding the professional limitations of a social worker.  What can be hard to accept is the fact that there are social workers just like Healy, and possibly even worse.  There are people like him in every profession.  Yes, it’s a terrible depiction of the overall social work profession, but it does happen.  What I want people to understand that are new to the profession, students seeking to join the profession, or workers already in the profession, is that burnout is very real. 

If you add burnout to an already closed-minded view of the world, along with poor professional supervision and social support, then you have a recipe for disaster.  The same can be said of someone who is constantly overextending themselves with the best of intentions and feeling under appreciated in multiple facets of their lives.

Instead of focusing on the obvious issues with the depiction of Healy, instead focus on what can be learned.  Most people don’t go into the profession thinking they are going to feel ineffective, self-righteous, or even intend to harm others, but social workers have a very unique and difficult role that is not always appreciated in our society. 

What can you do?  Discuss the behaviors of Healy in an ethics presentation or amongst professional friends–not focusing on the depiction, but instead the fact that burnout and unethical behavior is real.  Do a self-evaluation and see if you are prone to symptoms of burnout or if you feel you could have acted better in certain situations.  Consult with other professionals, participate in supervision, and find a professional or life mentor. 

What if you witness a professional doing something you believe to be troublesome or unethical?  Attempt to address this with them (unless it is grossly unethical).  If your intervention is unsuccessful, then go to their supervisor (or whatever your organization calls for), report their behaviors to the licensing board, etc.  Refer to your Code of Ethics in regards to professional and ethical expectations when dealing with an unethical situation.  Also, Evaluate your work environment and realize that yes, you can advocate and be a voice for the down-trodden; however, at some point, you also have to recognize a toxic environment that does not appreciate your knowledge.   

The world is not always going to view our profession as heroic.  That’s okay.  The world isn’t always fair, and we shouldn’t be in the field for praise anyways.  It’s important to evaluate your social supports, your self-care routines, and your professional interactions.  I would encourage you to not dwell on the fact that the character of Healy does damage to the social work profession, but instead, recognize the many pitfalls that can occur with unethical behavior and when validation is not found in other areas of your life.  Do better, be better, and certainly live better.

– TheMostSocialWorker

p.s.  This was going to be a couple of sentences.  Fail.

(Makorra Smut Week Day 4: Angry Make-up Sex)

A/N: I’m a little late on tis,,,whoopsie

Rated M

“Why didn’t you write me?!”, he yelled.

“I already told you! I didn’t know what to say!”, she yelled back.

“Oh but you knew what to say to Asami? Just Asami?”, he questioned.

The pair had been going back and forth on the subject for days, in a moderate tone. But when Mako had invited Korra over to his place to catch up, Mako’s cork popped and he let out all his frustrations with her.

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