I don’t even have words for how exhausted I am.  I want to update this thing and tell about all my successes this week, but they hardly seem significant, especially since I’ve acted on just about every behaviour in the book since getting off work 7 hours ago.  I’m sitting in my apartment, debating going out to get lunch, debating taking a nap, debating unloading the dishwasher.

About 30 minutes ago, my coworker T showed up unannounced to update his PS3 games (no, I am not kidding).  So now, regardless of what I do, I feel awkward and like I’m being watched (even though he is paying ZERO attention to me), and I don’t feel like I can go hide away in my room without being an antisocial jerk.  This is one of those times when I am convinced that I am totally socially incompetent.

I more or less maintained my weight this week, maybe even gained a little (depending on how much of what I saw on the scale was normal weight flux, water, etc.).  I’m okay with that because I’m still a little below what I was when I entered PHP in November, but I am not going to be okay if the number is up next week.  In fact, I’ll probably totally flip out.

When I’m at work, it’s far easier to be relaxed and chill about my weight.  I play soccer and football, I walk a few miles everyday, I eat reasonably balanced meals and snacks.  I am around a bunch of teenage boys and in general, I can feel okay about what I’m eating because they’re eating approximately 12 billion times more than I am.

But then I get off work on Thursday mornings and it’s like there’s some bizarre threshold I cross on my way off property.  As soon as I’m back in the real world, I’m trying to figure out how to NOT eat for the next two days, how to exercise as much as possible, how to get myself “back on track.”  Never mind that “back on track” would actually mean “eating 100% of my meal plan.”  Somehow, in my mind, “back on track” still means restricting, exercising, and taking a multitude of pills.

Work this week was insane.  Obviously, I was sort of over it after two days.  I was ready to go home.  My boys were RIDICULOUS.  More than once this week, I had to break up a fight.  More than once this week, I was up past 11 pm, trying to de-escalate kids who were cursing out each other and staff.  And more than once this week, I seriously considered quitting my job.

Actually, until about 10:30 last night, I was convinced I was doing okay.  Other than being ridiculously exhausted, I actually thought I was starting to get good at this job.  And then I had to “check out,” meaning that I had to evaluate my performance for the week with my coworker T.  (Please remember that this is the coworker that I totally spazzed in front of and burst into tears last time we evaluated.)  He was asking all sorts of questions that I don’t have answers for, and to be honest, I was freezing cold and my brain was completely shut off as soon as I signed my name on the last progress note of the day.  I mean, other than the fact that I already have difficulty taking criticism from him, it’s difficult because when he was a counselor, he was like, SUPER counselor.  Seriously, the guy worked something like six months without a day off.  Ridiculous.

So needless to say, I’m never going to be as good at this job as he was.  Ever.  I model what I can after his style and insert my own, and I feel like I’m starting to develop my own “style” of counseling these guys, but T has something about him that the guys automatically trust and like and even when they’re upset with him, they think he’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

One of the things he told me when I first came back was that basically, I need to just be myself and the kids will buy into who I am and then they’ll do whatever I ask.  Seriously.  This was his solution.  Be myself.  He asked if I could do it.  I was really unsure.

I’m still unsure.  Be myself?  Who am I?  What if *I* don’t like who I am — how can I expect a bunch of 16 year old boys to like me?  What if I simply have no idea who I am and what I believe in and what I bring to the table?  What if I feel like I different person every day, every week, every two minutes?  What if I can’t keep my head on straight for long enough to pass as a sane, coherent human being?

I mean, I think a couple of the guys are starting to like me as a person, even if they don’t like that I enforce rules and expectations.  One of the most powerful things I’ve found in my job is that as soon as they know I believe in them and, sometimes, believe in their potential more than they do, they start to see me in a different light.  They might still cuss me out the next morning when I wake them up, but they know I’m on their side.

And on a day to day basis, that’s the only thing I really know.  I believe in those kids.  I believe they are more than the choices they’re making and the mistakes they’ve made.  I believe they have the potential to be wildly successful in this world if they’ll just put their minds to it.

If only I really believed the same about myself.


3 thoughts on “Believe

  1. I’m sorry about ranting to you last night, Jess. I really hope I didn’t trigger you into acting on any behaviors. I love having you as a friend, and if talking about struggles challenges that friendship, then we can talk about other stuff. Like our confusion over the knitting language and books and all. We both like books! ;)

  2. Working with youth (not even at-risk youth) is draining and makes you question a lot about yourself and the choices you make. Then make them at-risk kids who challenge you and make you feel like you don’t deserve respect or basic human decency, and you’re on a sure-fire trip to Burn Out City!

    I wound up crying last Friday night because I was “listening” to the messages about my worth that my students send me through their behavior. It takes a little perspective to realize “hey, they’re just kids who don’t know better. They don’t know who THEY are, much less who I am, and I can’t let their behaviors affect the way I feel about myself.” I can only do my best every day to try to show them THEIR value, and keep in mind how God and those who really love me see ME…not how these kids see me. Don’t let them get to you.

  3. Hey Jess,

    I think it is really REALLY interesting what is happening here:

    “then I get off work on Thursday mornings and it’s like there’s some bizarre threshold I cross on my way off property”

    I think you might really benefit from exploring that in excruciating depth. I can relate so well to those thresholds.
    Isolation and how I react to being alone (though I love it…really! Leave me alone…lol)

    Like yourself with that guy sitting there, I too feel awkward doing “down time” around anyone else. It’s like my private realm (outside arranged social encounters, at night, my apartment, my “routine” ) is reserved strictly for me and my mental space and ….sigh….the ED.

    I mean..most people do that all the time. Roommmates, families. Not necessarily interacting actively, but just existing in the same space and just…being and doing their own thingsa. I am very clueless as to why I can’t just be…just BE….it’s like our EDS are jealous and when they get us alone they want us ALONE. Then we struggle to get the heck out of our own heads and thoughts when what we really need is to get the heck out of our own rooms and outside other people. IN other words, the last thing we want to do.

    PS- NOT a fan of the drop by.
    PPS- I could probably make an exception for you.

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