My background in social and human services, and especially being on both sides of the field for as long as I have, gives me an interesting perspective on how certain aspects of social and human services can improve. I’ve often said it’s hard for any agency to provide a quality service without quality workers. I do not envy the human resources department of any agency and I would hate to be in on any discussion pertaining to hiring or firing people in this line of work. At any rate, I thought it would be helpful for me to shine a light on a handful of people I’ve worked with in the past who have been a huge help to me at different points in my life.
I met Rick for the first time when I was 15. When I first met him, I had a hard time making and keeping friends, and I felt grossly misunderstood by the people I went to school with. I was only beginning to come to terms with what made me “different” from them, and I hadn’t quite figured out yet that being different didn’t have to be a bad thing. Rick had a quiet kind of confidence about him, and he had a calming influence on me because of it, yet he consistently challenged me and the way I saw things back then. I also credit Rick for introducing me to different artists and genres of music and expanding my horizons beyond just oldies and country songs.
I started working regularly with Elyse in the fall of 2015. I’ll be honest, I was a needy neurotic mess at the time. Elyse saw me at one of the lowest points of my life, right after I had forcibly removed myself from an unhealthy dynamic involving a pair of individuals who were dealing with gender identity issues. I needed help processing things in my head and consistent reassurance that I was doing the right thing. Elyse always seemed to know what to say when things got too overwhelming for me. Elyse was very supportive and non-judgmental. She liked seeing me happy, and she would encourage me to stick with things that made me happy.
About a year later, I was introduced to Larry. He could sense that I had been through a lot when I first met him, like I was standing at a crossroads in life, and that I was still trying to figure some things out for myself. It was helpful for me to talk things out and “think out loud” with him. And for the first time in my life, I began to realize just how subjective “normal” really is in our society, and that it was okay for me not to be okay. At the time, I didn’t really need to be. It was refreshing to work with someone like Larry who saw me first and foremost as an individual, and not just someone with a disability.
It can be easy for us to get exasperated with the people we work with at times in this line of work, but we really can’t stay mad at anyone we work with for very long, especially for anything beyond their own control. At the end of the day, it’s helpful for us to remember that no matter which side of social and human services we are on, at our very core, we are all people, each of us with our own unique needs and desires, and that we all have lives outside of the scope of the work we’re doing with the people we work with. We are most effective when we can all function as a cohesive unit towards common goals.
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