20 years of social work…

20 years ago I became a social worker.

It seemed like the thing to do.

I was driven by a desire to do a job that had at its very centre the desire to help other people. I think this was driven by a number of things- my own troubled childhood, a social conscience that was stoked by a progressive education and perhaps above all, my faith.

It was a mix of motivations that I have never quite escaped- despite the frequent screaming frustrations of working within a bureaucracy, and the early disillusionment with the idealism of being a genuine change agent- working both within and against the state.

It survived the huge pressure of work in inner city Greater Manchester with people in mental health crisis- in what could be a very scary, violent place. It survived because I met some wonderful people, and there was value in kindness and caring, even if I often felt impotent and ineffectual when faced with such overwhelming need.

It survived work as a therapist in GP surgeries- seeing 6-7 people a day with a wide variety of brokenness. Along the way I became more aware of my own brokenness- and aspired to become a wounded healer.

It survived a move to Scotland, and an encounter with a different kind of stress- where the busyness was driven by isolation and lack of resources over a wide rural area.

It has even survived a move into management, with all the power mongering and encounters with the sociopaths.

But under the recent onslaught, the flame flickers dimly. I am tired. My blood pressure is high. I suffer from cluster headaches. Sleep fluctuates. All the classic signs of approaching burnout.

But then- it has been a bad day. And there are still better days- perhaps tomorrow…

And I am trying to do the right things to try to keep the balance towards the centre.

In the hope that the motivations that took me into social work survive, well- survive social work.