Friday, May 29, 2015

an incident

i originally wrote this on 5/27, two days ago. i've added the resolution at the end...

i'm writing this without knowing whether or not i will post it. i had an incident at work today that is still unfurling and i am trying not to stress eat. but have already polished off half a bag of sweet & salty popcorn... at least it's not the worst thing to overeat, but that's not the point.

i have a client who has a DWI arrest. he came to his intake and tested positive for alcohol. when i tried to engage him in treatment, he did not recall the conversation we had about when to start treatment, likely because he was drunk. so it was three weeks before he started treatment; he had a very high positive for alcohol at his first appointment, indicating he either drank that day or drank a lot the night before.

he came in today thinking he had an appointment but he didn't. i saw him and he asked if he could have his schedule in writing, so i took him in my office and we wrote out his schedule. i told him about my concerns that he hasn't stopped drinking and that we'd need to send him to detox, whatever whatever. he said he understood that he cannot drink while in treatment. it was not an emotional meeting; it was about 10 minutes of hammering out his schedule and his verbal agreement that he would go to detox if he couldn't stop drinking - he said he would be able to stop drinking without issue (i am fairly certain he won't be able to).

so i stand up to walk him out and he stands up. i mention something about knowing he can do this and he reaches out to hug me. i do not touch clients without their permission or without them reaching out to me first, but i believe touch is a powerful thing. so i allow him to hug me and he kisses my neck. i do not know what to do or say and i realize he smells like alcohol. i sort of go on autopilot and show him out of my office and immediately engage another client who is waiting for a scheduled individual session with me. i ignore the incident.

six hours later i am getting ready to leave work for the night. i have felt sort of dirty and find myself repeatedly touching my neck and thinking about using hand sanitizer on it. but i do not say anything. i do not go to my supervisor immediately, i did not confront the client. i did nothing. every time the incident pops into my head, i immediately dismiss it, telling myself it was nothing and to just keep doing what i'm doing. it's not like i complete dissociated; i met with four clients individually and led a group. i engaged my clients. it was when i got in my car and started driving home that the incident popped in my head again. my instinct was to dismiss it and i forced myself not to. my rational self knew - knows - there is an issue here. this incident was not appropriate. this client had no right to do that even though i accepted his hug. the incident was completely inappropriate and i have every right to tell my supervisor and i do not deserve to be treated like that.

and it's while i'm driving home that i suddenly make the connection - to my stepfather. my stepfather died in 2003.  my stepfather was an alcoholic who drank beer like water. my stepfather was abusive to me, physically, verbally, and emotionally. and on more than one occasion my stepfather was inappropriate with me in sexualized ways, from telling me details about his sex life with my mother when i was a teenager to an incident when i was about 21 or 22 when i was at my mother's house. i think she had gone out; i was doing laundry and using the computer. my stepfather came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and kissed my neck, beer on his breath, and said something completely inappropriate about us being alone. i ignored the incident, brushing it off and going about my business. i did not even respond to him.

somehow, on the ride home, my brain - something - finally let me examine the incident today instead of just ignoring it. without much thought, once my subconscious allowed the incident to be examined instead of instantly dismissed, my brain immediately made the connection between today's incident and the incident with my stepfather. i don't know how my mind made that connection so quickly, without me thinking about it. was it the smell? was it the act itself, which i keep calling 'the incident' and i don't want to type out? did i detach after the incident today because that's how i survived back when i was being abused by my stepfather? what am i supposed to do now, now that today's incident seems to have stirred up a lot of my crap and i want nothing more than to eat everything i can get my hands on right now? how am i supposed to be an effective counselor if i can't deal with my own crap?

what am i supposed to do now? i know i have to go to my supervisor. i don't want to. i don't want to talk about it. i don't want to admit it because it's my fault. i let him hug me; i encouraged him; i was nice to him; i'm a woman; i have low self esteem; he's older than me. i can go on and on and on. i know this isn't my fault. i know it's not appropriate. but i'm terrified to talk to my supervisor and that makes no fucking sense at all. i don't want to go to work tomorrow. i graduated college and walked yesterday, i wore my cap and gown and got a fancy bachelor's degree. i registered for my graduate program. i'm making decisions in my life that will lead to me being a counselor as a career.

i know, the rational part of me knows, that i can't not go to work tomorrow. i can't quit my job - my career - because of this. but my instinct tells me to run. forget it, let it go, move on somewhere else. the rational part of me knows that i did nothing wrong, that i did not invite this, that i did not encourage him, that my identified gender has nothing to do with it. it is not my fault. the rational part of me knows all of this. but emotionally, i feel like a victim again.

that's kind of grandiose, isn't it? that i feel victimized because of what happened, the incident i don't want to spell out again? it's not like he beat me up or punched me or groped me. he kissed my neck. i feel victimized. and i feel like i'm overreacting by feeling victimized.

what the fuck is wrong with me?

it's been two days since i wrote that. yesterday morning, i went into work as normal. my supervisor came in around 9:30am and as soon as she was settled at her desk, i walked in and said i needed to talk to her. of course she told me to sit. i closed the door and sat down. i told her the client's name, said he came in unscheduled, we were in his office and i was encouraging him - he came toward me for a hug and i thought i had made some kind of therapeutic connection. i told her i accepted the hug and he kissed my neck. i said that i shut down and went about my day. then i shared that driving home i somehow made the connection between the incident and my past abuse; i started tearing up a bit. my supervisor (who was also my professor and mentor) said she was sorry that i was revictimized. 

my supervisor validated everything i said. she told me everything i knew somewhere inside from my education and training - that his actions brought me back to the times i was abused by my stepfather. that victims can be triggered by incidents like this; that it was 'normal' for my brain to make that connection and it was okay that i shut down. she told me that she was sorry that a client violated my safety and that our offices are supposed to be safe; she hoped i could feel safe there again. she told me she loved me and would support me and then asked if she could give me a hug. of course i said yes, and it was like a floodgate opened. i cried like i haven't cried in some time.

she asked if i would speak to the clinic coordinator if necessary; i said yes. she told me that she would meet with the client the next day (today) and tell him he was being discharged and why.

today, i saw him in the waiting room and he smiled at me. i just kept walking - it was really unnerving to me. my supervisor met with him and afterwards told me what happened. she explained to him he needed a higher level of care because he couldn't stay sober, then asked if anything inappropriate happened during our meeting. of course, he said no; when she confronted him, he denied it. not surprising. she said she was hard on him. i believe her; her other job is working with male sex offenders and she does not fuck around.

then today during case conference, all of the counselors were together. at the end of the meeting, the clinic coordinator reminded us all that none of us deserved to be mistreated, abused, or violated by the clients and that it was a safe place. he said we should go to a supervisor right away if something like that happened. (of course, because of my esteem issues and past abuse, i first thought he was saying that i did something wrong by not going to my supervisor right away - then my rational mind kicked in and was like STOP BEING STUPID).

and then my colleagues surprised me and one of the interns with a congratulatory cake since we both just graduated college. i was up on tuesday with graduation, down on wednesday because of the incident, and almost numb yesterday. and then today starts with some tears and ends with chocolate cake and congratulations. i am very happy it's the weekend. and very happy i have supportive, loving people around me in both my personal and professional life.

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