Ok, so basically here is the background to the story, on my very first day at my internship, about four weeks or so ago, I was helping out with this program which is for first time shoplifters. (I was working with St**) The clients get referred to our program after they have been caught shoplifting and they can get it expunged from their record by attending a group and basically learning about some different things like peer pressure, self-esteem, etc. The goal is not to talk about the actual issue of shoplifting, but rather to help them with other areas of their lives which could have influenced them to make that decision to shoplift. Anywho, I was observing the group and it was cool to see the clients and to just interact with them a little bit. Afterward we had to do an "assessment" which basically is that we just ask some questions of the client, like medical history, any mental health issues, any drug/alcohol use, any family history of that sort of thing etc. Just a brief assessment of that because the program is considered "mental health treatment".
We started the two assessments with a male client and the assessment went well there wasn't much to say. Then we did an assessment with a girl. That one was a lot harder. We sat down and basically everyone was just talking about the basics (information about the program, dates and times, general feelings about the program, what had happened that had brought her there etc.) As we were having those discussions I noticed that she had scars all over one of her arms, it sort of messed with my head and I was feeling sort of dizzy and I was like sort of mentally checking out a little bit. I was worried that I was going to have to mention it to St, the girl I work with on Mondays. I was also feeling really triggered by it, which was strange because generally talking about self-harm or seeing images of self-harm is not something that really triggers me. Anyways, she had written down that she had a history of self-harm and several other mental health issues. St, noticed that she had written that down and was asking her questions about it. (i.e. was she seeking treatment, when was the last time, etc.) I was just internally freaking out, like a lot. It was pretty intense. After that was done I pretty much just headed back home, still feeling really triggered.
The next Sunday I went to church with a friend (I don't usually attend church, but he had an LGBT friendly church he wanted to check out, so I decided that I really had nothing else to do so why not? haha). The church had a really traditional feel (I am not a huge fan of traditional churches and like hymns and stuff) so I was a bit uncomfortable. We found a seat and the service started, we sang a few hymns and listened to doxologys and whatever else and then the sermon began. I don't really remember much about it except at the end the pastor started talking about self-harm (calling it self-mutilation which I HATE with a passion) and he was talking about anorexia and like saying how we need to give it all to God and that sort of stuff. Basically, I was just really uncomfortable with the whole thing. I didn't expect it to be talked about in church, let alone after I was still sort of shaken by what had happened on Monday. It pushed me over the edge and I did wind up self-harming later that week.
Ok, so back to Thursday. On Thursdays I have this thing called supervision where basically I meet with one of my two supervisors (C**, the one I spend the most time with, and Sh**, the one who is the one who is really in charge) to discuss what has happened in the past week. I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to talk about during supervision, so I asked C about it and she basically said, supervision is a time where you can bring up anything that you think is important, any progress you have made, anything that jarred you or any questions you may have since the last time we met. When she talked about stuff jarring me I automatically thought of the situation from my first day. I had already sort of been wondering if I should talk to her about it, and had discussed it with a friend of mine (an internet friend, Amy). Basically I wound up deciding to mention it in a very vague way, like "So what should you do if something you come across while working sort of messes with you because it might be something you struggle with personally".
I went into the meeting thinking that I would probably talk about it in the vague sense. Basically, when I did say it in the vague sense she didn't really understand what I was saying and just thought that it was like the fact that it is hard to see some things, like for example when she was younger C used to run away from home a lot because she didn't have a good home life, and the building we work in also houses a homeless youth shelter or another example she gave is that it is just hard for her to hear about kids who have been sexually abused because it just is not easy to hear about. Because she wasn't really getting my point I wanted to be clearer and basically everything just spilled out. I told her I struggled with self-harm and that there had been a client who had talked about it on my first day when I was with St. C told me that she had struggled with it too in the past and that it is something that will come across fairly often with the populations that we work with, so we sort of have to be able to handle it. She asked me how I felt about self-disclosure (using personal stories when talking with clients in order to be able to relate to them). I told her that I would probably not ever be able to talk to clients about it because it seems like the wrong kind of relationship to have with clients. She talked about how she might share her story with a kid from youth group, but not really with the clients at work. I agreed that the situations were very different from each other and that I wouldn't share with a client, but would be more likely to do so with a kid from youth group. She also mentioned how we just need to rely on God about stuff like this or something to that effect (the organization that I work for is not religious, however C is and because I go to a Christian University, she probably just assumes that I am as well) So basically we ended the discussion with that, and then moved on to discuss some paperwork that needed to get done.
After the paperwork was done I drove back to school to work at my on-campus job. I was still a little rattled from the conversation with C, but I sat down at the work computer and started working on stuff for work, but after a little while I was just really starting to freak, out my heart was beating fast, it was hard to breathe and my thoughts were out of control. I am pretty sure it was an anxiety attack, but I am not a doctor or anything. I was freaking out about it and so I decided to text C because I needed to find out if she was going to tell anyone about it. Below is what our texting conversation was.
Me --> C: "hey. i just wanted to ask you something real quick about supervision. are you going to need to talk to Sh about what we talked about?"I felt a little better afterwards about the fact that C was not going to just tell Sh about everything until after she talks to me. Now I am worried that C will really want me to tell Sh myself, and I just don't know if I want to tell her about it. I didn't want to tell C in the first place because I just don't really want the people I work with to know something so personal about me. C has mentioned to me on several occasions that their last intern was a "hot mess" and I don't want her to think of me that way, not that they will think that because of this but it is just awkward to have people know this huge secret about you (something that almost no one knows about you).
C --> Me: "Not necessarily, just only if i feel like i need direction, r u talking about the self harm stuff?"
Me --> C: "ya..."
C --> Me: "Well, wuld u rather tell her urself or do u not feel comfortable with her knowing period"
Me --> C: "if you think she needs to know i would rather tell her myself i think..."
C --> Me: "I agree, it wuld be helpful 4 u just 2 get more tools* but wuld it b ok 2 chat about it monday and decide the next step 2gether"
Me --> C: "ya. that would be good i think. thanks."
C --> Me: "Np lady!!!"
*side note: by tool she does not mean "tools" as in things used to self-harm, rather she means like ways to deal with triggers...
First I think I will ask C why she thinks it would be good for me to talk to Sh about it. Like in what ways does she see it being beneficial to me? I also think that I am going to ask C if she ever told Sh about the fact that she struggles with self-harm. If she hasn't, then I want to know why she thinks I should if she has not. If she has told her I want to hear about how Sh reacted to C telling her and if it has really been beneficial for C that she told Sh.
At this point in time I am just feeling really anxious about the prospect of even talking to C about it tomorrow. I am also super anxious that I am going to be expected to tell Sh about it, not that they can force me to tell her, but something along the lines of C saying "you tell or I will" or something like that. *sigh*
Anyways, this post is getting long and rambly and I need to finish it. I will try to update tomorrow (or soon) as to how it goes with C and Sh, I hope it goes well.
Talk to you later!
**initials used instead of their full names...just because I am paranoid...