Today is just like any other day. I hop in the shower, throw on my clothes and dart out the door. It’s almost 9am, and I’m running a few minutes behind. I don’t like to be late because punctuality is something we are constantly trying to teach the women; and like most other things, it’s best taught by example. I vow to not hit snooze tomorrow morning.
Then I think about my outfit. Is it appropriate? It’s a little tight because I haven’t lost what I call my “winter layer.” I need to lead by example. I need to show the women that they don’t have to dress provocatively to get people’s attention, that their intelligence and whit are just as alluring. I hope my outfit is okay.
I drive on and see several joggers panting along. I’m reminded of how I have to go to the gym tonight after work because it’s how I cope with stress. But I forgot my gym bag - Dang! I roll down the windows to let the brisk spring air hit my face and wake me up. I turn on my Bible app that reads me the passage of the day as I drive down the same winding roads littered with pot holes. I do this not only because my boss tells me to, but because I know I can’t do this work alone. Not for a second. I need help, supernatural help.
I start going through my schedule in my head and my list of things to do for the day. I pull up to the house, park and take a deep breath. I have to give God all the stressors from my personal life, because as soon as I walk through that door, I know I need to be calm and ready to juggle.
One of the most common symptoms our women struggle with is an inability to regulate their emotions - little things feel really big. As soon as I walk through that door, I need to be stable, calm and confident (because they can smell B.S. a mile away). And here I go.
I walk through the front door, and a volunteer greets me. I smile greeting them with a hello and ask them how they are. I want them to know how much we appreciate them, because without them we could never be able to do this work. I walk into the upstairs office and greet our Program Admin Assistant. She is furiously working at her computer. She looks up and smiles with her blue curly hair. She’s such a positive force.
Then I get asked about three more questions before I actually get downstairs to my office. I don’t mind answering them because, you know, that’s my job. I remember that I haven’t had my coffee yet, this is not good.
I finally get to my office and I have six voicemails waiting for me and 17 new emails (in addition to the other 20 emails I still need to answer). But, before I can answer my email and return calls, I look at my list of things to do. It’s about one and a half typed pages long. I’m not stressed, or at least I tell myself I’m not. The phrase “fake it till you make it” floats through my mind. It works. I remember my counseling professor telling me so.
Time to prioritize. Task saturation begins to creep in but I take a deep breath and look around my office. I notice the letter that is framed on my desk, sitting next to my stapler and old coffee mug from the day before. It is from one of the women. She wrote it to tell me how much I have meant to her; she couldn’t do it without me; she loves me. My heart feels full.
I look to the left and see all of the colorful artwork hanging on the wall that the women have painted in their expressive arts group. I see the quote “broken crayons still color” that one of the women wrote on my chalkboard. I think about all of the appointments, meetings, groups, work that they have to do in a day, and I remind myself that they need me. Focus.
I check my to do list. One of the women is out of a prescription. This is priority. If she doesn’t get her meds on time, there are significant side effects that coupled with all of her other emotional stressors, could result in a major depressive episode. I call the doctor and wait on hold for 15 minutes before I am passed on to someone else's hold music. Elevator music, if only they would play some jazz. Now I’m waiting for the nurse.
While I’m on hold I answer a few emails. One of our providers has gotten back to me to let me know about an educational opportunity for one of our women, but it doesn’t work with her work schedule. I email her back and ask if there is wiggle room. Can she go two days a week instead of four? She will check... the answer is no. And back to square one.
I finally get transferred to the nurses voicemail. I leave an urgent message that our participant is out of her medication and she needs a refill asap. They were supposed to fax it over to the pharmacy two days ago. Didn’t happen. Then I check my voicemail, because I have already skimmed my email.
The first one: one of our women needs to schedule an MRI because her trafficker beat her so badly she lives with chronic pain. The other voicemail is confirming a counseling appointment. I need to call the counselor back and reschedule her appointment, because she has a doctor's appointment with a specialist that day. It’s the only time they could see her and she has been waiting for an appointment for nearly two months.
I go back to my email to find the contact info and as I’m pulling it up to make the call, one of the women walks into my office. She’s in crisis. Her face is red and her voice is shaky with distress. She’s gotten some bad news from her doctor. I sit with her and let her express her fears and frustrations. I glance at the clock without letting her see me because I want her to know that I am fully with her, but I also know I have a meeting with the Program Director in three minutes.
I pull up my mindfulness app and begin to guide her in some deep breathing exercises. This will calm her enough until I can schedule time to meet with her later in the day. I patch her up and dart off to my meeting with Heather. It’s not even 10AM yet.
I walk into Heather’s office and smile. She asks me how I am. I say fine. She says “liar.” I say “I’m fakin it till I make it,” and she gives me a motherly eye roll that lets me know she cares and that I don’t need to fake it with her. Our meeting begins. We go through each woman’s whole person plan of care. How is their emotional state? Any issues happen over the weekend? Yes. I was on call and got several phone calls. Nothing major, but we verbally process with each other on how to prevent future calls. She’s always trying to make the program better; I’m always trying to help everyone get a long.
After the meeting, I run upstairs to fax something. This referral needs to be faxed ASAP, because there’s a long waiting list and I need to get our woman on it. I catch one of the Resident Advisors on my way to the fax machine. She is in the kitchen heating up her breakfast, a muffin that smells like cinnamon - Yum! I say hi and offer one of my Southern greetings, “how ya do?” She’s well but she has a few concerns. I listen and validate her concerns and direct her to Heather. I want her to know we care. She is an invaluable member of our team. She’s the night watchman.
I run to the office, fax the paper and check the med binder. I have to do this three days a week because the women’s medication changes frequently, and I don’t want the volunteers to be confused. I notice that one of the med sheets isn’t updated. I delegate to one of our amazing interns, and she states that she will take care of it. I also need her to call the pharmacy to find out if that prescription I left a voicemail with the nurse about earlier is ready. Our participant needs it before she goes to work. I cross my fingers because I really don’t have time to call again. Sometimes I have to call four times a day before they return my call. But I’m not mad at them, they are saturated too. They have too many clients and not enough providers.
It’s the price you pay for free healthcare. But I don’t complain, because I have worked in other states where healthcare is not free. At least our women can see specialists and mental health providers and not go bankrupt. I thank God right before I say a little curse word, because the intern has just told me that the prescription has not been received by the pharmacy. I call the doctor's office again. They will only talk to me because the women have to sign a release to talk to me. I wish I could have the intern call, but no release has been signed.
This time I get through! She says she will fax it right over. Crisis averted. Now where’s my coffee? Before I have the chance to go brew me a cup, our wonderful intern has made me my favorite tea because he saw that I was running around putting out fires. I thank him profusely, because even that small little act of kindness means so much to me. I take my hot tea back down to my office and sit. I take a sip. Ahhh... on to the next task, and so on until I look at my clock and realize my boss will yell at me if I don’t go home.
I pack up my bag and say my goodbyes. I notice the sun has gone down to that place behind the tree by my window because my office is darker. I yawn. I check in with all of the women to see if they need anything from me before I go. Everybody’s alive and doing okay. I did my job. There’s still work to be done, but I must go home and rest, and annoy my husband. On the way home I have picked a landmark, it’s this big red barn. Once I see it, I know that I have to turn my work brain off and give everything else to God. I’m not always successful at this, but everyday I get a little better.