Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bah Humbug to you too

Okay, seriously upper-management?  Sending out the THIRD email to remind rub it in advise us that we will NOT be let go early this Friday since it's not acutally Christmas Eve is a bummer.  Following this message up with an animated, red and green HAPPY HOLIDAYS message does not make it better.

Sincerely, Nectarine.

Update: Big Christmas-spirit points to my direct manager however who kindly reminds us that many of us have lieu time we can use, or if we just happen to have last minute appointments booked outside the office on Friday afternoon...    ;)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Happy winter Solstice everyone.  May your life be filled with warmth and light!

It's raining and dark in my part of the world so I can't wait to get home, snuggle up on the couch and plug in the Christmas tree lights while dreaming about my holiday time...only 2 more days of work until I'm off for 2 weeks!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Language Matters: Non-compliant

This post is a part of the Recovery 101 blog series. The series will explore ideas, philosophies, language, tools, and questions about mental health recovery. Submit any ideas for topics in the comments section of any tagged post.

We in social services know the importance of language. We know that words can hurt or empower. We know that labels may stigmatize. And yet so often our work comes from a place, system or history that promotes these very problems. As one part of the Recovery 101 series I want to explore the language and word that hurt the work we do, as well as the people we work with.

One of my greatest pet peeves is the term “non-compliant”. Direct from the medical and clinic model of treatment, it is usually used to refer to someone who stops taking their medication against medical advice. It may also refer to refusal to participate in other forms of treatment.

When I hear non-compliant I hear:
1) that medication is the sole or primary method of improvement
2) that the treating physician knows what is best
3) that the patient or person is doing something WRONG or even deviant
4) that the patient or person does not have the right to determine how they want to recover
5) the reasons the person has for not taking medications are insignificant compared to what professionals or others perceive as the benefits of the medication
6) the patient or person is sick and must be made better

What alternatives exist to these words:
1) person has decided not to take the prescribed medication
2) person does not find the medication effective, or finds the side-effects unpleasant and is seeking alternative methods
3) the person is comfortable/prefers not taking medications at this time
4) the person has difficulty taking their medications consistently and may need help in this area

How do you view or support clients or others in their decisions around taking medications? Do you use the term non-compliant or have an alternative to suggest? Have you as a patient or person dealing with mental illness felt you have agency or decision making power with regards to medical treatment?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cleaning Out and Cleaning UP

A client of mine who has some, ah, let's call it "moderate" hoarding issues recently made it a goal of hers to clear out her kitchen enough that she could set up the table and chairs that she has.  I am helping her with this, and we began by tackling a corner where she had numerous plastic and paper shopping bags stacked about knee high.  In many of these bags were old empty prescription bottles she hadn't wanted to throw out due to her name and address being on the labels.  In all of the other bags were FULL prescription bottles of medication she hadn't taken, including some serious pain killers.  Apparently her doc has continued prescribing her 3xday when she only takes them as needed (maybe one a day a few days a week).  She had these from the past 4-5 years.  The mind boggles to think of what the street value of these things would be.

We just returned them to the pharmacy for proper disposal.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recovery 101 - Series Kick Off

This post is a part of the Recovery 101 blog series. The series will explore ideas, philosophies, language, tools, and questions about mental health recovery.  Submit any ideas for topics in the comments section of any tagged post.

I’ve mentioned that when I started working in this field, I heard the word recovery tossed around a lot, but there didn’t seem to be any substance to it. I specifically remember being asked in my job interview about “recovery” – I think I said something about “believing that it is possible to get better” from a mental illness. The exchange was pretty vague on both sides.

I now think that part of the reason for this hazy understanding of recovery was precisely because it is so hard to pin down. Mental health recovery is different for each individual. But good community/social workers have always known that each patient/client/member has different needs and strengths, so there must be more to it than that.

From what I’ve learned so far:
-recovery is about living a full life (however you define it) not just getting by, coping, or managing
-it requires an individual to take responsibility for their own wellbeing
-a healthy, supportive, and empathetic environment makes so much difference
-it requires people to make choices for themselves. This may will include choices which lead to both successes and failures.
-the systems currently in place - hospitals, community mental health supports, families - although often well intentioned, may hinder as well as help
-recovery always involves HOPE.  This is probably the most key ingredient.

How do you define recovery?  What does it take?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Port: Where you dock your vessel *wink*wink*

From a mental health assessment form: 

Sec 14. Addictions
Rating example: Highly problematic, person is unable to stop using internet port sites and has lost job and wife.

Did I Miss the Party?

Email sent from a co-worker:

I would like to thank those that have given to the food drive for families that is being run by my client via the Fellowship Church program.

The champagne closes on Wednesday October 19th

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mind Wanders Already on Monday

Alternate title: Monday Morning Musings

Or: I consider my every little thought so intricately facinating, that I just can't help but share.  I know you wanna hear 'em.

1. I wish it was a wee bit colder outside so we'd have snow instead of rain.

2. I wish that little blinky light telling me I have messages to check would just go away.

3. It's only 3 weeks until Christmas holiday, woo-hoo!

4. My Monday 'to-do' list is depressing me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What makes a Social Worker?

I have a confession to make: I am not a social worker.

That is, I don’t have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a Masters of Social Work (MSW). I’m not even a registered Social Service Worker, which is a two year diploma.

This does not stop my clients, or even friends and family from referring to me as a social worker.

I did go to school. One year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (dropped out) and a diploma in Assaulted Women and Children’s Counselling and Advocacy (AWCCA). It’s an awkwardly titled and unique program, but I learned more there than in any other school I’ve attended my whole life. And it is in the Community Services department.

I believe in a recovery model of mental health work. Recovery is a word I’ve heard kicked around in mental health departments for a long time, but a lot of the time it seemed to be more of vague notion of an ideal rather than an actual working philosophy or model. It’s only been in the past year or so that I have really learned how the concept of recovery can be used to help clients and improve the work that I do.

I took to the recovery model very quickly, because it jives well with my feminist and anti-oppression perspective. These are things I learned in the good ol’ AWCCA, as well as my life experiences. 

Most of the time, I feel pretty well prepared to handle the work I do. I attribute this to my training, but also to my ‘lived experience’ - the things you don’t get out of a book. The recovery model values this highly. It emphasizes the importance of lived experience and in particular peer-support in doing mental health work.

Meanwhile, the social work sector seems to be headed for increased professionalization. I don’t really have numbers to back this up, but I have certainly noticed it from my constant perusing of job postings. More and more jobs are requiring BSW’s and even MSW’s for community work that has often been done by people like me. While I strongly believe that further education is a good thing, I do question whether this trend can be congruent with the recovery model.

I also would never want to disrespect or devalue the years of effort and hard work that others have put into their professional designations. Goodness knows I was proud when I graduated my program (with honours thankyouverymuch) but is completing a two or four or five year degree the only way to be a Social Worker?

More to come in a new blog series I am going to call Recovery 101.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thursday Morning Interrupted

I start most of my Thursdays in the same way.  I have a standing appointment with a long time client at 9:00.  Since my work day actually starts at 8:30, I usually pull up into a local parking lot, and drink tea from my thermos while I remotely check my voicemail and read emails on my blackberry.  At about 5 to 9 I drive on over to the client's building and we usually meet for the full hour.  This particular client likes to share, and always has lots to talk about.

The other day I followed said routine.  At about 5 to 9 I realized that I kinda needed to pee, but didn't have time to get to the McDonalds down the street (my preferred pit-stop location.  I won't eat there, but their bathrooms sure are nice and clean!) so not thinking much of it I went on to my meeting. 

As my client is launching into his weekly update, all I can think about is my need for the loo.  It's getting worse by the minute.  I've never used the toilet in a client's home (just my personal philosophy) and I'm not about to start in this particular one.  My client is extremely nice, but not the best housekeeper.  And let's just say that over the years this client has related many a charming tale about various bathroom "misses" (I'll leave that to the imagination).  Only 20 minutes into our appointment as I'm trying desperately not to wriggle and fidget, I had to make some really lame excuse - I'm sorry I have to cut this short today, I've over booked myself - and got out of there! 

Waiting for the elevator was agony.  As I got to the ground and dashed for my car, I quickly tried to come up with my best plan considering urgency/need to avoid any embarrassment.  In full on wiggle mode in the car, I drove down the street to my mother's house, as it's mercifully nearby.  I totally made it, and basked in the glory of this success for a few minutes before carrying on with my day.

This is remarkable only because how is this the first time ever this has happened?  I do the same bloody thing every week?!?  I guess I should be grateful, and just hope it never happens again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Week Sucks Because....(drumroll please)

1. I have only completed 2 out of 9 assessments that are due shortly (usually we only have 1 a week)
2. AM is away so I'm lonely and looking after kiddo by myself
3. I've got a vicious head cold
4. It's cold outside (there was snow yesterday)
5. I haven't written any of my notes for this week yet, and still have some from last week to input
6. I can't even say TGIF because I am going to have to work from home this weekend to catch up
7. I also have to survive taking a car load of obnoxious noisy excited kids to the Santa Claus parade


Thank you, internet, for being there for me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

So, it's November...

and I have to apologize for being a little neglectful of the blog lately.  Some changes at work have made my schedule and stress level a little bit more intense that usual, which tends to take away from blog time.  I have some ideas that I am formulating for posts, so I'm trying to make note of them until I can actually write!

I'm looking to update my blogroll, so if you have a blog of your own or one you really like, leave a note in the comments and I'd love to check them out.

Also, can I just say how much I'm enjoying this show Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Any opportunity to poke fun  at psychiatrists...


Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

As a mental health worker, I've gotta love a day that encourages EVERYONE to bring out their weird and different side!  Plus, I've always had a soft spot for anything dark and scary.  Stay safe everyone, and keep it spooky!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Field Trip!

It's a very frosty morning out, but I'm still looking forward to going with a group of clients to the farm today.  Now if I can just get AM to stop making jokes about sending me to the "funny farm"!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tony, We Never Knew You

I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘good-bye’ to Tony. I never knew him personally, but I’d kind of hoped I might run into him someday if I was in his neighbourhood. I’ve profiled his blog here before, Homeless Man Speaks.

Tony died on Tuesday. Pictures of memorials to him are on his blog, and there was an article in the Toronto Star today about him.

Tony added a great perspective to all the social issue and Toronto blogs out there. He sent humour and reflection straight from the street. I hope he’s rockin’ some new pants out there in the universe.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Email of the Day

Hi Everyone,

Sorry but I seem to be the barrier of bad new lately!

I think this homophonic mix-up by our IT person may have been a Freudian slip.  We have been plagued by network and system problems in the past two weeks, and this was from an email informing us of more problems.  She probably wishes she could throw up some kind of tech-force field to protect from any more problems.  I think "bad new lately" is just some kind of code for "everything sucks right now".  I should really give her a break since she's been working day and night to try to fix all this stuff.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Occupy?

So I’ve been considering heading down to check out the Occupy Toronto demonstration.  So far, it’s been non-violent which is encouraging.  And the police have been getting along with the protesters.  To be honest though, I’ve been skeptical as to the point of the protest – Canada has not had the same economic downturn as the United States, and our banks did not get bailed out by the government.  Are people showing up in solidarity with those struggling south of the border?  Are they just hippies who want to camp out and play djembe’s in the park (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I am part-hippie myself) or folks who simply enjoy causing a ruckus?  But just when I start to give in to my doubts and feel negative about the whole thing, signs like this are encouraging: 

Maybe there is value in reminding Canadians that the income gap has been widening in recent years. In reminding our government that they must continue to work for improvement in our social systems, not rest on their laurels. In reminding the 1% that their gains are someone else’s losses. In encouraging citizens to become engaged.

Maybe some positive forces will come together and organize out of this for real change.  Yeah, I think I’ll go for at least a little bit.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nectarine's Day Off

It's friday before a long weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving).

All 3 of my supervisors are off today.

Our whole network at the office is down.

I am going to try reeeaally hard to maintain a "client focus" today, but I must admit it is extremely tempting to play hookey. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vehicle of DOOM!!!

Just exactly what you DON'T want to see when you pull into the parking lot at a client's building.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Operator, what's wrong?*

The fax came through, but the page must have twisted or crumpled a bit, because the extension number was obscured.  Tried to guess at the number, but guessed wrong (sorry to have bothered you ma'am). 

Called the main line of the hospital and gave the new "automated voice system" a try, but the computer figured that "Andrea" was close enough to "Angela" and patched you through wrong again.

Called the main line, pressed 0 for the operator to ask a real person.  They gave you the extension for the department, which didn't even match the 4 out of 5 numbers you could read on the original document.  Spoke to a very nice lady who told you no, you need to call our downtown location.  Gave you that number, and you give it a whirl.

Another helpful sort answers the phone only to tell you:
1) the person you want to speak to is not in today
2) the whole department closed half an hour ago &
3) you'll need a new release of information before you speak to the person you've been trying to reach anyway.  The one you have is out of date.


*I dial stupid number all day long! 6060-842

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who Are the People (with Mental Illness) In Your Neighbourhood?


There are a lot of stereotypes and assumptions out there about “who” mental illness sufferers are. No matter how many celebrities write books with “revelations” of suffering bipolar or PPD, or how many families contain at least one Crazy Aunt Mary many persist in believing that mental illness is the domain of the poor, stupid, homeless and criminal.

There is plenty of critical thinking and anti-oppression analysis we could do to figure out why people think this way (and why many with mental illness are vulnerable to becoming poor, homeless etc) but I haven’t the energy/time for that right now.

If any one needs proof that mental illness is something which affects people from all walks of life, they should spend just 5 minutes hanging around the local out-patient centre or treatment clinic.

I accompanied a client to his psychiatrist appointment today at Local Hospital out-patient clinic (I know! I said I’d never go there again, but reality bites). Someone who didn’t know him would see that he is a family man (his wife was with him) is middle aged, and might guess that he is an immigrant (English is his second language).

While we were there I spotted a familiar face that took me a second to place. A woman I recognized from my old neighbourhood - she spent a lot of time hanging around the back alley, lived (sometimes) in a nearby crack-house, and often stopped people to ask for change on the sidewalk. I used to try talking to her sometimes, but it was difficult because her tongue was always protruding (possibly a med side effect or a symptom) and she would usually walk away when I didn’t have any change to offer.

On the way out of the office I recognized a woman I know from my family’s church. She’s a white, upper middle class professional who goes to bible study with my mom. I have actually run into her once before in a psychiatrists office when there with another client. We nodded to acknowledge one another and she seemed happy to leave it at that. We did this once again, adding a smile, when encountering each other at the hospital.

In the span of that five minutes I came across people from a wide cross-section of my own life, and who covered a good range of social locations.  And I know it’s not just me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forgive me...

...while I take this (small) moment to gripe.

Last week I (hesitantly) let my supervisor know that I am ready to pick up a new client, as I need to increase my monthly contact numbers.  Some of my current clients are doing well and decreasing their support.  She pushed me to take two new people, but I insisted on one for now and letting her know by weeks end when I would take the other.

Monday morning we received an email that one of my co-workers will be off for an indefinite period, and her clients will be reassigned. 

So I got three of them.


I'll be okay.  And I sincerely hope my co-worker is alright.  Just needed to whine for a minute.  I'm done now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Always Fresh

Office coffee: just like Tim Horton's, 20 minutes 5 hours fresh!  Mmmm....

If you can't read it, that sticker says "9:35am". Pic taken after 2pm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Deal Breakers

Inspired by a recent list from Social Worker Mom I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my “deal-breakers” in my eternal ongoing job search. They have modified slightly over time, but my goals have remained generally the same for a couple years. Am I being to picky, unrealistic or ambitious? I don’t know, but any jobs I look at must:

1. Be somewhat local to me.

2. Offer regular working hours – I can do the occasional evening or weekend, but not shifts. AM works irregular hours already, so one of us has to be home with the kiddo.

3. Offer pay, benefits and holidays comparable or better than my current job (decent where I am, one of the reasons I haven’t left yet)

4. Not require a vehicle. I hate driving, and am not a fan of taking clients in my car (which I do now).

Besides that, area of focus is important. I’d like to work in a women-focused service, preferably a feminist organization. I’m also interested in trauma and healthy sexuality, and keep trying to increase my experience in these areas but it seems like most of these type of jobs want nurses. I have no desire to go back to school for nursing!

The other main challenges for me are that many women-focused jobs are in shelters, which 9 times out of 10 means shift work (see item #2) or are immigrant based services requiring language skills I do not have. My French is pretty good, but it’s not an in-demand language around here. Maybe I need to suck it up and learn Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu or Mandarin. Or just be patient.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helloooo Nurse (is there anybody in there???)

Me (on the intercom/phone thingy outside Local Hospital Mental Health Unit) : Hi, I'm Nectarine from Community Mental Health. I called earlier and one of my clients is here. Could you buzz me in so I can see her?

Nurse: Uh, I'm sorry ma'am, visiting hours begin at 4:30.

Me: I only work until 4:30. I'm not here to visit.

Nurse: I'm sorry, we don't allow visitors until 4:30.

Me: I understand that.

Nurse: I can't let you in here.

Me: Can I speak to my client?!?

Nurse: Who did you say you were again?

Me: I'm her case manager. From Community Mental Health.

Nurse: Well, I guess I can let you in.

*the magic door finally opens to admit Nectarine, and she approaches the fishbowl impenetrable force field nursing station and waits patiently outside the plexiglass for about an hour 4 minutes before Nurse emerges.*

Nurse: Uh, can I help you?

Me: Can you direct me to my client Janey Sad?

Nurse (looking me up and down): Where's your ID badge?

Me: We don't have ID badges, I can show you my business card. This is not my first time here.

Nurse scans my business card.

Me: So can you show me where to find my client?

Nurse: Don't you know? I thought you said you'd been here before?

Me: Uh, yeah, many times to see different people. My client just got here, I don't know which room she's in.

Nurse: I guuueeess I can show you.

*Nectarine follows Nurse down the hall where she opens the door to a patient room*

Nurse: Yeah, this lady is so confused. She's naked, you can come in.

Me: I think I should let her get dressed first...

Nurse (to patient): Helloooo! This worker is here to see you. THIS LADY IS HERE TO SEE YOU. (to me) Come on in...

Me: Uh, are you sure this is my client? That doesn't sound like her.

Nurse: Who?

Me: Ms. Janey Sad.

Nurse: Ohhh, this is Janey Nothere. She's sooo confused.

*another staff member kindly interrupts*

Staff: Did you say you were looking for Janey Sad? She's right here in the activity room, I'll get her for you.

*Nectarine meets with Janey (Sad) who is relieved to see her. Nectarine then waits twice as long outside the fishbowl nursing station, loudly but politely saying "Excuse me" before someone finally buzzes her out the door. She decides right then and there that she will personally drive all clients to Nearby Hospital in future as she is swears she is never coming back to Local again.*

Monday, August 29, 2011

System Shock

The thing that never happens HAPPENED. The system saved the day!

Allow me to explain.

My client is on long-term disability from his job due to his mental illness. His wife works full-time at a fast food restaurant. They have had subsidized daycare for their 6 year old daughter for the past two years.

They received notice recently that their subsidy would end as of September, as their daughter will begin attending full day school. They asked me to call Children’s Services to advocate keeping the subsidy, as they can’t afford the full rates. Children’s Services explained to me that once a child is past the preschool age, and in full day school it is presumed that they do not require the same level of care, and the parent should be able to manage this. Apparently, this is policy. She said she had never heard of any exceptions being made. I kinda see their point, but have these people never heard of P.D. days? Winter and spring break? Summer vacation???? There are many days when the little one will not be in school.

My client is doing well in his recovery, but is not yet able to take care of his daughter by himself for extended periods. He has appointments with various therapists, doctors, clinics pretty much daily, and has difficulty staying awake for long periods of time and handling stressful situations.

So today, 3 days before they are to be cut off the Children’s Services worker calls me back. Apparently the department has just finished approving a new policy which states that approved disability leaves will continue to qualify for supports beyond preschool age, and this already applies to this family.

Hallelujah! We must have saved up some good karma or something. I was all set to do battle with the higher-ups if need be, but they pre-empted me! Any of you readers who work in or receive social services will know just how rare an event this is indeed.

Not bad for a Monday morning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Long, Jack

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for a moment of remembrance.
Early yesterday morning Canadians lost a great leader and advocate when the Honorable Jack Layton lost his battle with cancer.

For my non-Canadian readers, a bit of background: Layton was the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, a perennial third (sometimes even fourth) rung party which in our recent election he elevated to Official Opposition status for the first time ever.


I had the good fortune to meet Jack, along with his MP wife Olivia Chow, and hear him speak several times at anti-Iraq war rallies in 2002-03. It was one of my first introductions to the political world as a young student, and I was encouraged, inspired and impressed by him.

Jack was a tireless crusader for many causes, and unlike many politicians it wasn't just talk.

He wrote the book on homelessness in Canada, literally, with the publication of Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis in 2000.

He co-founded the White Ribbon Campaign, encouraging men to take responsibility for ending violence against women.

He and Olivia showed their support for the queer community, as well as their commitment to the environment by riding their tandem bicycle in the Toronto Pride Parade each year.


Besides his causes, he was known for many things: his big personality, penchant for sing-alongs, his infamous and unmistakable moustache, wearing jeans to city hall as a city counsellor, and a sense of humour about himself.

Layton and Chow at a 1991 Star Trek Convention. (!!!)
Source: all over the interwebs.

I realize I’m at risk of rambling here, because the fact is I just can’t stop thinking about how this man’s life seems to have been cut short. I guess that’s what cancer does sometimes.

Committed to the end, Layton wrote an open letter to Canadians days before his death. Many have quoted it online already, but he must have known these closing lines would become part of his legacy:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

First day back from vacay, 9:01am

This is what greets me...

Problem: My client rents a basement apartment where the landlord and his family live upstairs. They went away for more than 3 weeks and did not leave her with contact information if anything goes wrong. They also did not leave her with any way to get her mail as it is delivered to their post box (to which they have the key). She has bills due, but does not know the names of the companies, or the amount of the bills.

Solution(?): She wants me to come and hang around the post box all afternoon to intercept Canada Post and obtain her mail.* She figures they will give it to me (as opposed to her) because I'm her "worker". Sometimes I wish that pseudo-title held half as much weight as many clients seem to think it does.

*NO, I am not going to do this (as if I even had time). I'm seeing her ASAP to help sort something out, and determine if she will let me talk to the landlord when he returns. Oy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lost in Translation

I subscribe to an online discussion forum for housing workers in my area. I often skim the discussion notices I get in my in-box, however the following caught my attention:

User 1: Hello, we are searching for a Ga-speaking mental health outreach worker for one of our Ghanaian tenants who is struggling with schizophrenia. We've contacted a number of MH service agencies and settlement service agencies, but have had no luck. Any contacts would be much appreciated.

User 2: you can try Multilingual Community Interrupter Service who would be able to support you!!!

User 3: I believe the spelling is Interpreter. An interrupter service would be the polar opposite of that provided by MCIS.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Circle of Care

Earlier this week I joined a client during a CAS (Children's Aid Services) intake interview. It took over two hours. I was the one who had called CAS in. She was aware that I was going to do so, and was more or less okay with it. She's had involvement from them before, and wants to get the help that she and her kids need.

As much as she's on board with using services and accessing supports, I still can't help but sigh when she starts signing consent forms and there are 7, 8, 9 or more of them.

There is a fine line between helping, and invading somebody's life. I fear that line fell closer to helpers number 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but definitely somewhere way before 10.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Long Haul

I can't believe I have been working at the same agency for FOUR YEARS as of this week! Granted, I've worked in three different programs and held four different job titles over that time, but still.

I've also had seven different supervisors in that same period of time. Eight, if you count a director who subbed while we were between bosses. That's got to be a record of some kind.

There is likely a lengthy post here about how I wound up where I am, but frankly it's just too hot today to think that hard.

The combination of these two factors (my employment longevity and the raging heat) tell me that some kind of celebration involving cold beverages is in order. Imma get right on that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Social Work Summer Look Book

Summer provides a particular set of challenges for the housing worker dress code. As always, we must look professional enough for the office, but causal enough meet comfortably with clients in their homes.

Temperatures have been in the 30’s, and even hitting 40 with the humidity so we must try to stay cool. Getting in and out of the car is inevitably hot and sticky. Most clients do not have A/C at home. The office, on the other hand, as well as the many coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces we frequent are chilled to what I’m sure is minus 5 degrees, so layers are important. I’m toting cardigans with me in the middle of a July heat-wave.

We don’t get paid enough to maintain a particularly generous wardrobe which means I rotate the same 2 pairs of shorts and one skirt with great frequency. They are the only things that will allow me some relief from heat, while also allowing me to sit comfortably in some of the less than sparkling clean apartments and rooming houses I visit regularly.

And then there are the shoes.

I read with jealously when SocialJerk disparaged the social worker stereotype of wearing Birkenstocks, because frankly, I’d take any type of sandal right about now no matter how “social worky” they may make me look. But that’s a big no-no. Along with outlawing high heels (makes sense when we are entering all types of settings with a wide variety of health and safety disasters problems concerns) my agency has decided that a fully enclosed heel and closed toe are the only way to go. So the choices are sneakers and socks (which look AWESOME with my shorts and scrawny legs) or some type of flat dress shoes. Either of which leads to sweaty and stinky.

And the cherry on top of this sweaty, sweater-toting, scrawny legged mess? There are some clients who do keep a very neat and tidy home and want me to take my shoes off when I come inside. I’m not allowed to do this, and it’s too bulky to bring along “indoor shoes” so I end up popping on these babies:

Who ever said social work isn’t sexy, hmm?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Office Space

I love my desk.

At least as much as anyone can love their designated office compartment. 

At a recent restructuring of our office, I finagled and pulled rank to get this lovely quiet spot at the far end of the office, with a window at my back.  I get to enjoy the sunshine as well as relative privacy.  I take comfort in the fact that there is no one behind me.  Until I turn around and realize that three levels of management have been sitting at the picnic table directly outside the window, while I have just spent 10 minutes checking Facebook.  Whoops!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alternative Medicine...Sweet, Sweet Medicine...

Any changes to your medication recently?

-Well, my doctor says my cholesterol is high. He prescribed me something for it, but I don't think I'm going to take it because of the side effects.

My friend had high cholesterol and his doctor told him to start eating walnuts. He ate a whole bunch and his cholesterol came right down in a week! So I already went to the grocery store and picked up a big box of walnut brownies.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Counting My (Summer) Blessings

The amazing weather from my extended long weekend has continued so far this week. This kind of beautiful Canadian summer makes almost me wish I had taken a Child & Youth option and gone to work in a school (that’s a big almost – I have great respect for people who work with kids, cause just the thought makes me shake in my boots) so I could have the summers off.

It’s been a little hard to focus back here at work. I’ve wasted much breath trying to convince several clients to go for a walk outside on our meetings. It works with a few, but the rest are suspect when I try a little too hard to sell them on the merits of all that extra vitamin D and exercise.

The one thing that keeps me buckling down is the countdown to my next vacation period. Even though my work doesn’t pay me enough to afford any type of exotic trip this vacation, I feel grateful to have this stimulating and challenging job, and to work in a place that appreciates the efforts it takes enough to offer us substantial vacation time.

I’m really looking forward to implementing my personal self-care plan in 16.5 days.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation Countdown

20 notes
3 phone calls
2 client visits
2 assessments
1 consult
And 7.5 hours are all that stand between me and a glorious 5 day weekend!

Monday, June 27, 2011

No Problem...

A client I recently started working with had been on our service wait-list for nine months. With such a long wait for support, it’s not uncommon that peoples illness or situation becomes worse between intake and initial service. That wait can be a very difficult time for many.

Before this person came in, I read the intake report. He seemed to have a lot of bad stuff going on, so when he came to meet me, I was surprised to see a very calm, well put together guy. Still, appearances can be deceiving, and I wouldn’t know more until I talked to him.

Through our initial conversation it came out that he is back living with his family (had previously been transient) is working a full time job that he enjoys, spends time with friends and has not had any psychotic symptoms in months. He also stopped taking all of his medications, and stopped seeing his psychiatrist.

After he left, the intake worker who had seen him last summer asked who he was, as she didn’t even recognize him. She asked me what had happened, and I told her what he had said to me:

“I stopped taking drugs. Even though I didn’t want to, I figured things would probably get better, and they did.”

Go figure.

If only it were always so simple…

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Politics of Rape

I remember having a conversation with my University roommate once about rape. I don’t remember the details at this point, but somehow through the course of the conversation I know that I made the ridiculous statement that “you can’t be raped!” to my male roommate. He was taken aback, and only had to say “uh, yes I can” to make me realize my stupidity. Despite being a staunch feminist and growing up with a “No means NO” poster in my playroom at home (thanks mom) there were some serious gaps in my knowledge and understanding of rape and sexual assault.

I know I am not the only one who has had this type of misunderstanding. Unfortunately, not everyone is as quick to rethink their definition of rape as I was. Over at the Ms. Magazine blog, there is a campaign going on to change the FBI’s 82-year old definition rape which states that “forcible rape” is “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will”. Such a narrow definition means that many victims and survivors are not included on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The statistics of this report have a direct effect on funding and resources for sexual assault crime investigation.

Here in Canada the Criminal Code criminalizes sexual assault, and defines that as any sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. While our system of course is not perfect, at least it offers victims a vehicle by which to press charges if they want to. And at least they know that they “count”.

I had my own experience of sexual assault, and it took me a long time to realize that’s what it was. For a long time I had bad feelings whenever I couldn’t push back the memory, was triggered all the time and didn’t know how to deal with it. Naming what happened to me was a huge help to coping and taking back power over my own situation. It helps when society doesn’t dismiss what happened to you either.

Even though it’s not my country, I’ve already signed the Ms. petition at and urge you to do the same.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice!

One of my favourite days of the year! We Canadians tend to get particularly excited about the arrival of summer.  I try to convince as many clients as possible to meet me outside and sell them on the fact that the light exposure is good for their mental health.  Not to mention we should soak up some vitamin D when we get the chance!

Admittedly, the nice weather around here has kept me away from the computer and my dear little blog of late, but I haven't forgotten completely.  New posts on the horizon...
Hope you all get out today and enjoy some sunshine! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Comment Update

I am once again able to stay signed in to Blogger to comment on my own and other blogs.  If anyone else is having the same problem as I was, the solution was simply to clear my browser's cache and allow third party cookies for my blog and

Keep the comments coming!

Monday, Monday

Last night was nice and cool, so I decided to sleep with the windows open.  Somewhere around midnight (waaay past my bedtime) I was roused from my slumber by a man across the street yelling and shouting.  I went to the window to check it out.  A resident of the low-rise on the corner was speaking to him from his balcony, and the man was shouting up to him from the parking lot.  Since he seemed to be handling it, I went back to bed. 

At least 20 minutes later, the man was still shouting and it seemed my neighbour had given up and was no longer trying to deal with him.  He seemed very distressed, and as I moved back to the window, I could better over hear what he was saying - making declarations of love, crying out to God, cursing and threatening seemed to be the dominant themes.  At this point I decided he was more than likely psychotic, or at least in some kind of crisis, and that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep until I had done something. 

Deciding it was not exactly a good plan to dash outside in my pj's and try to counsel this stranger, I got on the computer to look up a local mental health crisis number (I live outside my work area, so I am not as familiar with resources in my own neighbourhood).  By the time I got it and went back to the window to try to see him better, he was gone.  I hoped he was safe.

There seemed nothing better to do than go back to bed and try to sleep.  Unfortunately, my furry nocturnal neighbours decided we hadn't had enough excitement in the neighbourhood for one night, and decided to start fighting over my organics recyling bin.  At least, I think that's what they were doing.  Have you ever heard racoons fight?  It sounds like a cross between a dog fight, cats in heat and an 18-wheeler running over somebody's toes. 

Needless to say, I'm feeling less than lively this Monday morning.  How is the start of your week going?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Potty Break

I was at our local disability support office with a client the other day. It’s a nice new building, so I decided to take the opportunity to use a clean and non-scary washroom. I walked in and nearly burst out laughing (which was bad, since I really had to pee) when I saw this sign next to the toilet:

I then turned around and saw this one:

Text: AS A COURTESY TO THE NEXT USER PLEASE OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING: > Do not step on the toilet bowl > Please FLUSH the toilet after use > Keep the whole toilet area clean as you leave. Tissue is cheap. > Please wash your hands after you have finished.

One sign must not have been enough to dissuade these incorrigible washroom destroyers. I guess some people just have no sense of public toilet etiquette.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facts and Feelings

"[Client] has a daughter [name] who is in the care of [client's] mother in Thunder Bay. [Client] reports having no contact with his daughter, and states that he does not wish to have contact. [Client] has indicated that he thinks she is being well looked after and does not wish to disrupt her life."

This man's wife committed suicide in 1999.  She had schizophrenia, as does he.  I suspect any reminders of her are just to painful.

Sometimes when I stop to actually read what I record in my notes it just makes me sad.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Please put underwear on before your case manager comes over.  Please!

Adventures at the Doctor's Office pt 2

Sometimes I read Dr. Grumpy and feel sorry for the doctors. Sometimes I sit in a waiting room and feel sorry for the patients!

A woman came in and I overheard this exchange:

Ms. Skrewd – Hello, I’m here early as usual!
Receptionist – I’m sorry, we don’t have you down for an appointment…
Ms. S – What do you mean? I see Dr. Nohelp twice a year to check my ____________. I booked this appointment 6 months ago!
Receptionist – (checking computer)…I’m sorry I really don’t see your name here. Although we did change our booking system a few months ago, so we may have lost your appointment.
Ms. S – Look, I had to take off work to be here. Can she fit me in?
Receptionist – She’s not here today. She’s never in on Wednesdays.
Ms. S – Well how soon could you book me in to see her?
Receptionist – I’m sorry, she’s about to go on maternity leave. This is her last week.

I think that’s when Ms. Skrewd’s head exploded. They did get her in to see one of the other doc’s however.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Comment Probs

I would just like to say "hi" to some recent followers and commenters!  For some reason, Blogger is not keeping me signed in to comment, so I haven't been able to reply to anyone.  Is anybody else having this problem?  Here's hoping it's temporary!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adventures at the Doctor's Office pt 1

Found in a doctor's waiting room yesterday.  It's not the best shot, so in case you can't tell that is a National Geographic magazine from October 1977.  I know doctor's offices are notorious for providing out of date reading material, but this is a little ridiculous!  There was an ad for "color TV" on the back.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Written assessment answer from a client...

Alcohol: does drinking cause you any problems?
        Not mine, but other peoples around me.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I’m breaking up with a client. At least that’s what I’m trying to do.

I’ve been seeing her for two and a half years. I picked her up from another program, and she has had case management support since 2002.

She doesn’t need me anymore. She’s said as much herself: she’s got an active life in her community, great family and professional supports, medication that works well for her. But she sticks around because she wants a ride. I drive her twice a month to her trustee, which is a fair way from her house.

This arrangement made sense when she started it with her previous case manager. She needed help not to miss the appointments, and to understand the information she was given when there. But not any more. She’s had time to learn and get used to the process, and she can do it by herself, but doesn’t want to. I can hardly blame her. Why spend money on a taxi when you can get a ride for free? And taking the bus is a pain. That, and the fact that my “support” is tied to her housing makes it difficult for me to disengage.

This is the bigger (systemic) problem. More and more the focus in community mental health services is on “recovery” and this is definitely the right idea. People don’t need to stay sick forever, and support from people like me is supposed to help. This woman has had an incredible recovery, but as it stands our supportive housing program provides no exit as long as she relies on the rent subsidy. I would never say that her subsidy should be removed before she can afford it, as having safe and stable housing is obviously a huge contributing factor to keeping her well. She can afford (IMO) to do without me.

After having explored this issue from every angle with my supervisor for months and months, examining myself for counter-tranference, and trying everything to be sure we were not under-serving her or missing ways that we could connect or provide support, my supervisor told me that I have her backing to start withdrawing transportation support. I have no desire to leave her high and dry, so I will propose that we agree on a timeline in which we can develop a new transportation plan and then I will stop chauffeuring driving her. I began practicing in my head how the conversation would go, and how I will handle her possible reactions.

I went to pick her up yesterday. She was dressed very nice and had a big smile on her face. I wished her a happy belated mother’s day and she thanked me. Then she informed me “and it’s my birthday today!” Oh crap.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t rain on her birthday parade with my difficult news. Put plainly, I chickened out.

We meet again in two weeks. I’ll do it then, I swear. Otherwise, I know I’m only prolonging the pain.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Job Posting

From a Social Worker/Therapist job listing that came through my inbox...

Second language is considered an asset;
Willingness to work at multiple sites due to program scheduling & requirements;
Evening work will be required;
Subject to a Police Reference Check;
A nice sense of humour wouldn’t hurt.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Morning After

Woke up this morning trying to stomach some bitter-sweet election results.

At a downtown courthouse with a client, overheard two cops laughing with a judge about being parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant outside.

Got to the office in the afternoon to find that the pantry no longer contained my beloved Tetley's tea, but RED ROSE! Ack!

My faith in institutions is being tested in ways big and small today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Case Manager: Expert in Everything

Voicemail left by a client over the weekend:

"I got my flyers today, they have a sale on an 8GB ipod for (insert $$ amount) and my sister says she can get an extra 10% with her seniors discount. Can you call me back and let me know if that is a good deal?"

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Lesson in Democracy pt II

"I'm not going to vote for that Michael Ignatieff guy. He looks kind of sinister, or evil or something!"

As the federal election approaches, I've been asking all my clients if they plan to vote, and encouraging them to do so. The responses have been all over the place surprising mixed, to say the least.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Party Time

"If I were to picture my perfect guy, I think he would be, like, Wayne from Wayne's World."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Wait

I’m still building up my caseload since I finished my Intake job. While doing intake, I supported nine people. Since February, I’ve had my numbers go as high as 16, but they now rest back at 14. It seems like every second person who get assigned to me has disappeared, or doesn’t want to engage in service beyond 1-2 visits. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising considering in most cases they’ve been sitting on a waitlist for over a year.

I really didn’t think it would take this long. I guess neither did they.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Longest Day" or "What am I doing here?"

Note: meant to post this last night, but was too wiped

I am sooo tired today after doing practically nothing.

First thing this morning I went with a client to the Courthouse to attend a free legal clinic. It is one of those places where you take a number then wait. And wait. And wait some more. Three hours later we saw the clerk for about 5 minutes (she was very helpful) before we got out of that place.

5 minutes to eat my lunch (yay! what luck!)

Afternoon spent tracking down the next client (inner monologue: I just saw him just yesterday, and rearranged my schedule to help him out today, wtf is the big idea disappearing now grr), then taking a long drive through traffic to get him to a treatment session at a downtown hospital. That clinic was running late so we waited. And waited. And dozed off….*snork* wha? What happened, where am I? Oh, and waited…I brought a book this time, so at least I was entertained when he finally went in for his appointment. And I waited. And texted my boss to beg her mercy for missing a team meeting I was supposed to be at right that minute. 2.5 hours spent before we left.

Then waded back into traffic for the long slog to get him home. Only to turn around and head right back into it to finally arrive at MY home where I try to reflect on the ways that I helped today.

What a day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Lesson in Democracy

My kiddo’s school is doing a number of things in April to celebrate Earth Day (April 22). One of these is a fundraiser to “help protect wild animals” with the Earth Rangers. According to kiddo, her teacher presented them with four different animals and let the class vote to choose which one to support.

Kiddo and her deskmate/bff voted for the wolverine* but they were the underdogs, so to speak. The rest of the class supported other animals, and ultimately the Peregrine Falcon was the winner.

“It’s so not fair” she says, as “now those other animals will not get our help. It’s so not fair that some of us wanted to pick other animals, but they don’t count because some more people wanted the falcon.”

As a perennial left-wing voter in this current Canadian election campaign, I can totally feel her pain.

It really sucks to feel like your voice is not being heard. I’m sure Elizabeth May knows how the kiddo feels right about now.

The English language debate happens tonight.

*according to her, because it is “such an unusual animal, but maybe we wouldn’t think it was so unusual if it was not endangered and there were more of them.” Her friend picked the wolverine because of XMEN.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Foot in Mouth Disease

A co-worker of mine is having a bad week.

She works in the front-reception area of our office. The other day a woman from a community partner came in to pick up a large box of information pamphlets. My co-worker kindly offered to help, as she told the woman she should not have to carry such a heavy load when she was pregnant!

Ah, turns out she wasn’t pregnant.

A day or two later, this same co-worker was at a community event hosting our information booth. She was handing out these little cards we have with a black square in the middle where you press your thumb to read your “mood” (kinda like the old mood rings). Red=tense, blue=relaxed, green=calm etc.

A man approached and she gave him a card. He looked at it and said, what is this, is it working? Oh no, she says, you’re black! Uh, yeah, I know I’m black he says. Because he was. Black. Ack, no, I meant you’re still black she stumbles. Offended and confused, he walked away saying I know that, you don’t have to tell me!

She went from white to about 5 shades of red.

It was good for a laugh back at the office at least. Which we all need every now and then to help go from red to blue (or green, whatever).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Records and Receipts

We in social services spend a lot of time in coffee shops.  And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT.  My agency will reimburse me (up to a certain amount) for beverages purchased on client meetings.

Of course I always forget to ask for a receipt.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Well, in case you hadn’t heard yet it’s election time in Canada. Inevitably, election talk comes up with clients. I’m consistently surprised by the number of my clients who profess to support the Conservative party. Everything I’ve ever learned tells me that the Tory’s do the least for the issues that I think of as relevant to my clients, ie., failing to create the promised National Housing Strategy, cancelling Universal Child Care, “tough on crime” policies.

Still, I’m glad when anyone is engaged enough to vote. Hey, maybe I’ve been too brainwashed by the socialist, left-wing nuts (I’ve been a bleeding heart all my life) who seem to abound in social services to ever see what the appeal might be.

Of course, I put on my best non-partisan face during these discussions. Despite how much strain that may put on my face (it hurts!) Maybe I should just ask...what they like about the party, that is...just out of curiosity's sake. Yeah, I think I might be able to get away with that.

I can’t stop thinking about this since one woman told me today that she is considering volunteering for the Harper campaign. Even though she has declared this a “Seinfeld election”.

Go figure.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quick Update

Check out my updated blog roll. New! Improved! Shiny!

Tinnitus too

We have a new microwave in the office. The tone when you push the buttons is extremely annoying.

The photocopier won't stop beeping because it is angry that it has nearly run out of cyan toner.

My co-worker must be very popular today, because she left her cell phone on her desk and the beeping, bleeping, and ridiculous ringtone are incessant!

There are at least 6 people in here all on the phone at once, yelling at the poor people on the other end of the line in order to hear themselves over everyone else!!!


If this is some weird test from the universe to see how well I handle what many of my voice hearing clients experience every day then I fail. Miserably.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Hello blogosphere, did you miss me? Uh, what's that you say? You didn't eeven realize I was gone? Well after one weeks holiday from work and thus from this little blog as well, I certainly missed you.

One week apart was enough (it'll have to do anyway), so now things are back to normal. (what's normal? -that's a question for another day)

I've returned to 111 unread emails, only 4 new voicemails, and 1 new client assigned to my workload. Not bad, I guess.

And yes, I totally look this neat and sparkly when sitting at my desk on a Monday morning.

***UPDATE*** Apparently one week is also long enough to forget how to connect to a printer and syncroize your blackberry. *grumble*grumble*

Friday, March 11, 2011

Putting two and two together

Picking up my messages this morning, I had one from a client asking me to help her prepare for a college-entry math test. While I have many skills I feel I can draw upon to support my clients, math is just sooooo not one of them. Trust me honey, let's not even go there!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Long Haul

How do you help a client who has been the recipient of case management supports for 14 years, and does not yet understand why she is receiving the service and what is its purpose? She can tell me exactly the number of visits she’s had (108 from me over the past 2.5 years, 784 total from all CM’s) but not why they are happening.

Careful of becoming frustrated, I go into empathetic mode. “You seem to have some questions…” “I hear that this is distressing you…” “Is there help you would like that you don’t feel you are getting…”

I’m not sure she hears what I say, as she would like to reinforce her previous statements, and repeats what she’s said before I am finished. Then repeats it again. We are testing the limits of the “recovery model” profoundly here.

So I call in the reinforcements. Her “natural supports” (dad) to keep him in the loop. He really wants to help, but doesn’t always know how. The “formal supports” (housing provider) to give a heads up and some background on the angry and frustrated phone call(s) they will inevitably be receiving. My supervisor so I can check my feelings about the situation, and get the help I need to figure out clinical solutions that may work here.

I really do believe in recovery. A situation like this makes me wonder if there was a failure in the system along the way, something early on perhaps that did not help this person gain understanding and a sense of control over their life situation (answer=probably). Perhaps it’s the set up, the fact that by accepting a rent supplement, she is bound to the “support” aspect of supportive housing. This policy has always troubled me as it is so far from “recovery” based.

On the other hand, maybe this is what recovery looks like for her. She’s been able to live in a place she likes for all those years. She has hobbies and things she likes to do, however sporadically she does them. She tells me she never wants to return to work, and does not want anything drastically different in her life.

Or instead, that could mean we haven’t done a good enough job of instilling hope and conveying a sense of what is possible.

Perhaps her journey is just a painstakingly slow long one. Maybe 14 years has just not been enough to create a new sense of self and new way of living after (what I understand to be) many years of neglect, abuse, illness and loss.

Sometimes it is just too hard to know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

IWD 2011

Exactly one year ago I posted Happy International Women's Day with the comment that "our work is never done."  I like this phrase because it seems to speak to both the (often) intense expectations placed on individual women in their daily lives, as well as the larger social work of feminism, specifically ending sexism.

I love the rant below, and although I've been unable to determine it's original source, it can easily be found all over the internet.  Check out the links, I think they show some of the great work women are doing, and how much more we have to go.


Because women's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we're the first to get fired and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it's our fault and if we get beaten we must have provoked it and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we're nymphos and if we don't we're frigid and if we love women it's because we can't get a "real" man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we're neurotic and/or pushy and if we expect childcare we're selfish and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and "unfeminine" and if we don't we're typical weak females and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man and if we don't we're unnatural and because we still can't get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can't cope or don't want a pregnancy we're made to feel guilty about abortion and...for lots of other reasons we are part of the women's liberation movement.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Coworker speaking to a client on the phone: I don't know what that is, but I'll give that a Google.

Really people, maybe we're taking this whole "google" as a verb thing too far!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Just...lost...a whole...assessment...that took me...2!!!!


My Friday night bottle of wine can't come fast enough...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When Spell Check Doesn't Help

Note to self: when recording how a client copes with their symptoms of depression, there is a big difference between "medication" and "meditation."  While both could potentially be effective, be sure to pick the right one.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Celebrate the Small Stuff

It's really easy to get bogged down by negativity and frustration in this line of work.  Sometimes you just can't help but feel that recovery is impossibly slow, and "the system" is nothing but a big nasty mess serving only to keep people down.  It doesn't help when all over the news there are stories of families who lock their mother suffering with dementia in the garage, and Community Housing Corporations with big spending problems.

This is why it is so important to celebrate the successes.  Even the small stuff. 

Yesterday a client of mine officially received a Regional rent subsidy on her apartment (not from the troubled TCHC).  This is the first client I have even been working with that I have seen come to the top of the list!  She had been waiting for 14 years.  Despite all the paperwork (which this client in particular has zero patience for) she was very excited, as was I. 

Next week we're going to Roll up the Rim to celebrate.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interesting Things

...that I learned yesterday in French class.*

In french, you pronounce the ps in psych as in "psychiatre" (psychiatrist).

That is going to take some getting used to!

*our agency has been designated to provide french language services, so I've had the opportunity to start taking this class which is being paid for by my employer.  It's geared specifically toward people working in health-care settings, which has been really interesting so far!  Improving my french skills has been a personal goal for a long time, so I'm loving this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back to the Grind

I've just had a lovely extra long weekend.  I took last Friday off, and yesterday was a holiday for us (Family Day).  I got lots of sleep and am recovered from my cold.  So now I'm all refreshed and ready 

Actually, it's an ongoing session I've been attending about concurrent disorders (mental health and substance abuse - I understand in the U.S. this is referred to as dual disorders, co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.  Which is extra confusing, because "dual diagnosis" here means mental health and developmental disability).  This is not an area of expertise for me, and I've really been enjoying the sessions.  Plus, lunch is provided - BONUS!

Later in the week I will also be attending "recovery" training.  Add to these a team meeting and monthly supervision and I have time for precisely two client appointments this week.  Yes, TWO

We're keeping that "client focus" alive.

Monday, February 14, 2011

And Another Thing...

Do you wish your clients a "Happy Valentine's Day?"  I don't celebrate personally, and it seems like a rather, ah, personal greeting for a professional relationship.  I've never settled on an answer for this one.

Pill Popping

Downed some daytime cold medicine before work this morning.  "Non-drowsy" it says on the box.  So why has my head felt like it's in a cloud for the past 3 hours?  My day is full of client meetings.  This should be...interesting...

See page for author [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I wish

Me: The waitlist for case management is about 6 months to one year.  I'll call you by next week to let you know if you've been placed on the waitlist.

M. Eager: So I start next week?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Day in the Life

Thursday February 3, 2011

8:30am – park a block away from first appointment and check messages on office phone and cell phone. Remarkably few, possibly due to yesterday being a “snow day”.
9:00 – pull up to client’s building for first appointment. He’s a big guy (with severe back, neck and knee problems) who struggles to get in my little car, but we make it. We head off to check out a new grocery store, a figure out a route for him to take the bus there on his own next time.
9:45 – take same client to coffee shop for a caffeine fix and quick chat about plans for next week’s meeting.
9:59 – return to client’s building, help him load his groceries in.
10:00 – back in the car, call the pharmacy to see if next client’s prescriptions can be made ready for pick up. Ah, crap – there are no more refills. The pharmacy offers to fax a request to the doctor’s office, and I call the client. He swears that he did see this doctor in the past few months (can’t remember exactly when, but…) and forgot to ask about those prescriptions.
10:10 – Call the pharmacy back, they say it might take awhile. Call the client again, tell him it might take awhile and is it okay if I drop his meds off this afternoon. Yes, that will be fine.
10:20 – Eat my lunch in the car trying to ignore the fact that it’s -10 Celsius outside but I’m dressed in several layers so that’s okay. Relish the fact that I have a few minutes to listen to Q on the radio.
10:45 – Head downtown to start searching for a parking spot.
11:00 – Find parking, dash across the street to the church to set up for the Outreach lunch program. My co-facilitator has beat me there, as have several of the clients, even though we don’t officially open until 11:30, but hey, it’s still -10 out!
11:30 – Serve chili, chips, and veggies to familiar faces, and some new ones. The attendees are mostly male, 40+ and kinda rough around the edges. They make loud conversation about politics, people they know, their plans if they won the lottery, and “the way things used to be”. They’re a good natured lot, and the lunch tends to run a lot more smoothly than its breakfast counterpart at the other church. Breakfast gets a bigger crowd, and there is sometimes “trouble”.
12:30 – start tidying up as people leave. Spend some time supporting an elderly couple whose son lives out east and was recently diagnosed with bipolar. They’re frustrated that “the system” out there isn’t giving him the support he needs, and they wish they could do more to help. They went to visit him last fall when he was in the hospital, but the motel was expensive, and it’s hard for them to travel.
1:08 – I realize that I’m late for my next appointment, and try to call but get the answering machine. The outgoing message wishes me a “happy new year” and remarks about the date 01/11/11 for several minutes before cutting me off, so I don’t get to leave a message.
1:15 – I arrive to my “happy new year” client’s building, but there’s no answer when I buzz the intercom. I wait inside the front door for several minutes then try again. I call her phone, and the answering machine seems to work this time so I leave a message asking her to call and reschedule.
1:30 – Back in the car, I drive to the neighbourhood of my next appointment, and park across the street to check messages again. One marked “urgent” from a new client whom I have met only twice telling me that he found a room to rent and is no longer living in the shelter, and he’ll call me later to set up an appointment, because he doesn’t have a phone. Another from a current “high needs” client crying and upset because she’s lost all her ID. This could be pressing, but I know if I call her back it’s possible I’ll get stuck on the phone for a long time so it will have to wait for a more opportune moment.
1:40 – I check my email and notice a message from a client I did an intake with a couple weeks ago. He let’s me know that his housing arrangements “didn’t work out” and he, his wife, and their two children are now in the family shelter. He sounds pretty desperate for help and is planning to rent a truck to go sleep in. I remember him as extremely depressed, anxious, and suicidal. I email him back quickly to ask if it would be okay for me to refer him on to our outreach program which can meet him right away.
1:55 – I call my 3:00 to see if we’re still on because he often cancels. He has schizophrenia, and is also going through cancer treatment so he’s not always in the best of shape to meet. He asks if I can come earlier than planned and I say we’ll see.
2:00 – I check in with my next client. It’s dark in her apartment as the balcony door is blocked by the snow and she never opens her curtains. She finally let her dad know that her cat died, so he’s not worried any more about why she’s acting out of sorts. She missed her psychiatrist appointment last week because she’s scared that if her taxi runs out of gas it’s winter and she’ll be stranded in the snow. She’s scared that no one will save her. I try to understand, and try to support as best I can.
2:30 – Back in the car, call Mr. 3:00 and let him know I can come now. He wants to go to the grocery store and has his list ready.
2:35 – I pick him up, and off we go.
2:50 – I’m getting a grocery cart while my client starts his shopping inside. An older gentleman is trying to light his cigarette with a burnt out lighter, and I suggest to him that he’s probably not allowed to smoke in here and needs to go outside. He asks me for a match, but I don’t have one. He goes back to trying the lighter.
3:45 – Groceries are done, and after a stop at the post office I take my client home. We make arrangements to meet next week if he feels up to it.
3:50 – In the car I call the pharmacy from this morning and learn they finally got the refills, they didn’t think they would cause this doc has said no before. I call my client to update him, message my boss to update her about the changes to my schedule/location (for safety purposes, understand) and head off to the pharmacy.
4:05 – At the pharmacy we commiserate for a minute, and they tell me my client called them about 20 times today, anxious about his medication. They’ve known him for years, since he was homeless down the street from their store, long before I came around. They want to know does he also need his foot cream, I call, he doesn’t, I take the bag of pills (these have got to be worth $$$ on the street!) and zip over to his place.
4:20 – I get there (just in time) hand over the drugs and apologize that I won’t be able to stay and chat. I’ll call you tomorrow to schedule a check-in appointment, okay?
4:30 – I finish my day on time somehow, and call home to let them know I’m on the way.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mental Health in the News

The Ontario Medical Association is set to present a new ad campaign, and have already released a list of “key health priorities” in advance of the provincial election later this year.

The summary of the list contains a couple of mentions to mental health care specifically. The OMA points out that people with mental illness tend to have complex health needs, and require health services more often, however only 1 out of 3 gets the care they need. They also highlight service gaps for young people and the negative effects this has on families. The ad campaign is said to focus heavily on mental health issues.

After having posted the other day about the Toronto mayor’s anti-homeless attitude, I heard statements on the radio that afternoon from Ontario’s Minister of Health Deb Matthews, commenting on the need for more community and supportive housing to address homelessness and mental health issues in the province. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard. I’ve searched and searched, and can’t find any links or articles about this. She has discussed these issues in the past however, and has a good track record of linking poverty and health issues.

Speculation continues as to the mental health status of Richard Kachkar, the man accused of killing police officer Ryan Russel by running him down with a stolen snowplow. While this story and ones such as the Arizona shooting seem to have led to some discussions about preventative mental health care and assessing risk of violence, I fear they are sometimes drowned out by the fascination of spectacle and political rhetoric. It’s especially disappointing in both cases to hear such frequent use of terms like “psycho” “crazy” “nutbar” etc. as though those offensive labels somehow explain why a person would commit these types of crimes.

The CBC radio program The Current has been running a great series on mental health. It is available to listen to online, or as a podcast.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Is this a hospital?

No, we’re a community agency.

Are you a doctor?

No, I’m not a doctor.

Hm, maybe I won’t hate this place after all…

Monday, January 24, 2011


After noticing mentions of it by Tanya at Trench Warfare Too and cb at Fighting Monsters, I had to check out this “Top 50 Blogs by Social Work Professional.” Lo and behold, there I was! #30 Going Mental (you’re there too, Social Worker Mom) Hurrah! Allow me this moment of self-indulgence.

I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a "professional." The word seems to imply someone who is an expert in a field with years of experience...I guess when I think about it, I'm getting there. It’s also funny to see written there “a mental health worker with sympathy for her clients.” It’s very rare that I get any idea of how others perceive my blog. I mostly write it for my own enjoyment, venting and self-soothing, and I tend to think that the biggest strength of my blog is simply that I haven’t given up posting. Absolutely no one that I know if real life has been made aware that I write it (although if someone from my workplace were to stumble here, I’m sure I’d out myself pretty quickly) and all of my lovely followers have gotten here thanks to the good ol’internet.

So thanks, Social Work Blog. It’s nice to feel appreciated noticed.

Update: I realize that including a picture featuring men only is not very representative of social workers, but it was the best pic that came up when I searched "hurrah" - I like it.