When I dreamed of becoming a Social Worker, I imagined being a therapist way beyond retirement years. I imagined being wrinkled and gray sitting in a rocking chair and providing counseling in a quaint environment. I pictured rows of filled bookshelves, a fireplace, coffee poured, comfortable yet worn, a place that says “you are safe here.” I dreamed of being wise from experience and yet not quick to give advice. I had many dreams, like all people.

But illness at a fairly young age was not apart of this dream. I had not considered that I would get sick, much less, chronically sick. And yet here it is. A chronic illness is one in which there is no cure and yet; it’s not necessarily terminal either. A chronic illness is typically invisible to most people. There is no cane or cast. Many people who have chronic illnesses do not appear ill. And I believe for the most part, that is my case. I will not go into medical diagnoses or symptoms. That is my cross to bare. And I honestly do not want sympathy or apologies. Nor is this a call for that type of attention.

This is rather about understanding, education, and being thankful. Some of my frustrations with having a chronic illness is that I am unable to predict my health and ability to function in my work environment. And thus one day I may feel energetic and productive. And the next day, I may barely be able to move around my home. Obviously this makes for a unpredictable therapist. If I can’t predict how I will function tomorrow, how can I ensure an appointment with a client tomorrow? It causes cancellations, rescheduling, and inconsistency. Which is completely unfair to a client who requires treatment. Because that is the intent of treatment- to be consistent. And yet, when my body fails me, I am unable to be so.

I do know one thing, I am not alone in this area. This is simply a topic that is not discussed amongst therapists. To quote the CDC in 2017,” One in four adults has two or more chronic health conditions.” In fact, the outlook for this issue does not appear to be improving. If anything, it is expected that the significance of chronic illness in Americans will continue to rise over the next 15 years (refer to diagrams).

For various reasons, I have clients that are patient with me or rather my physical health . And this is to thank them. Because it’s beyond kind. I explain in the least descriptive way of what is occurring. I give as much notice as I am able. And whenever I accept a new client, I make sure to discuss this with them. Although I’m realizing that it needs to be a more significant priority. Which is another obvious reason that I’m writing this.

On the other hand, there are definitely positives to working with a therapist who openly admits to having her own issues. I believe it makes me appear more relaxed and relatable-with my own obvious imperfections (I am certainly full of them). I also am a huge advocate for humor and viewing the strengths in every situation. In regards to clients needs, I am very flexible. If they need to cancel at a short notice, I generally do not charge a fee or complain. I understand that life “happens.” And that just as I am requesting flexibility and I will offer it in return.

I would like to think that my health has made me more compassionate and empathetic towards others. Hopefully a kinder and more understanding therapist. Life has this wonderful way of taking our dreams, and throwing a curve ball into them. Not necessarily ending our dreams but changing them. And by using the Social Work Profession’s “Strengths Based Perspective” seeing the positive out of these changes and challenges. Because life is certainly full of them.

I don’t know if I will make it to that therapist dream of sitting in a rocking chair with a head of gray hair and face of laughing lines, with poured coffee. And that’s okay. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had in my career thus far. And I pray that I can continue to make a difference. I strive to be “The Social Worker I would want to have.” Even if it includes rescheduled appointments. Let me know if you need that coffee.

Angie Simonton LCSW-BACS

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4 thoughts on “The Uncomfortable Conversation that I Didn’t Imagine

  1. You bring a tear to my eye, warmth to my heart, love to my soul and a smile to my lips. I am so happy that we know each other and our frailties adn that we can bond over our chronics(me being a chronic asshole). Look forward to seeing you again, whenever,

    Liked by 1 person

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