Some People Can’t Be Fixed

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Only one….but the light bulb really has to want to change!

This is a challenge for social workers and I would assume psychiatrists. As a social worker I am pretty sure if I find just the right solution, or the right service or the right placement, I can fix everyone. I can help each client find his/her path toward happiness.
If only each client would listen to my sage advice, s/he would no longer live at the shelter, or blow every penny received on crack cocaine or need the services of a social worker.

Sadly it doesn’t work that way and today I was reminded of that.
A client I have worked with for over a year finally went too far and we had to cut him loose.
This client went through several case workers before I came into his life…and the best I can tell he didn’t like any of them.
He has lived in many, many places since I have known him….and I happen to know for a fact that he has not liked any of the places.
This client struggles through every day. He struggles to find a purpose. He struggles to like himself. This client is angry, sad and full of hate.

We have discussed several times releasing him from the program. Usually after a phone call or visit that consists of name calling, threats and really ugly language. But my boss and I would look at his mental health issues and make excuses for him. We gave him 2nd, 3rd, 70th chances….until today. Our relationship finally came to an end.

I feel like a social work failure…because I couldn’t save him.
I feel relieved….because I no longer have to be subjected to his abusive language.
I feel angry…because he refused to see that others cared for his wellbeing.
I am frustrated….because he refused to accept responsibility for his own poor behavior.
I could dance the happy dance….because I no longer have to deal with his threats.
I feel sad…because he has no one.

Several hours before the blow up that ended our relationship, he and I discussed where he would want his ashes spread. Now my heart breaks for him….because he has no one to follow through on those wishes when the time comes.

Not everyone can be fixed. Not everyone wants to be fixed. Some people enjoy wallowing in the muck of life….and those of us that want to fix the light bulb must just step down off the ladder and wait for the light bulb to decide change is the only way they will ever shine!

21 thoughts on “Some People Can’t Be Fixed

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl

    That sure is a tough situation. I couldn’t do your job, I would have slapped the guy silly.
    I bless you that you are out helping folks. It takes a hella lot of gumption to do your job!

  2. joannesisco

    Tree, you surely are an angel. It must really be difficult to acknowledge you can’t help someone who resists being helped.
    I’m sad for you. I’m sad for him 😦

    1. treerabold Post author

      I am mostly sad for him. Happily I have more clients that succeed and find joy in their lives. But it’s the ones that slip through the cracks that I grieve for.

  3. Laura (Createarteveryday)

    It’s these cases though that allow you to see, in contrast, what GOOD you can do with the others. Hold onto that, Tree. These people need you. So much hurting in the world and we need people like you to come in and offer help. You can’t make them take it. Keep on, lady. Thanks for the work you do. ❤

  4. Helen C

    Tree, If your client’s family is still with him, his family would thank you for everything you have done and tell you that you shouldn’t feel bad at all (You didn’t fail as a social worker!), like I had told my brother’s social worker a couple of years ago. Sad indeed.

      1. Helen C

        Things are not ok for him, but he doesn’t want his life to be fixed. I read your post with a heavy heart. I hope you know that your time, caring, compassion.. all are deeply appreciated. My brother’s social worker may not be able to save him, but she has definitely saved me. Your client’s family would feel the same if they are there.
        Have a great day, Tree.

      2. treerabold Post author

        I’m am very sorry to hear your brother is not doing well. It is hurtful to watch someone you love make such bad choices. But grown-ups are allowed to make bad choices….even if it hurts those around them.
        My client does not have family around. If any of them are still living he has no contact. Often times the families have to walk away for their own sanity.
        It is difficult to love someone that has mental health problems or drug additions and maintain your own sense of wellbeing.
        I’m glad your brother’s social worker has been helpful to you and I’m sure it gives your brother’s social worker some satisfaction knowing (she/he) has helped someone in your brother’s family.
        Take care my friend. If there is anything I can do from here….please feel free to contact me.

  5. pattisj

    I think some people are unable to change, it’s not so much a matter of will with mental illness. They just can’t help themselves. Medication can only go so far. One of my hubby’s coworkers took his life recently. There was nothing anyone could say or do that could help him.

    1. treerabold Post author

      It is truly sad. And getting help for folks that have mental health problems is also an issue.
      I am sorry to hear about your husband’s co-worker. It is heartbreaking to learn someone lost that fight.
      Thank you for commenting Patti. I hope all is well with you.

  6. Sue

    Oh Tree – I’m so sorry! As a parent, I have seen my kids make poor choices and I have dealt with the guilt and feelings of failure – replaying in my head what I should have, could have said or done differently – that somehow their decisions are my fault. I am sure you know in your head that you are not a failure and his actions are not your fault. I will pray that you also “know” this in your heart. Hugs to you, my friend!

    1. treerabold Post author

      I do know it in my head….and for the most part in my heart. But there is always that guilt (as you said) of feeling l should have done something different.
      Thank your the “hug” those are always appreciated!!

  7. The WheatandTares

    This is a tough place to be, and you are so right in each of your conclusions. It is so difficult to simply watch someone refuse help and walk away from the very people who can help them. In our profession, we get to see this all the time to. You do just want to slap them silly or shake some sense into them, but, yes, it would be frowned upon greatly; so, you simply throw up your hands and walk away…and pray, pray a lot. 😉

    1. treerabold Post author

      Thank you for your support and confirmation of my conclusions. Sometimes I think it is difficult for people to understand why we do what we do….fortunately I experience so many more positive interactions then negative.
      Thanks also for your follow. I have been on a brain break…but intend to return soon!

  8. Pingback: Life Lessons… | Conversations Around the Tree

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