This blog post is a little hard for me to write. I’ve been putting it off for days, trying to process the thoughts in my own terms, but I may as well do it online. I’ll get straight to it. I withdrew from placement last Thursday under recommendation from my two supervisors, the university liaison officer, and the university placement coordinator.

It hit me so hard. I really did think I was doing well. I had learned so much about myself, made a huge change in attitude, was mostly enjoying the work and doing it with a larger degree of success than I’d ever experienced previously in the human services field. By my standards, I was doing better than I’d ever done before.

Yet my supervisors didn’t feel the same way. By their standards, I was not coping. They observed that I had huge levels of anxiety  before interacting with clients. That I was resistant to taking their advice and learning from them. That I received constructive criticism very poorly. That I had underdeveloped social skills. That I just wasn’t able to meet the demands of being placed at Royal Perth, and that they didn’t have the time and resources to help me develop.

At the time, I essentially burst into tears at the shock. I’d gone into that meeting with the four of them thinking that a poor supervisions session was being blown way out of proportion. My supervisors had arranged the meeting (with my permission) so that they could explain their concerns to the uni, which they had concealed from me. It felt a little bit deceptive, but I understand they had their reasons, and it is too late to wonder if I should have argued my point further and not allowed myself to withdraw. As it happened, emotional and overwhelmed, I trusted that the four of them wanted what was best for me and that they all believed withdrawing would be the best thing to do. I meekly complied, un-enrolling from the unit and agreeing to meet with the uni team next week to see if I was ready for another placement this same semester.

By the time I got home, I had forgotten all the reasons why I had agreed to withdraw. All I could remember was that from my experiences in Centrelink and at PICYS, I was doing amazingly well at Royal Perth.  I’d learned so so much, come so ridiculously far since that first placement, that I had never been more successfully capable in my life. And every day I was continuing to grow, being exposed to new attitudes, new skills, new experiences. In the three short weeks I had been at RPH, I had transformed into a more-or-less comfortable full-time employee who worked with Aboriginal, elderly and dying people, as well as a host of doctors and other medical staff. Those were some amazing learning experiences, and rather than letting me continue to grow in them, I was withdrawn at the advice of others.

I am a little upset about it, but not that upset. In truth, I understand most of the reasons my supervisors had, and I understand why the uni supported their opinions. I thought I was doing amazing, but the truth is, I have so far to go. It’s made me realise how anxious I really am, and how that’s not normal, not even functional some of the time, and I want to do more about that than I have been doing. I want to be more confident (something I will probably only gain from working with people and doing things that require responsibility, which I will not avoid but embrace). I want to learn how to take criticism better, and to stop being so self-righteous and egotistical: I’m not the only opinion that matters (another blog post on that soon to come). I have so much personal growth to do, and I thought I had already done it. Although I am much steadier than I was when I took my leave of absence, I’m still not quite steady enough for social work, it seems.

Regardless of what happens from here, I’m going to continue trying to be a better person. A healthier person. I’m going to start seeing a psychologist, continue meditating and philosophising, maybe start volunteering. But most of all, I’m going to try and secure another placement in the very near future so that I can get a second opinion from another supervisor who might not consider me unready.

Placement at RPH

My apologies for not writing any blog posts this past fortnight. It grieves me to recall I once had the freedom to write blogposts every day I so chose, but of late most my every spare moment has been hastily spent on more important things, like sleeping or cooking or living. You see, I’ve finally started my 14-week placement with the Social Work department of Royal Perth Hospital. And I’m afraid that I only have about eight minutes before yoga, taiji and karate (a triple lesson today, about 4-5 hours of training).

In brief, it has been exquisitely affirming, and soul-crushingly depressing. Most of all it’s been highly educational.

I’ve learned that I have a highly specific preference for learning, requiring me to read about something theoretically, understanding it conceptually, then seeing it physically, before attempting to express it myself. I will hoard all available information to read through before I attempt to do anything practical with it.

I’ve learned that I still have a deeply ingrained fear of boredom, and this anxiety has been with me in my last few placements, my last few years of life (perhaps since I was 12 or younger). This fear has led me to draw out almost every activity for as long as I could justify it- if I had to see someone, I would read all about their history, plan out on paper what I’d have to say to them and spend up to hours of preparation for a five minute chat.

I also realised that I have a presumptuous ego that is repelled by the idea of working against my will. That is to say, I don’t like work or responsibility or challenge, and so I’ll avoid it as much as possible while still getting paid for it. I might spend hours going through email, typing up notes, researching medical terms on google etc. in order to avoid “real work”. Realising this, I made a conscientious decision yesterday to stop being such a selfish brat, to stop caring about myself so much, and to ask “What can I do for the hospital? How can I spend the precious resources (potential wages) that they’ve given me, in order to best help people?” This has brought about a remarkable change in my attitude, and consequently, in my personal satisfaction, levels of energy and joy from the work. Yesterday was the best day ever,  brimming with energy and able to tackle any problem with confidence and reasonable competence. It’s reaffirmed that I can do this, and what’s more, I want to.

I’ve learned that I still take criticism poorly. In a recent supervision session, my two supervisors gave me some feedback that I was being unprofessional in this way, that I hadn’t been accountable for that amount of time while they were trying to get hold of me etc. It made me feel like they were monitoring me, spying over my shoulder to see if I was doing the right thing, always looking for mistakes. I knew it was irrational and the critique would make me a better practitioner, but I felt so alone and unsupported that I felt like crying.

I’ve learned that cloudy days make me terribly SAD and it can be impossible trying to rouse myself to any kind of inspired motivation. But I can’t just go home every time it rains, so persisting and doing my best despite my low energy/mood is for the greater good.

Alright, running late. I’ve been reading the Tao Te Ching every morning, but I haven’t got time to share any of its amazing insights with you. Perhaps I’ll flood you with them later. Hope everyone’s been keeping well, and miss you all <3