I’m having a lot of emotions open up for me recently. It is occupying a lot of my energy and therefore the lines have been silent for a bit.
I haven’t talked with many people outside my immediate few about my experience with deploying with The Red Cross for Disaster Mental Health Relief to Texas.
This morning I recieved a Houston Strong T-shirt and a special pin from a cherised person whom I look up to in the counseling field. My reaction was unexpected even to myself. I cried big ugly crocodile tears, and I am here sitting in these emotions. I wish I could say I cried because of the generosity of the gesture and how it feels to be seen and appreciated, for all the depth of that. This is my desired wish. The truth is I cried because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I felt, as I have many times throughout my life… like a fraud.
My first idea to become a Red Cross Volunteer came when in my graduate degree program I met Professor and Red Cross Extraordinaire, Dave Denino. He was teaching a Crisis course at SCSU. He showed us a video of relief effort for Hurricane Katrina and I immediately felt as if I wanted to give in such a way as well. I looked up to Dr. Denino. He had a warm and kind presence and his work to improve the lives of others in a variety of ways is deeply inspiring. He is the type of figure I would have wished to have for a Father. I am grateful that he is seen and believed in me, and in that way he became somewhat of a figure of that nature, someone I wanted to model myself after. I have always decided I want to work to become that which I admire. I work tirelessly on those efforts, but what people don’t see is how often I have struggled and at times failed in these pursuits.
In this case people could see my effort, and my fancy Red Cross garb and my big smile headed to Texas, but what they didn’t see as they thanked me for my service was the internal battle that ended up happening.
All my life I have struggled with biting off more than I can chew, my enthusiasm larger always than my pool of resources. I am beginning to see also the beauty in this and not just the beast, but it’s been quite the journey. The truth about a Red Cross deployment is I have wanted to be that person, the warm and comforting one, since the day I realized that was a possibility, but my life has not afforded it being that option. I knew if I didn’t decide quickly to go on this and just make it happen, like many other things in my life, it would not come to pass. It is perhaps just how I work. But in my situation I have many other people to consider, and the fact that I have a disease. Both of these things came into play with my deployment in ways that I didn’t anticipate. My heart was in the right place, but as always with life when we see what we think something will be like, and what it is actually like can be a world of difference. I am a famous “romanticizer”.
What actually happened is that my partner whom I adore is a 911 dispatcher and she ended up being held over for 16 hour shifts the majority of while I was gone. I could tell and hear in her voice that she was desperate for me to come home. What actually happened is that the travel and stress on my body made my Crohn’s symptoms come to life in ways that I did not anticipate, that I could not have known, but still feel like a hack and a fraud for wasting resources and going if I had to come back early. What actually happend was is that I rushed to the scene wanting to be a hero, and the version of myself I ended up meeting was someone cranky when things didn’t look that way. A full frontal view of my own humanity was laid out before me, and I did not like for awhile what I saw.
I realized this morning that this entire experience as a whole has important lessons for me. This is what I do with most of the experiment that is my life. I attempt to learn from it, and only in this second half of my life am I learning to do that without being AS hard on myself as I used to be. What actually happened was that I spent the first 4-5 days of my deployment not particpating in much because the operation wasn’t organized yet. Outside the situation that is very understandable and I would not fault the organization, but inside I was impatient and frustrated since it was a big sacrifice on my part to not be earning income for that 2 weeks. I recognize now that I couldn’t skip past this being a learning experience. I now know so much more about what to expect from myself and from the organization, and to make fully sure my home situation is secured before doing such a thing. My enthusiasm is like a giant lab puppy dragging my responsible self across the world.
I wanted to show up better, with more patience. I expect myself to have a positive attitude and to bring it with me. I had more moments on that deployment than I would have liked where I did not feel that way. And on top I feel guilty about that. Because I know if I am not part of a solution then I am part of the problem.
So now the entire experience became this source of shame and discomfort, and once that happened I somehow forgot all that I did contribute during my time, and that my heart was in the right place. My heart is always in the right place, I just make mistakes and have shortcomings like everyone else <3
So for everyone out there that feels like a fraud. Your feelings often can lie to you, and this is also a normal part of being a human being. To take the time to work through it and give yourself the understanding and compassion you would give another is essential.
Thank you Dave. What you don’t know is how this gesture actually became a piece of my healing, because it showed me where the hurt resides and then with some support I can find relief. I can’t tell you how much it means to have a role model like you to be able to watch and learn from. How much it means that you have believed in me. I hope to be that for my Client’s, my Family, and my Friends. A role model that they are proud to call theirs and to learn from.
This post has inspired me to spend some time soon writing a blog post about what I did accomplish in Houston and about my experience there.