Untitled, 2022

Life is a fickle mistress.

I mention it here sometimes. In real life, I’m a case manager. Which is a job title that probably doesn’t mean much to most anybody, particularly as it’s one that’s used for a lot of very different jobs. Basically, I’m supposed to work with people on public assistance and help them get jobs. But the thing about jobs is that they are so intertwined with everything else that goes on in life that there’s often a lot of other things I have to address to help people get there. Over the years, piling training on top of training and building it up with experience, I’ve gotten to the point where I can help people work through a lot of very serious things and make it out the other side. I’ve defused suicide crises. I’ve helped people start the road to substance abuse recovery. I’ve triggered people separating from their abusers. I’m not always qualified to deal with a lot of the heavy stuff fully, but I can keep crises from crashing down and I can get people to take individual steps in the right direction. It’s hard, it’s stressful, but I’ve been able to do some amazing things with it.

Oftentimes, the stuff I help with professionally pops up in my personal circles as well, with my friends and family. And I’ve tried to help the same way. Because there’s a reason I have the job I do, and a reason I still stick with it, and it’s given me these abilities and if I don’t use them to help those close to me, what’s the point of doing it at all? But it doesn’t work. Professionally, I can help people work out the necessary steps and move towards the end of their depression. Personally, I can be there for people, I can talk with them, support them, but the minute I try to prompt action, work in terms of values or future self, or any of the other things that are effective for me on the job, the walls come up. I have been a key figure in helping several people break out of their alcoholism and find life on the other side. But when it comes to my friends and family, I’ve been absolutely helpless, unable to do more than stay by them and watch as they eventually break themselves and die from it.

The roles are different in these relationships. Which makes the rules different, I am learning. When people come to me, at my profession, they’re looking for a change. Open to it. And we may go beyond the comfort zone, we may break some boundaries, but, to them, that is what I’m here for. The whole purpose of my relationship with them is to do these things if needed, towards the goal of getting them gainfully, long-term employed. Because I am their case manager. But with friends, with family, I’m not their case manager. I’m any of a hundred other things. And with all those things, that largely closes the door to that type of help. I can suggest someone gets assistance, I can try to talk with them about it, but nobody wants to get into the weeds and work out their mental health struggles with the same person whose relationship is largely all about just getting together and having fun with. Nobody wants to hash out their life direction with they guy who used to be that weird kid doing wrestling moves on their trampoline. Nobody wants to unspool the deepest, darkest issues of themselves with someone they mostly know from the family gatherings and holidays. There are things I can do, sure. But they’re the sort of things most people do. Once I’ve reached that personal level with someone, I have to help them according to the rules of that role, not everything I have available to me as a case manager. If I try to get more active with them, bring those techniques and abilities to bear, the boundaries slam up.

It’s something I have to get used to. And with most applications, I am, and I can at least use my enhanced awareness to get people to someone who can help them the way I help others, in a pinch. But sometimes, things come crashing down. And it’s hard. Sitting there, watching, and knowing that I can help strangers with these things, but sometimes, I’m just going to lose those close to me to them, and I can not save them, just by virtue of that closeness.

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