Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 14, 2013

Thanks to the social workers who helped restore her life

Since March is Social Work Month, I would like to take this opportunity to show my gratitude to the individual social workers who have walked alongside me in what has been a difficult journey.

I am a single mother of three beautiful daughters and have struggled with the insecurity of poverty and mental illness.

My girls and I have been on our own since they were 1, 2 and 3. I often worked several jobs at once to keep us afloat financially. The stress of managing a household by myself and committing to working so many hours at minimum-wage jobs took a toll on my physical and mental health.

I pulled back-to-back sleepless nights, isolated myself from relationships, faced panic attacks on a regular basis and dealt with flashbacks to trauma from my past. I was not functioning well emotionally and was physically ill much of the time.

Believing that my kids would be better off without me, I often contemplated suicide until one day I formulated an attempt.

That day is so clearly etched in my mind. Before being driven to the hospital, I was taken to the office of a social worker who was able to calm me in the midst of the chaos and encourage me to make decisions concerning the well-being of myself and my daughters.

I was able to sign myself into the hospital voluntarily and make arrangements for the care of my girls.

Prior to that hospitalization, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was a diagnosis that I had a hard time accepting and thus chose to be noncompliant with treatment.

Following that hospitalization, I soon became involved with two other social workers who would leave an indelible mark on me.

One was my blended case manager who came to be familiar with the important details of my life including family matters, finances, and managing day to day activities. She worked as an advocate for me when I needed help obtaining medication or communicating with the doctor.

The other social worker was first my therapist at a group counseling center and later my therapist at a Long Term Structured Residency program called Trilogy where I had been court ordered.

Upon arriving at Trilogy I thought I had lost everything; my children, my mind, my sense of who I was and any hope for a future.

One day my therapist had me write a word on a smooth stone that would signify a sense of recovery from my mental illness. I did not like when she used the word “recovery” because I knew that bipolar disorder was something I had to deal with for the rest of my life.

So I thought in terms of moving forward. I wrote on one side of the stone the word “hope” referring to a verse in the Bible that reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”

After that simple exercise with the stone, I started listening to the doctor, began to see purpose in my life despite any disabilities, and most importantly, saw that my children really needed me. They needed me to get well.

Thanks to the help of these social workers, I continue to move forward as a senior in the social work program at Frostburg State University.

As a social worker I intend to draw on the strengths of people in need so that they might be empowered to make changes that bring hope and healing.

Kathleen Hale-Cooper

Salisbury, Pa.

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