From the Eye of the Social Worker

Remarkable for its frankness and the often unheard-of point of view from professionals in the field. This is a re-post I had to share with you. Reproduced with permission.

From the Eye of the Social Worker

"Oh...well, thanks for what you do, the world needs more of you"

"Oh...there's not a lot of money in that, huh?"

"I could never do that!"

Portrait of a Medical Case Manager

Many people consider social work as a job that "I can't do".  Not "I" as in me, I as in you! (or, them, whatever).  Truthfully, empathy is harder to grapple with than sympathy.  Most people are conditioned to say the buzz words, but often times flip-flop based on their audience (i.e. white folks while trying to give their opinion on police violence towards minorities). For the record, I am a white male who is 30...and I use that example because I've routinely heard folks switch their arguments from "cops are just doing their job" or "do what the cop says then!" to...."there is a serious issue with police profiling" and "man, something needs to change in this racist world".

Since the mid-1980's, HIV newly-diagnosed rates have stagnated. 40K new infected individuals every single year, on a national level. So, is what I do important? Or am I sucking your tax dollars up and not providing you with a public health service? If you are raising a kid (or kids), or in my case a puppy, keeping things on an even keel takes considerable work.

Sometimes, if we can put a cap on behavior or keep things stagnant, longevity is more easily achieved.  One would think that decreasing numbers are necessary to validate social work.  In reality, what we are saying by using that rhetoric is: It shouldn't be difficult to change someone's sexual behavior. 
If you subscribe to that, ask yourself, have you disclosed everything to partners? Have they disclosed anything to you?  If you've had over 15 partners, and no one has mentioned anything as minor as Chlamydia, then consider yourself a statistical outlier....or perhaps you've been lied to and been lucky...or perhaps you haven't figured out how to disclose, even to yourself.

The Caseload

When you're dealing with an amazingly intelligent virus such as HIV (I say that from the view of a scientist who just discovered how the virus has cloaked themselves as a CD4 cell), it's important to understand that it's not HIV that will kill you, rather, it's your immune system that is more susceptible to any other type of virus or infection.  Without going deep into the realms of the negatives, I want to discuss the second stigma that often is missed, not just in my field but in general: Mental Health.

Diagram of the HIV virion

The world we live in is bat-shit crazy if you think about it. No matter what we do, a screen is in our face.  We place value on our perception through words and pictures.  Our face-to-face value, shoot, even our verbal communication is spiraling into non-existence.  I think that's why people increasingly tell me that they couldn't do my job.  Maybe it's like the stigma of being a teacher, you know, the 'ol "If you can't do, teach" or whatever that dumb ass phrase says.

It's no wonder teenagers have anxiety, and I have anxiety even thinking about the amount of anxiety.  We trust so many things that we don't even understand. Do you even know how radio, television, internet, wi-fi, and cell phone waves get through our bodies to their destinations? I feel like that can't be good in the long run. The same applies to sucking all of the black gold (oil) from the center of the earth. Something tells me that the earth needs that, kind of like our car engine needs lubrication. I wonder if anyone ever thought about the core of the earth acting like an engine...and without its oil, it may grind to a halt. There's that anxiety again.

A lot of what I see is depression, and it makes sense after you're told you have a life-long task ahead of you (daily medicine, lifestyle changes, having to navigate your sex life with a scarlet letter).  I have major empathy for that, and I understand that kind of depression.  The other type of depression, in a non-clinical observation, has to do with our understanding of the world.  We are cultural beings, and cultures are constantly being labeled, separating us as a whole.  The YOUniverse, which is why I titled my blog as such, can be accessed, to our ability, with an internet connection.  That means that YOU can actually form an opinion without any wisdom or real-world experience.  That's dangerous...and depressing (in my opinion).

I ask my clients what the point of their life is. They often tell me "survival". That's an animalistic response, because most animals, including us, are surviving.  If you don't agree, stop thinking about just the United States. The other natural answer you'd expect is to be happy...or loved...or to procreate.  My clientele is mostly homosexual, so you see less of procreation being listed as the priority of a happy life.  Interestingly, I have many clients who are barely surviving, and can't find a place to sleep, but also tell me "If my dog can't come with me, I won't go.  He/She is everything to me".  My gut tells me "Dude, your homeless.  Forget about the dog, you're sleeping on the streets!".  In reality, they've already thought about that, much like suicidal people have already thought about how their death would affect mayyybe don't remind them that they are selfish....or that their lives matter.  That's the last thing you can do... (we've entered a segue)...rather, ask them if they have a plan.  Be blunt with them.  Ask them when they are going to do it, and how.  Do they have the gun or knife, do they know where they will leave the note, or where to cut themselves. Trust me on this, the more blunt you are, the better chance you have of saving someone. They've already heard the basic-ass shit you're bloviating when you baby talk them (OK, rant over).

So here's the deal: This blog will be random. But it will be thoughtful, and I will spend a lot of time on it.  If it helps you, that's great.  If it makes you question things, that's better. All blogs are somewhat self-serving, and this is no exception. I plan on using it to help me be more precise in my opinions and thoughts, and in response, I'm going to assume that everyone has their own story that might possibly intertwine with mine at different crosshairs.

American flag by the bay


Text: © Life of Dal - Reproduced with permission.

Image of the diagram of the HIV virion by © Thomas Splettstoesser ( - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

All other images courtesy of © Life of Dal