What I Learnt Being A Support Worker

I was a support worker at my previous job for just over 8 months. It was the best and worst 8 months of my life but something that I’ll forever be grateful for is the never-ending list of things that I learnt. I did more learning in those 8 months than I did in those God knows how many years in school. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most important things that I learnt in my time being a support worker, I’m going to share these with you in this post…

GRATITUDE
I would have never said that I was ever ungrateful, ever. But I don’t think I was genuinely grateful for everything that I have until I started supporting those less fortunate than I am. I started to stop and look around at everyone around me, everything that I have and everything that I can do- I started to thank my lucky stars and appreciate it all. I am so grateful for the lucky position that I am in, I feel so privileged and I could only fully appreciate this after I’d spent time with children, adults and families who definitely don’t have life easy.

I don’t want to be that person who preaches ‘other people have it worse than you, you should be soooo grateful’, I’m not preaching that. Everyone has their own personal struggles and there’s been so many times throughout this year that I’ve had my own and haven’t felt grateful at all because I’ve been going through a difficult time. At that moment, yes there would have probably been people going through a lot more things far worse than I was struggling with but you’re allowed to struggle and feel ungrateful. I’d never shame anyone for that. 

PATIENCE

I thought I’d learnt everything I could about being patient being an Aunty but being a support worker pushed this to a whole other level. There was so many moments that I could feel myself becoming increasingly impatient and feel the steam rising up behind my eyes. I obviously wanted to keep my job so didn’t lose my patience or get high rate, at those moments where I channelled my inner zen, took a deep breath and faked a huge smile I mastered being patient. 

My patience was tested in many ways being a support worker, I feel like I’m so much more laid back and chilled now then I was before I started the job. Patience really is a virtue, not everyone has it and not everyone can, which is something you learn the hard way. 

HATRED FOR DRIVING
I loved driving before I started working in the community. But when you’re doing thousands of miles a week and putting near enough all of your wages into your car in petrol and wear and tear, you slowly begin to hate it. Don’t get me wrong those longer drives up to Southport which took about 40 minutes were made a lot easier with the Mamma Mia soundtrack but they made me so tired and drained the life out of me. I hated getting into my car to go to work, I couldn’t appreciate how lucky I was to have a car in the first place nevermind be able to help others with it. 

My Mum and Dad were so worried with all of the driving that I was doing. It all came to a head really when I crashed my car, I’d had my beautiful Adam for 6 weeks, I’d worked so hard to be able to have that car and whilst driving to a call in a complete moment of lack of concentration and focus, I crashed into the car in front. I speak a bit more about the accident in this post, I plan to do a more detailed post about it all as I believe it would be really helpful to others, it would have been to me when I was going through it all. I now have a new car, put minimal petrol in it and don’t do an excessive amount of miles and I love driving and my car again.

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
I think in this day and age I think it’s so hard to not sweat the small stuff. In case you’re not familiar with the phrase ‘sweat the small stuff’ it means ‘to worry about trivial things’. As a sufferer of anxiety, I used to find it so difficult to not worry about the smallest of things. Don’t get me wrong I do still have a little wobble every now and again over little things but in the grand scheme of things, I tend to only allow myself to worry about the more monumental things in my life. I believe that is down to working with people whose issues and problems were on a completely different scale to mine. 

I’m still a worrier and probably always will be but I definitely don’t let those minute hiccups get me down.

SYMPATHY
You’ve got to have empathy and sympathy in buckets to do support work. I think that’s a given. I had to be sympathetic every single day and every single hour, even if I didn’t feel like it. Even when there was situations where in my normal life outside of work I wouldn’t have shown sympathy, I had to wack on that all too familiar fake smile and be as sympathetic as possible. 

IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY TIME
I worked ridiculous hours in my last job, I was doing nearly 60 hours some weeks with working hours that were, to put it frank, horrific. I was leaving the house at quarter to six, having minimal breaks and returning home at quarter to eleven. I worked 5/6 days a week and gave up everything. I had no family time, no friend time, no time to blog/read/write. Any time I had I dedicated to work or trying to recover from an exhausting working week. 

This meant that any time with my family that I had was so rare, I appreciated it on a whole other level. I learnt that quality time with the people that I loved the most was so important, more important than anything else in the whole world. I’m so lucky now to have a more flexible job which means I have 3 days off a week, I spend more time with my loved ones than ever and I’m so happy. I still appreciate every moment I get with them like it’s the last.

UNDERSTANDING
I think it’s so hard to understand. That sounds so weird but to understand what everyone is going through, understand why they do what they do, why the world is like it is etc. is so difficult. It’s so easy to just block out everything else and accept that you’ll never understand everything. Or you can crack on with things and try hard to understand as much as you can. I much prefer the latter.

I prefer to have a greater understanding, I think this is down to working on the daily with different people going through different things with different stories and experiences. I learnt more in the nine months that I worked in support than I did those 18 years before, down to working with and for people who all had a different story to tell. 

FOMO
If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym, ‘FOMO’ stands for ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. This is something that I experienced every single day, every day when my Mum and Dad, family and friends had plans and I was going to work, it genuinely hurt. I hated missing out on the fun, even if it was a trip to ASDA and Costa, I hated knowing I was working whilst my family were together without me. 

Luckily I don’t have to struggle with FOMO much anymore, I feel so present within my family and don’t miss out on much at all. FOMO was one of the worst feelings, I’m so glad to see the back of it!

HOW TIRED & HUNGRY I CAN REALLY GET

I really do take my hat off to anyone who works long hours in care/support. I felt levels of genuine fatigue that I didn’t think possible, having to fight through those horrendous feelings of tiredness and hunger and keep working is awful. I don’t think anyone can work to their best ability when they’re that exhausted and hungry, nobody can, I know I couldn’t.

I did start to put on weight because I started to follow the mindset of ‘I don’t know when I’ll eat next so I’ll eat loads now to put me on’. This was definitely not the healthiest mindset to have, I wasn’t putting any goodness into my body at all with an even worse mindset. You only learn to master eating a full meal deal whilst driving when you work on community.

FEELING APPRECIATED & UNDER APPRECIATED
There are two halves to this that both deserve mentioning. The first being the feeling of appreciation. The service users, their families and support network made me feel so appreciated, especially towards the end of my time there, I was made to feel so worthwhile. Saying goodbye was so hard, I didn’t think I’d made an impact on any of their lives until I told them I was leaving, I shared so many tears and will never forget how wonderful I was made to feel. 

The other half of this is the negative side which is being made to feel unappreciated. This is the worst feeling EVER. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this as it makes me feel upset but on multiple occasions I felt so unappreciated, worthless and lost in my job. This is sadly a given, due to the nature of the job and that everyone is fighting their own battles that you can’t see. 

ATTATCHEMENTS
Again, I didn’t think I’d made that many attachments until the last couple of weeks. I’d got attached to so many service users, I’d made genuine friendships/bonds with their families and other workers. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, my heart hurt the whole of my last day at work, I felt like I was letting them down by leaving but you need to make the best decision for yourself in some situations. 

I still feel attached to so many from my last job, I wonder and think about the memories we shared together and what they’re doing now. It’d be so hard to not get attached when you genuinely care for those you support. 

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this style of post, I know it’s a bit different from my usual content but I really enjoyed wring it and feel like it’s got some important things in it.

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