I’m a Master’s level professional mental health counselor. Or, should I say, I once was. In recent years, I’ve had to leave my career behind me – where it sits in the back corner of some forgotten shelf gathering untold layers of dust. In recent years, I’ve become an unemployed carer to my profoundly disabled, medically complex teenage son. I am now relegated to welfare and living below the poverty line. I hate it.
And much of the time, I feel worth less because of it.
I worked damned hard for my degrees, working full time to earn a living while attending University full time. For many years, I used every ounce of self-direction and perseverance I had within me. I was proud to have done it all on my own. I’m still proud of what I accomplished. But make no mistake, after years of hearing you are worth less than what you think you are, it takes its toll. It seeps into your self-worth reservoir, draining its reserves a bit more each time you fight for an extra crumb at the table of those who would see you remain working around the clock while treading the surface of the tumultuous waters of caring…the waters which could see you drowned in an instant.
I think I’m worth more. At least, I want to believe that I am.
I want to believe the work I do 24/7 saving my son’s life on a daily basis by providing him nursing-level care is worth more.
I want to believe I was right to ignore the too-often said words of advice to put my son into a care home so I could “get on with life.”
I want to believe that I’m still relevant to society, still have something to offer, which is worthy of respect and equality…and I wish I didn’t ever feel like what I am doing now isn’t.
I want to believe that some year, when my caring days are done, there will be something remaining of the person I used to be, and not just the current feeling of being a mere shadow of my former self.
I want to believe I can make it to the end of those caring days in one piece, not in a million pieces shattered from years of mentally and physically exhaustive struggles.
I started off this piece talking about my professional career as a mental health counselor. I mention it because I understand how self-worth is rooted in one’s own psyche and the influence self-thought can have on self-worth. Having said that, I also understand how factors outside of one’s self can absolutely contribute to the demise of one’s self-worth, especially over time. It is the latter point I address here because how carers are treated, thought of or not thought of, paid or not paid, included or excluded, does indeed influence their self-thought and self-worth.
I think the work I do for Brendan Bjorn is worth more, not worth less, than being relegated to welfare. And I certainly don’t think the work is worthless, because if it was, that would mean my son’s life is worthless. I can assure you, it is priceless.
It is time that society and government acknowledge that we,
and those we care for, are worth more
and begin treating us as such.