The Anti-Social Worker

by Alison O’Connor

I am most certainly not qualified to be a social worker. I have seen social workers nearly all my life, sat in their armchairs as I cried and they listened, or I just regaled them with tales of film trivia. But I could never be in the opposite chair myself, be the one holding the notepad and jotting down lines and ideas and useful tips for patients or be the one singing off on psychiatrist-prescribed doses of Prozac or Klonopin. I’m just not very sound of mind. I’ve been accused of calling myself crazy just for the love of the word, but I truly am: I’m bonkers. I’d blather on far too long about nothing and more than likely end up crying in front of my poor victim or patient impatiently resting on the settee before my red eyes and sniffling nose. I have oodles of reasons, actually, why I would be far from capable for that line of work. 

My idol, for one, has always been a comic book villain, Harley Quinn, who wears a jester costume and who used to be a psychiatrist herself. I have three diamonds tattooed on my arm akin to those on her jester’s outfit, which renders me that bit connected to her visually as well as a tad mentally. She is, it should be primarily noted, a raging hybristophiliac, madly in love with her boyfriend, The Joker. In this fashion, I too have an abiding love for the fictional killer and villain. My art muse since Junior year of high school is Jame Gumb, a serial killer/demonic couturier who murders and skins women. I happen to find him fascinating, so I drew his face all over every scrap of paper I could find. If I were to be a social worker, I would draw Jame Gumb’s face all over every notepad instead of helpful tips on staying calm or keeping stable. And he is not even the most loved of my frightful character obsessions. My longtime literary love, my own Joker, has a body count of three and a very thick rap sheet. His name is Alex, and one would know him from the novel and the film A Clockwork Orange. Think about it: would you really want to be analyzed by a woman who hangs numerous posters of Alex DeLarge all over her bedroom wall as if he were Justin Bieber? I thought not.

Moreover, I tend to be very repetitive of such obsessive and gruesome interests as keep swirling around in the giant septic tank of my mind. I may come to the sessions ready to cheer up a patient in anguish with lists of trivia on A Clockwork Orange or Batman or the Hannibal Lecter trilogy. I end up thoroughly annoying my family with such factoids and quotations and anecdotes and character details that there have been dinner-table rules implemented for me. I still end up breaking these, and I can almost feel the frustration in the eyes of my parents and brother. I barely even maintain the patience of the social workers I myself have had over the years, so what patient could possibly confide in a woman who rattles off trivia and statistics like there’s no tomorrow, and about fictional psychopaths, sociopaths and straight up hellions? In this paragraph alone, I have already repeated connotations of the very characters I have spent a while now mentioning.

On a more serious point, I have had many behavioral issues over the years. Throughout lower and middle school I would scream and cry at the top of my lungs, run out of classrooms and run away from situations gone awry. I have run away from P.E. and Math periods to bathroom stalls, and from reading circles to the main halls of my 5th and sixth grade school building. Social situations also warranted such freak-outs from me. Being ignored or just the feeling of exclusion would leave me in tears and fleeing to the bathroom or a hall space to sit on the floor slumped against a wall to wail. The first and last time I asked a boy out and got turned down, I ran to the bathroom to cry, this in a passing period in between classes. I am terrible at restraint in all things, especially emotions. Thinking back to the many emotional break-downs I have had over the years as a young child and even as a teenager, I can almost feel the puffiness of my cheeks after all those crying jags, and see the redness and circles under my eyes from all those needless tears I shed. Because of all the screw-ups I have been through in terms of social situations and throwing wild tantrums, I have grown more and more introverted with the years, more nervous and more guarded about social interaction. Would any patient want to be analyzed by such a woman, with a history of fits and tears, and worse, who has gotten more withdrawn as an adult?

I cannot ask a guy out, I cannot ask anyone to do things, aside from a few close friends. I get anxious from even just looking at new messages on social media or email. If I feel I ramble too much, I feel extremely guilty and inwardly chastise myself to the point of wishing I’d just stop speaking. I cannot even properly console others, offer replies of real substance or words of wisdom because of all the worries I harbor in my head, all the trivia I’ll just spew instead of anything really productive and meaningful. At gatherings with friends, those close friends, I still feel the obsessions and fictional universes I’m so drawn to rising up through my throat like bile. I go on about the same films, books or TV shows to the point where I try to force myself to shut up. Would a patient want to be analyzed by a social worker who gets too distracted by her own insecurities and who is unsure of everything that will come out of her mouth, who is so preoccupied with self-doubt that she will forget to listen to their problems and concerns? My introversion, the worst part of it, has made me incredibly selfish, more caught up in paranoia and verbal vomit that I don’t focus enough on the problems of others and what they are going through. I’m always tongue-tied, never able to say anything of real value or worth when it comes to support. Which brings me to yet another reason I am not cut out for social work. Self-loathing.

I’m not a positive person by any means. I am naturally very negative, going on from a young age about boy-bands and teen pop stars I hated, absolutely hated, and about teachers I hated, and classmates I hated. I would always be envious of my prettier, more stylish and more socially capable classmates in lower and middle school, and that would turn into envy, and rising loathing, which would then bounce back onto myself, and I would cry and wail even more. I fear constantly that everyone hates or loathes me. I mutter and pace in my speech and my feet, pacing being an involuntary life-long habit of mine, about how much I hate this or that book, author (Stephanie Meyer then, John Green now), or film (Twilight then, Frozen now), and has cost me many a friendship and social opportunity. I swear compulsively, a habit that has gradually deepened with age. I will exclaim the worst of cusses, drop F bombs with no explanation whatsoever, add on to sentences like colloquial expressions like ‘like’. I ask, would a patient want to be seen by a social worker in less control of her life than their own? With such little self-restraint, such low self esteem, and such increasingly profane manners of speech? I take medication for my own behavioral issues to keep myself on track to some degree, I take pills in the morning, the evening and during emergencies. Even with medication I have so little control and positivity about situations, and my ever-inept social skills and self-judgment make me one of the most unlikely candidates for helping anyone out with their problems. I have good intentions, true, but there is that expression about the road to hell being paved with those. I’ll listen, I’ll make what good offers and spout what good advice I have from my own experiences with psychiatry and psychology and social work and the like, as the patient, but I can’t really be the best morale-booster as someone with such poor social skills and paltry proactivity.

In conclusion, I would be far from qualified to be a social worker, as I am not positive, am barely in control of my emotions, expletives, outlook and self-loathing, have become more self-centered than I would care to admit to becoming, circle back to my horrible obsessions with murderers and fictional criminals, and have nothing good to say other than what good intentions and advice I try to offer to those friends I hold dear, but couldn’t possibly for many strangers who would become my patients and whom I would have to become acquainted with and help, with what limited help a negative person with a negative, bitter outlook and only positive feelings for her fictional works of horror. Even I would hesitate to enter a social worker’s office if I were to face myself behind the desk or across from my settee. 

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