Saturday, October 2, 2010

Forty Hours of Intense

Today I completed 40 hours of volunteer training with the Sonoma County YWCA, a requirement before being able to do direct client work such as advocacy, hot line answering, court accompaniment, etc.

Over the past three weeks, we have learned about a wide range of topics: the cycle of violence, child abuse, human trafficking, elder abuse, sexual assault, abuse against the developmentally disabled, victims' assistance programs, the legal system, , batterers' treatment, cultural competency, communication skills, therapy, county and city resources through Health & Human Services, and YWCA services such as their safe house, therapeutic preschool, counseling, crisis line and advocacy.

This is not my first time to got through such a training. I completed one as a volunteer in 1993 in Sunnyvale, where I volunteered at the Support Network for Battered Women, and then went on to co-teach two trainings as a volunteer. I also completed a similar training with the Mid-Peninsula YWCA in Palo Alto. So most of the information was not new - but it had been a while, and it was good to brush up on things, and also to learn about the resources and agencies in Sonoma County, since I've never done volunteer work up here.

What was taxing about the training, for me, was how much all of it brought up things from my past. It was down-right alarming how many topics were broached that touched upon areas of my own life. And when I say "areas," I mean the tender spots. Just to name a few: 12 step programs, self-harm/cutting, eating disorders, mental health issues, various and sundry insensitive comments about DV (domestic violence) survivors, rape, molestation, gay/lesbian issues, being on disability....

As each item came up, I was alert and vigilant, wanting to make sure that no misconceptions came across. I wanted to protect whatever group was being spoken about, acting as its representative, since generally it was fairly clear that no one else in the room identified themselves as a member. I was able to speak out. But then I would go home, and doubt myself, and worry that I had spoken too much, overexposed myself, taken up too much space. It was a constant dance, throughout the training. Very taxing, very confusing.

Mostly, though, it made me feel stuck in the quagmire of all of those old pains. Until I brought it up with Sabrina. She said, "But Michelle, all of those things for you, most of them, anyway, were years ago." And she's right. I need to remember that I have moved past them. Much like a favorite coffee mug dropped to the ground, then glued back together, the scars are still visible, but I am whole. I am not irreparably broken; I can be of service - I can help.

And helping is exactly what I plan to do.


  1. The gift of intimacy takes tremendous courage . This is the gift that you give others when you are courageous enough to share your story. I am reminded of my cousin who as a child was sexually abused by both her father and brother. Her courage reveals itself in how she lives her life, her wonderful relationship with her husband , the wisdom with which she has raised three daughters and her acceptance of the periodic need for hospitalization. My heart fills with love for her and my mind is amazed at her courage when she says to me " If I don't answer my cell phone or answer your emails, it is because I am in the hospital again for a few weeks."

  2. thankyou for writing about the training and what it brought up for you.

    last night I read my blog about lying to the class - it was really helpful - PP class is great - I wish you could be a part of it. maybe next time. love susan

  3. hey - sounds like you're a Bodhisattva in training - thats great. I am glad you are in the world doing good things - for others, and also for yourself. Metta to you.

  4. Bookbird - I am so enjoying your presence on the blog. Thanks for continuing to drop in, and for your ongoing support. Marj, your story of your friend touched me deeply. I have been the one who "doesn't answer phone calls" - it is wonderful to know that by being honest about that, telling friends and those who love us what is going on, we can take care of ourselves without shame, and return to the world when we are once again strong....

  5. You are an incredible woman, Michelle. Everything that you have been through in your life, as difficult as some of those things were, has contributed to making you the incredibly strong woman you are. Thanks for being a wonderful role model and for inspiring me with your courage.