Friday, October 26, 2012

What Makes Me Happy

This is about a client I had when I first started this job. I may have reflected on this story before in my blog, so bear with me if it sounds familiar.

He had been in the system for years, and had previously been supported by a coworker who left for another job.  He was a young man with schizophrenia and developmental delays.  He lived with his family (who wanted the best for him) including his grandmother who brushed his teeth for him even though he could do it himself.  It is fair to say there was a lot of learned helplessness going on.  

I was a little more eager and a lot less experienced then.  This man was more ill than anyone I had worked with previously.  My normal tactics did not work.  We were down to real basics - getting him to remember who I was, and remember his appointments.  Our appointments consisted of me trying desperately to make some kind of conversation while he was more interested in watching soccer or getting me to take him out for pizza.  All the while granny is knitting in the background and making me hyper aware of my youth and inexperience.  

I don't remember what the incident was, but somehow he ended up in hospital.  The family and I worked with the doctors to get a med review and he was started on Clozapine.  While he was still admitted I advocated to get him in with our ACTT program (Assertive  Community Treatment team - a more intensive level of support than what I provide) and he was accepted, so I never really saw him after his discharge from hospital.

Until one day I was in the waiting area of a psychiatrists office with another client.  I recognized this man's sister and then he came out from his appointment.  He looked me straight in the eye and said "Hi Nectarine" and then proceeded on his way.  

That was it.  But it was so much!  This person, who had met me at the door with a blank face week after week, giggled when he couldn't remember my name for months over a year prior at this time had said HI and addressed me by name!  He now attends one of our drop in programs and I see him over there from time to time.  Every time this same thing happens.  He says hello to me the same way, and then walks away.  It's all I'm likely to get, but it's so much.  It makes my day every time.  

Will this client continue to recover?  Probably.  Will he recover to a level that other people find "normal"?  Probably not, but to me, all the work he and his supports have done is so worth it to bring this human being out of the bubble his illness and medications had put him in.  I'm grateful to have been a small part of it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Me Days

If you work in mental health services like me, or other health care settings, or hell - any job at all, does your employer offer mental health days?

Mine does.  They used to be classified as "mental health days" and now are part of our "personal days" which includes our sick days as well.

I've always thought this is a really great benefit, and makes sense since a mental health focused agency should understand that we all benefit from staff being in good mental shape.

Somehow I stopped to think about this today and realized that in my five years working here I have taken two - just 2! - mental health days.  Once was when we learned we were loosing our child care provider.  I was in a panic and needed time to focus on finding a new one.  The second was when my partner had been away for about a month on a job and had a really miserable time.  I wanted to be there for him when he got home.

So why?  Why if I value this benefit so much do I not take advantage of it?  There is guilt involved for sure.  And the dread of having more worked piled up when I return.  Plus the time consuming factor of having to rebook appointments.  Worry that I won't make my "numbers" that month if I miss a day.

I think I just like to know they are there.  That I have the option to take some me time without having to lie about being sick or something.  Maybe I'm just waiting for a really good reason to take a day.  What would that reason have to be?  I likely won't know until it hits me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Big Barn in the Sky

For some reason I remembered this story the other day and thought I should share.

This was a couple years ago when I was in an intake worker role.  A young woman had been referred to us who at the time was staying in temporary crisis housing for people with dual diagnosis (in Canada that refers to mental health and developmental disability).  Usually we would do intakes at our office but since she had no transportation, was not familiar with the area where she was housed and was in a pretty dire situation we agreed to meet her at the place she was staying.  Since this was an off-site visit with a client we'd never met before, and since we were curious about the program supporting her (hadn't dealt with them before) my intake partner and I decided we would both go to meet her.

This young woman had been through a lot.  Most notably, her mother had died recently and that among  other things ended her up in the crisis housing.  She had no other family, but did have close friends who were now her guardians and she would be moving in with them soon.  Despite everything she'd been through and her DD, she was engaging, optimistic and had a sense of humour throughout the interview.  We got all the information we needed, told her about our program and let her know we would be in touch.

Once outside, I commented to my partner that I was impressed  and pleasantly surprised at how together and well this young woman had seemed.  She looked at me with utter confusion and said "What?!  She was either psychotic or her cognition is lower than we thought.  All that talk about how her mother "bought the farm"?  I don't think she understands that her mother DIED, I'm really worried about her!  She thinks her mother is on a farm somewhere!"

At which point I burst out laughing and had to explain the euphemism.  It was a cute moment.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Unlikely Sources

I like to follow a lot of blogs.  Over the past couple years, this has become my favourite way to keep up with the world.  While some are fellow social work and mental health types, I also cover a lot of my other interests - feminism, crafts, food, stuff.

Lately I've noticed an interesting trend - proof that mental health affects us ALL.  A number of my favourite bloggers have been posting about anxiety, developmental disorders, depression and the like.  I love reading these posts and commend those who have decided to share their struggles with the blogosphere - it's a big world out there and breaking the culture of silence around mental illness can be scary.

Here are some examples:
Jen over at Epbot blogs about her experience with anxiety disorder
Gail VazOxlade, usually in the business of giving financial advice is sharing chapters of her book A Mind of My Own about raising her son who has autism
Alycia at the Curious Pug posts about using crochet to help keep depression at bay
Caitlin of Fit and Feminist discusses (in this post and others) her experiences with drug addiction, disordered eating, and being an abuse survivor.

Have you  found insightful or inspirational posts such as these in unexpected places?  Do share!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

With Grateful Thanks

So.  I've been a little blase about posting lately.  I think this is because I've hit the doldrums again, struggling to feel motivated in my job and wishing I were (working) somewhere else.  The thing is, I'm here for now so I need to make the best of it.  With Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend I've decided to think of all the things I am grateful for about my work.

  • I have a job.  And compared to other social service sector agencies, mine pays decently well
  • lots of vacation time - I've been working here 5 years and now get 5 weeks vacation
  • Experience - I have the opportunity to work with a great diversity of clients
  • the environment here is by and large supportive and positive
  • I have the ability to set my own schedule much of the time (within bounds)
  • I have a lot of freedom to decide how to work with my clients
  • most of the buildings my client's live in have working elevators
  • I like my manager and supervisor
  • I'm provided with lots of opportunities for training
  • the agency has taken up a "recovery" based philosophy

What are you grateful for in your work?