it’s raining outside, and i am sitting here being happy because i just finished my first week of work at my new job. my grown-up job. the start of my career that i went to undergrad and graduate school for. when you start something new, everything is fun, appealing, and exciting; but the thing about doing something you absolutely love is that that never wears off. social work is like that for me.
and in 32 hours, my life has changed. that’s not even a full work week.
i am currently working with people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. to be in the program i am working for, the individuals must have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, or major depression (with exceptions, of course). the majority of them also have a co-occurring substance abuse diagnosis. and to be in the program, the symptoms the people experience must be so severe that they have been hospitalized or placed in jail (as a result of their mental illness) multiple times within the last two years. the majority of the people are homeless, live in low income housing, or houses that have been deemed ‘unlivable” by the state.
i know that everyone is different. but this week i really understood it. while all of the people are similar in the fact that they experience severe and persistent symptoms as a result of their mental illness, the severity of symptoms is different for each person. the specific symptoms one experiences differ, their ability to cope and manage other aspects of their lives is different too. some have jobs and kids and pets, other’s are in trouble with the law, and other’s still, are trying to get their medication under control so that they can go back to school. the people i have had the opportunity to meet, visit, and talk with this week are wonderful. and they are diverse. and they are caring.kind.funny.intelligent.talented. some are also homeless, have been convicted of felonies, or have no social support.
i do not know what it is like to hear voices or see things that are not really there. i do not know what it is like to live in a constant state of fear, unable to discern who are the “bad guys” and “good guys.” i do not know what it is like to have difficulty in making the decision to take your medication even when you are manic or hypo-manic. i do not know what it is like to take a handful of medication every morning and every night. i don’t know what it is like to be scared to leave my house.
a lot of other people don’t know what that is like either.
a lot of people also don’t understand that some people are homeless not because they are lazy, but because they have a mental illness. a mental illness so severe that they might have difficulty performing activities of daily living–basic hygiene, maintaining an apartment, paying bills, answering a door. a lot of people don’t know what’s its like to lose your job because of actions that resulted from a mental illness. a lot of people do not know what it is like to have experienced multiple traumas while still coping with a mental illness and living in poverty.
i don’t know what a lot of things are like. but i want to try to understand. and i want to do my best to help.
what i want you to know is that life can be hard in general. and for some people, life is hard enough-without ostracizing, stigmatizing or casting broad generalizations about their circumstances without even knowing who they are, where they come from, or what makes them happiest.
i wish that people knew that homelessness and poverty are not synonymous with laziness. i wish that people knew that every day someone is struggling just to be able to remember to take their medication so they are not hospitalized. i wish that everyone could know that sometimes people have difficulty remembering to leave the house with their shoes on or go grocery shopping. i wish that people would educate themselves on the topics, and more importantly, take the time to meet the people they are so easily able to talk negatively about.
all people need help. and all people need love.
this week was meaningful because my life just won’t be the same.