Thoughts from Blue Angel
2003-04-06 17:10:27 (UTC)

The New Job

When I sent my resume into the county mental health center,
I was expecting more of an office job - filing, answering
phones... But then I got the call from Lisa, who is now my
new boss, asking if I'd be interested in interviewing with
her for a residential associate position. So excited to
have received a phone call offering me a job, I jumped at
the opportunity, hardly understanding what the position

I found out that my job would be to monitor in the center's
group homes for mentally ill individuals. After taking the
job, the reality of the responsibility I'd just taken on
started to sink in. I have never been so nervous! How in
the world was I going to deal with being around mentally
ill people who I couldn't understand, who smell, who need
constant supervision? I wasn't sure if I'd be up to the
challenge. I finally convinced myself that it would be
alright if I gave myself some time to get used to it.
Besides, the experience would be great for a resume to get
into a grad program.

I began training on Thursday night. I cannot begin to tell
you how elated I am that I took this job. I learned that
my idea of mentally ill people was completely wrong. It's
not the same thing as mentally retarded. The guys at the
home I trained at are actually quite intelligent, and
carrying on a conversation is easy with most of them. A
few of them graduated from college. They don't smell,
especially since part of our job is to remind them to
maintain good hygiene. While they do need someone around
at all times who can help them if needed, they are not in
constant need of intense supervision. For the most part,
they know what is expected of them, and they do it.

In the past week, along with some other factors, this job
has already helped change my ideas about a career path. I
used to think I wanted to become a counseling psychologist
so I could work with "normal" people. I didn't think I
could handle working in a clinical setting. I've now
changed my mind.

At dinner Friday night, Earl, who suffers from
schizophrenia, told me all about how he kills demons with
shampoo to help God. I'd imagined that I would feel very
uncomfortable in a situation like that (not that I didn't
feel a twinge of awkwardness), but my thoughts turned to
the question of how I should react in order to benefit him
the most. I listened intently and asked questions, but
kept from saying anything that I thought would reinforce
his delusions. I amazed myself with the patient and calm
manner I maintained. The woman I was shadowing commented
that I interacted with the guys wonderfully and that she
hadn't seen Earl so animated in a long time.

In two days of working with these people, I've realized
that it is something I could do and fill quite fulfilled
by, although it would be extremely challenging. I left the
home those two nights with this amazing feeling. Who would
have known that I would absolutely love this job so much?
I'm sure that it will get frustrating at times, but I just
know that this is the right experience for me, and I'm
going to get a lot out of it.