Wednesday, February 13, 2013

blog, meet job.

This afternoon, one of my new clients greeted me by saying "Wow, someone is having a bad hair day, miss case manager".

We were meeting in a crowded lobby, and she was quite loud so most people turned to look at my half straightened, half wavy hair which I had haphazardly knotted on top of my head at least four hours prior. I could have felt embarrassed. I should have felt like maybe I should reassess my life as I thought back to the three coworkers who asked me if I was sick the day before [I wasn't]. But instead I just took a seat and laughed with utter relief.

Because all she was showing me with her statement was acceptance.

And all you hope to receive from a lifelong gang affiliate with a laundry list of felonies who once stabbed another person is acceptance. 
She's a person who has been through many traumatic experiences. She has learned to put up a wall with new people. She has a hard exterior, and her being real with me was her way of opening up to me. Her way of letting me know that we are going to work well together. Because she can say what's on her mind to me. And for someone who has been through so much to trust a new clinician in their life enough to be real, is a defining moment in recovery.

When I tell people about my job, I usually get some variation of the following questions:
- You have to drive those people in your car?
- Can you carry a weapon?
- So do you have a mental illness? **

So, as I begin to share stories from my job, here are the facts:
I am a clinical case manager on a high-intensity treatment team. I work with adults diagnosed with mental illness; some with co-occurring substance abuse disorders. I have a deep, passionate belief in recovery and the resiliency that all humans possess. My job is often frustrating, exhausting and emotional. But every day I witness growth, compassion and strength ; all of which provide me with the greatest reward.

I am not scared to be around my clients. When meeting new clients, like the individual in the story above, I am usually intimidated, but never scared. With a smaller caseload, I develop close therapeutic relationships with all of my clients. And more time with these folks equals more stories.

I find humor in many moments that some may consider emotionally intense. It helps to ease the emotional burden I carry from working with this population. As I share my stories, regardless of my tone, please be mindful that mental illness is a real concern. It is estimated that 1 in every 5 people struggles with mental illness and help is available.

If you or someone you know is in need of resources,  click here for help locating services.

All that being said, stay tuned for my adventures in Social Work!

-ali jay.

**This is an actual question I was asked once. I laughed it off, but upon further review, that person may have been onto something.....

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