Who remembers that cliché and cheesy “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” shtick? All of you? I thought so.
Today I’m thinking about that and thinking about how truly beneficial my job is to me. Every quarter my agency hosts a staff forum in which there is a guest speaker and lunch is served. This past quarter we had a speaker come in and discuss the benefits of employment for the mental health community. Many of my clients are able to lead productive lives in the work force, and as someone that struggles with my own mental health (anxiety and depression– this is a post for another day), work can be a true solace of mine. I enjoy throwing myself into my work and letting it occupy my time and feed my soul.
If you’re not familiar with what I do I’ll explain. I’m a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working as the program supervisor in a residential mental health facility. Essentially, it is a 50-unit apartment building for people living with serious and persistent mental illness where we provide intensive services to assist them in gaining the skills necessary to live independently. Working in a residence is really difficult (one of my cherished friends and coworkers, may he rest in peace, used to say, “In residential social work you get to get down and dirty, to the nitty gritty, and smell the piss…I love it!”) but it is completely fulfilling and rewarding. Plus, I always have the best work stories. But truthfully, you cannot work in this field if you don’t have a true love for others. You need patience, compassion, a strong backbone, and a strong stomach.
Back to my original point. My day started terribly. I don’t want to get into it, but all you need to know is that it involved Geico insurance company and my thickly-accented and verbally aggressive Armenian neighbor. I came into work in a mood. I was dealing with said incident all morning and did not have enough time to properly finish my morning routine. The second I walked in the door I was greeted warmly by a few of my clients, who didn’t even notice that my hair was in a wet messy bun and that I did not have a stitch of makeup on my face. They are literally always happy to see me. Stigma about the mental health community drives me crazy and kills me a little on the inside because some of the people I work with are nicer, warmer, and more resilient than anyone I know that doesn’t carry a diagnosis. But I digress. #Resist
Later in the day, a client that barely ever speaks told me a cute joke (How do you turn vegetable soup into gold? You put 24 karats into it!), one client offered to assist us by sweeping up the hundreds of cigarette butts polluting the outside walkway and garden, and another client that moved out a few months ago came back to visit and gave me a big bear hug. These are only some of the things that made me smile and feel warm inside. Somehow even when dealing with the not so great things I still can keep a smile on my face. So much happens in a day. Although I had some great interactions in the morning, I also happened to be called rude by another client because I wouldn’t breach HIPAA privacy laws, got side eye and major ‘tude from another one that I had to address for bringing alcohol into the building (program contract rule), and caught a third one of my clients watching pornography in the client computer room in the afternoon. It’s all relative.
But that’s just one day in the life, and that speaker I mentioned earlier really knew what he was talking about.
Let me tell you something, Sallie Mae is an evil mistress with green dollar signs in her eyes. BUT THAT’S OKAY. I know that I got into a flobbityjillion (science!) dollars worth of debt and that really sucks, and seeing the direct debit come out of my account every month really REALLY sucks, but loving my career and feeling like I don’t work a day of my life doesn’t suck so much at all.