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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A young co-worker interviewed me today for her psych class. Not because I am a psych case, which I have been, but because I have a degree in mental health (Marriage and Family Therapy, to be precise).

I have not worked in the field for 11 years. In training, I enjoyed couples' therapy the most (odd since I never intend to be part of a couple) but after my graduation I ended up working as a case manager in foster care.

That was a mistake.

Not only was I not trained in case management, I didn't actually know what case management was. Turns out it's scheduling. It's sort of taking over a person's life and connecting him with people and services that theoretically will improve something about him. That's a fairly simple definition and possibly not entirely accurate, but it's what case management means to me.

(Funny. As I write this, and think about that job, I feel my stomach clenching up and a strong desire to both vomit and hide under the bed in the fetal position.)

You would think I'd be very good at bossing other humans around. I used to do it constantly as a child. I have serious obsessive compulsive issues about my own life. But my MFT degree taught me a few things about boundaries and personal responsibility and cleaning up my own messes. Frankly, it left me quite without resources for case management for the kind of families that show up in foster care. I had a nervous breakdown.

Those were not good times. Being a trained therapist, once I stopped sobbing uncontrollably, I diagnosed myself as Adjustment Disorder with Depressed/Irritable Mood and decided the best way to deal with it was to quit my job. I improved immediately, much as the suicidal patient improves once she settles on a plan and a date for death, although it took two years of St. John's Wort and a job as far away from mental health as I could manage to bring me back to some semblance of normalcy.

(I should point out the floral industry is full of crazy people, but for the most part, they aren't involved in foster care)

I am sad to say, I am no longer what I was before the breakdown. Unlike a broken bone that heals stronger, a broken spirit will always have some weak spots. I'm more prone to melancholy now, and I tend to assume the worst will happen instead of the best, but I do what I can to keep the crying jags at home in the closet between me and God.

I don't know why I'm writing this, except that I spent a restless night kicking the dog of all people off my bed every 90 minutes, and the interview got me thinking about the direction my life has taken and why.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have some happy memories to share.

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