Thursday, March 25, 2010

Been there, done that.

It's been a while since I wrote a blog entry. I was actually kind of impressed that people asked/demanded that I write again :)

This is actually something that I wrote after Clinical Practice with Groups class, a class where the "first half" of the class is a simulated group (although the group has taken up almost the entire class time most of the time) that kind of takes on a support group setting. I'm usually an advice-giver in the group more than a seeker. These are my thoughts about being me.

So I feel kind of like the resident nutjob wherever I go. I know that I am open to talking about the fact that I have recovered from eating disorders, and the fact that I am in therapy, because there shoud be no shame in that. But I feel like my psychiatric hospitalization makes me stand out like a scarlet letter. When I feel a panic attack coming on and need to pop an ativan, I wonder if people think I'm taking an advil, getting high, or just taking my prescription meds. When I relate to something someone says in class, I always feel as though I'm divulging information that I shouldn't be sharing with, as Meredith put it, a room full of strangers. Although maybe not so much because they'd judge me, as much as the professor would judge me for still being so "mentally ill" yet ignorantly going in pursuit of this MSW, something that should be reserved for the stable person.

Me? In all honesty, I think I'm pretty stable. I am the go-to person for many of my friends, those whose lives have given them more severe and less severe circumstances than my own. And when I have my own problems, I look to my resources - my treatment team tends to come first, and one or two close friends, but when I need to, I can and do reach out farther, accepting a hug from a classmate when I spent the class period crying, or calling a friend to get me out of my rut. I know more CBT and DBT than most of my professors, and my mostly psychodynamic orientation is a combination of treatment I've received and professors I've had.
The scars on my body are healed, faded, hidden, and more than five years old. The psychiatric hospitalization that traumatized me more than the panic attacks and flashbacks that brought me there, was nearly six months ago now. The advisor who dismissed me as mentally ill and doubted my ability to handle HB3 ( a class in which I know all the answers and have been asked my the professor to first see if other people can figure something out before I give them the answer that I knew all along) is no longer my advisor, no longer a part of my academic career. I will even be re-taking practice I and she will just be a memory. So why do I feel that my diagnoses are showing through? That I have a lot to offer but it all comes out in personal experience. I have nearly two years experience in social work roles. First as a service coordinator for early intervention and then as a counselor for a partial care program for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. I also interned as an undergraduate at a behavioral health rehabilitative services agency, and completed nearly one semester in field placement at Rockland Children's Psychiatric Center. These are my relevant experiences. BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. 1.5 years as a resident assistant. These are the things I can feel okay talking about. But the truth is that a lot of my life experience came from outside my "credentials." What happened in that second half a year as an RA? Why did I only complete just shy of one semester at RCPC? Why do I no longer work as a clinical case manager at the job I adored with clients who I miss terribly? The answers to these questions are the ones that are just screaming to come out in class.

But like I said today, will the group think I'm crazy? There's always someone who's crazier and someone who's not as crazy. But someone has to be the ultimate, and what if, in this case, I'm the nut? I know people who have gone through this same program whose issues are worse than mine (in my opinion), who are more impaired by their "mental illnesses" and unfortunate circumstances. But comparison all depends on company and if I am amongst a bunch of relatively sane students, independent students who live on their own far from home, do I become the crazy girl who still lives at home with her parents, who babysits instead of having a field placement, who was in the psychiatric hospital when everyone else was in class.
I guess it all depends on how you present it.
I'm more than a number, a diagnosis, a label. We all are.
If I preface a statement to "I learned this in treatment/in the hospital," will it help or hurt my credibility? It's something that I have to judge individually in each situation. And something that we can misjudge, no matter how carefully we made that decision.
Self-disclosure with clients and self-disclosure with peers are distinctly different.