I am sitting here unwinding after a long day at work. I am doing an overnight, something I get to do the odd time when the full time staff take a day off. I have worked here at the group home for almost 5 years now and it has taught me so much.
I came here as fresh meat to do a student placement for my Social Service Worker program. I was in my early twenties, totally shy and scared out of my mind. I had little experience working with individuals who have a mental illness and here I was entering a ten bed supportive housing adult group home. This meant I was going to be in charge of ten adults. . . most of who were going to be way older than me.
Looking back I never would have thought I would still be here working part time. I never saw just how much happiness this job would bring me. How much it would allow me to grow and change for the better...
The first thing I learned when I started here is...age ain't nothing but a number... and acting "in charge" really wasn't going to work, unless I really needed to play that card. I learned to interact with adults much more my senior, and those just a few years my junior. I learned that my expectations needed to be equal for all, and I would need to engage with everyone. Sure some relationships would be stronger, but that did not mean that those with whom my relationships were not as strong were any less important.
I learned that rules are meant to be followed...they are there for a reason. As long as expectations are set up and followed though on... life is easy. Without them, life is chaos.
I learned that peoples choices are their own. Everyone makes their own decisions and sometimes those decisions come with consequences. There is nothing we can do for them that is going to come anywhere near to being as helpful as what they do for themselves. People can't change people. We can only support, and listen and suggest. The hard work they need to do for themselves, but it is what makes it so great for them in the end.
I have learned what it is like to lose someone to suicide. What it is like meet someone on day one of student placement and spend four years with them battling mental illness and forming a great bond... and then one day to find out they are gone..I learned how to process loss and how to remember the good times.
I learned that young adults will be young adults, and make a million and one mistakes. That their standards of life are not always the same as ours. But that they are trying, and will make you so mad you just have to laugh.
I have learned that I am awesome at handling a crisis, although the thought of a crisis makes me want to barf. When thrown into the middle of one though I shine.
The most important thing I have learned is that those who have a mental illness are often the most amazing, kind hearted and creative people on earth. They are so worth getting to know, even if we are sometimes frightened by them.
I have seen so many people come the the group home and not get anything out of it. I have seen a handful who have come and changed into strong, independent individuals. Those are usually the ones who are struggling the most, and who have to overcome such great obstacles and make it out on their own. It is that handful that make this job so amazing and gives you a reason to keep trying.