Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Monday, July 27, 2009


My friend Lori told me about this program:

Which, to sum up, is an attempt by the Mental Health Association of America to get more people with functional mental illnesses into the social work/rehabilitation/peer counselling arenas. It's a great idea; after all, I have long held that part of what has helped me the most has been just the availability of others like me and getting to talk to them!

The program is 12 weeks long with classes daily; it starts in September and ends in December. It's followed by an internship at one of the facilities listed ( many of which are really great!) PLUS, they offer a per diem of $15 for gas and food, and when Laura was in it, they also offered a stipend of $200 a week for every week you did not miss a day. For the completion of the program they offer another bonus of around $200, and another for going on at least 3 interviews in the social work fields. I'm not sure if any of those numbers have changed or are even in place given the cuts most recently made in the state, but nonetheless....

I just applied and submitted all my information this weekend. I'm sort of excited; Lori herself didn't finish the program because she decided it wasnt for her, but she pushed it my way because she felt I would be ideal since she pointed out that I'm always trying to help people navigate their way through the system anyway! My ex Jack ( who IS an MSW) used to say I ought to be doing similar work ( in his opinion, as a CDAC- a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counsellor) and I have long toyed with this idea of becoming a psychiatric social worker.

But in the end, I didn't want to go back to school and get the degree; I just wanted to do something comparable. I see too many people floundering around without enough information to help themselves, and god knows I'm always meddling in their business trying to prevent them from figuring it all out the hard way, like I had to. I hope I can parlay some of my knowledge of how to navigate The Business of Crazy into something that pays me, even a little. (I DO still want to act, but I need WORK to subsidize that and well, just survive on! And if it could be something that MEANS something to me and that makes a difference, well then HALLEUJAH, Praise the Lord!).

But first I wait out the application process. We had to write an essay ( oh NO, not one of those, PLEASE.....oh, but YES REALLY! I so despise them. And does anyone ever really read them for any purpose other than to see if you have a basic mastery of English? REALLY?) on a Significant Life Experience-- 500 words or less. I wanted to address the theme of the program itself and still fit my story in there, so here's what I came up with:

A Trip To The Beach

On a shelf in my home, there is a picture of me in a bejeweled frame. In it, I’m standing on the beach with my pants-bottoms rolled, laughing as the water washes over my feet. The pale blue water matches the cloudless sky, and the sandy shore matches my khaki jeans. It’s a perfect shot: a happy girl on a beautiful day. This is true.

What is also true, but not readily apparent, is that this photograph was taken just a month after I had been discharged after a long hospitalization for depression, one in which I had finally found the right doctor, the right diagnosis, and, at the time, the right treatment.

I had spent many days of winter that year being sick. I was still living in the Midwestern city where I was raised, so I remember looking out the window at the Christmas snow and praying to just get through until dinner. I remember looking out a similar window on New Year’s Eve, wondering how I could even manage a party, let alone a whole year. And I remember staring out my car window, driving home from my February birthday dinner, thinking that if things didn’t get better soon, I was going to take matters into my own hands.

It wasn’t the first time in my life I’d felt that desperate, and it wouldn’t be the last, but for me, it was the most fortunate. As I already mentioned, it was this time that put me on the right track for treatment and success: a voluntary hospitalization that happened on Valentine’s Day, 2001. Snow was still on the ground, it was still cold; but this time, the window I was looking out of was one that was sealed for my protection

But this essay isn’t really about that hospitalization; it’s about surviving depression. When depression takes hold, it's like being crushed from the inside by a powerful grip of despair and fear that you cannot control. The more you wrestle with it without help, the more the vise tightens, the more tired you become. Eventually, you are tired and are in such pain from the struggle, it begins to seem endless. You want nothing more for that pain to end; to rest. This how you end up in a psychiatric ward , or worse.

In the midst of that darkness, I promised myself if I somehow survived it, I would go to the beach, in San Francisco, which I loved . I would dip my toe in the water. It was this promise, just this tiny seedling of hope, and the many imaginings of what it might be like that got me through the difficult days of recovery. The picture is here to always remind me that it doesn’t take a miracle to get through the blackness, it takes something to hold on to, living one day at a time, untill you are finally at a destination that is, like the photo, a place where you can simply breathe again.

Those of you who read this blog regularly ( or even not so regularly) will note that I'm usually more flowerey and long-winded, but this time I had to edit myself, so excuse the abruptness of some of it. I was literally counting words trying to cull them down (ugh). However, it didn't turn out too badly, I hope. A little cliche, maybe, but certainly sincere. ( And yes, it's a very true story; if you ever come to my house, you will see the picture displayed fairly prominently.) I hope the people evaluating the applications see that and want to know more enough to call me in. I'm nothing if not better when I can talk in person about these topics.....


Please keep your fingers and toes crossed that if this the right thing for me, I'll be put where I need to be and can be of most use! Thanks!