I generally don’t tell people my profession right away. If they ask what I do I say “I’m a nurse,” that’s usually enough. If they ask further I say I work in mental health. If they ask further I say “I own my own practice.” I try to keep it short and simple.
People’s general response is “Wow that must be crazy,” or they ask what kind of people I treat, like the people I treat are some sort of sideshow freak. I always respond that I treat many different people. Again to just close the subject.
A couple reasons: I don’t think discussing my work is appropriate in most situations. All of what I am told is confidential and protected. I work hard to protect my client’s privacy. Basically any discussion about them could be perceived as disclosing too much.
I don’t know what everyone’s story is. I could say that I treat a lot of sexual assault victims, and trigger the person I’m talking to who may be a survivor of sexual assault.
I don’t want to hear about everyone’s story. If I’m at the grocery store or at the gym I don’t want to know your mental health history. I just want to exist in the world in that moment without bearing other people’s shit.
So yes. I can be rather closed off about my profession. Not because I’m not proud of it and the work I do. Because I am. I love my work. I love that it’s unpredictable. I love that my long term clients trust me and look forward to seeing me. I love getting referrals from my clients because I know they trust me to see their friends and family.
It’s like parenting. The days are long but the years are short. I have some long ass days. Days I want to cry, scream, and everything else. I hate insurance companies. I hate that they dictate care and reimburse crap. I hate chasing people for money and/or getting screwed and never paid. Because it is my livelihood and it pays my mortgage.
I started keeping a video diary at the end of my days.
Yeah as soon as I figure out how to upgrade my plan that’s happening. I was watching some of them tonight and it’s hilarious. Also sad.
Here’s my point to this rambling blog post. I love working in mental health. It is fucking nuts some days. I’ve had knives drawn in my office. I’ve held people as they cried. I’ve been screamed at, sworn at, quietly glared down, and mildly stalked (yes there are levels). I’ve also been the first one to know about a pregnancy. The first one to know about a marriage proposal. The first one who a person comes out to about their sexuality or gender identity. I’ve watched people literally transition from one gender to another and everywhere in between. I’ve forged relationships with clients who have a deep mistrust of mental health practitioners and I’ve discharged clients and been fired by clients.
I’ve seen people through marriages, divorces, children, high school, college, and first jobs. What’s crazy is not my work. It’s not my clients. What’s crazy is the stigma that still exists around mental healthcare.
What’s crazy is not my clients.
My clients constantly amaze me. People who make generalizations about mental healthcare do not understand that nothing separates them from my clients. Nothing. I’ve treated the poor, the rich, the middle class, white, Black, gay, straight, old, young, and everything in between.
The need for therapy or psychiatric medication doesn’t make some one crazy.
Denial that one is in need of therapy and/or psychiatric medication defines crazy.
To all my clients and everyone courageous enough to seek mental health treatment for yourselves I see you. I admire you. I don’t think you are crazy. I think you are some of the bravest people I know.