Friday, Mar 23, 2018
Hello. My name is Richard, I would like to start out by telling you a little about myself, my journey, and how Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire has changed my life in a very positive way.
I have lived with mental illness my whole life. When I was younger, anxiety caused me to have many problems with maintaining relationships affecting my home and school life. Everyone thought I had ADHD because of how jumpy I was in the classroom. The teachers would tell my mother to put me on medication however this option was not acceptable to my parents. My anxiety went untreated for many years, affecting my personal and professional life. I went from job to job, working mostly in restaurants as a waiter. The restaurant environment was even more damaging to my anxiety problems. The jobs eventually became too much for me to handle resulting in my family having to support me fully at the age of 25. Then something I never expected to happen happened, my bi-polar disorder emerged. I went back and forth from mania to depression. Sometimes I would be depressed for months on end, fully incapacitated. I thought the anxiety I had always felt was bad, but this was a whole different matter to deal with. My family did not know what to do. Then, my beloved sister met and married someone special who happened to be a psychiatrist. He recommended hospitalization which I agreed to fully. They kept me for a while, put me on the right meds, and I started to feel good again, then better and better. I started to get interested in my old hobbies again. I met my girlfriend of 4 years, and I started taking care of my little dog Louie.
I eventually went from the hospital to a rehabilitation center and then to transitional housing; from there I moved into my own apartment through a local Sonoma County agency. I worked with two case workers and a doctor regularly to make sure that I was not having the same problems I had before hospitalization. I attended the Santa Rosa Junior College off and on. Everything was working so well for me as for me, but there was something missing. I would sit at home a lot. Let me put it this way… I saw a lot of the shows on Netflix. I was feeling very stable, but I was getting complacent and bored. I missed being a part of a team. I missed having somewhere to be in the morning, and people to be around during the day. I missed working with others, and I just missed having a job. This feeling went on for several years, without me taking action. Like I said, I had only had experience working in fast-paced restaurant environments. My stress level was high working at these places, and I attributed the idea of “work”, with going back and doing a job where you can never move fast enough…or where your boss would tell you to “run”! So I stayed home for a while longer, took care of my dog, and watched more T.V.
One day something amazing happened, that changed my life. My girlfriend and I moved into our own apartment together along with our little dog Louie. The complacency slowly started to fade. I still work closely with a mental health case worker. One day in a meeting, I said, “I want to work. I am ready to work. What can we do?” We went through the proper channels, and I ended up at the Department of Rehabilitation in Santa Rosa. My counselor at the D.O.R. suggested I do a situational assessment with the Goodwill. I did not know what that was going to entail, but as soon as the assessment started, I knew that this was going to be a very positive experience, and a great learning experience.
The level of understanding and compassion for the mentally ill at Goodwill is of amazingly high quality. I was able to take breaks whenever I began to feel any anxiety, and they worked with me at MY pace. Every day when I got home I would tell my girlfriend and family how well the assessment was going, and how supportive and helpful the job coach team was. In the morning I would wake up, get ready to go, and have somewhere positive to go to. I felt like that missing puzzle piece was finally put back into place. I felt good about the tasks I was doing in the assessment, and I was doing them well.
Somewhere along the line through assessment, they must have seen something in me as I was approached about becoming a Job Coach myself! It amazed me that I would be considered for this opportunity. I began to work with my Department of Rehab counselor to set up the WAT Program. The Program Director of the Job Coach Department at Goodwill set it up so I could use my WAT hours “shadowing” job coaches, with the expectation that I would be employed as a job coach upon completion of the program. I am doing it now, and feeling amazing about myself. My self-esteem has not been this high since before my bi-polar disorder emerged 7 years ago. My relationships with family and friends have never been better. I feel more responsible and available to help the people around me in various ways. I feel like I am making my family proud again. How I feel now is a long way from sitting around watching T.V. at home all day, dwelling on past mistakes, and feeling sorry for myself for how my life turned upside-down when my bi-polar disorder emerged. I have Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire to thank for that. I will do my best as an employee, not because I have to but because I want to. It’s just how the agency makes me feel. Like I am grateful, and I want to give something back. When Goodwill says “Changing lives and strengthening communities through the dignity and power of work” they mean it. Thank you for reading my story. Have a wonderful day.