Monday, January 05, 2009

A Prison Guard/Warden

This is in response to Harriet's comment on my last post. In the comment she says,

"I know exactly how inept these tests can be - my 16 year old daughter recently took a test to see what careers she would be best at. The results were so surprising and it was obvious that she didn't understand the questions".

I had to laugh because I ran into a similar problem in first year university. I went to the university's counselling department because I was feeling extremely depressed; having suicidal thoughts, and obsessing about dying, low mood, fatigue, eating and sleeping all the time.

I met with the counsellor and after listening to me for a short while she said it was clear that the reason I was feeling down is that I lacked direction in my life. I did not know what I wanted and that was making me sad.

It sounded completely reasonable to me. They were right I did have extraordinary difficulties making choices, decisions and deciding what to do with my life. They said I needed career counselling. I went to a career counselling session and did all the tests that would help me decide what to do. When the tests came back the counsellor invited me to meet with her.

She told me that the tests were very clear that the only kind of job I would be good at was to become a prison guard, or a prison warden. I just sat there in disbelief. First of all I do not believe in prison. I think it does not help anyone, or rehabilitate anyone. Secondly, the last thing in the world I could see me doing was either of these jobs. I am extremely sensitive. I could not see how my personality could possibly fit into such a difficult and brutal environment. It made no sense to me.

Looking back I think I now understand why the tests came out as they did. I was a few months into a Major Depressive Episode (MDE). When I am depressed my thinking becomes very black and white. Things are right or they are wrong. There are good choices and bad choices. The world is extremely structured in terms of what I should do or should not do. I am intensely indecisive, but my guilt tells me what is right and wrong.

My theory is that while in a MDE my questionairre choices would have been extremely rigid, thus leading the interpreter to believe I wanted such a rigid structure. What they missed is that the rigid structure is needed BECAUSE I am depressed. The counselling department missed that aspect of my being. I know of another person who had almost the exact same experience. I hope today, with school counsellors having a deeper recognition of depressive symptoms, my vocational aptitude results would be different.

I am not sure why my most recent vocational aptitude results seemed to place me more accurately in profession I am interested in; much more accurately than the depression and anxiety tests portion of the tests. Perhaps it is a matter of my having experienced more kinds of careers throughout the years. Maybe I had a better understanding of what I liked to do than when I did vocational tests more than 20 years ago.

The vocational tests I did a couple years ago seemed quite accurate to me. Those tests resulted in three of the top ten career choices recommending I be a teacher, counsellor, psychologist. I can't remember the rest, but I am a teacher of sorts and have been for a long time. I love to teach. If I were completely well for an extended period of time, and if I felt confident I would remain well, I would love to study to become a counsellor or psychologist.

The big thing that stops me is the fear that I am so messed up I couldn't possibly help others without hurting them. Some part of me wants to believe that the possibility is there that I will become well, and if I do, I could be good at listening and understanding others; on helping others feel better about themselves, on helping others get through difficult times, etc. I hope one day I am at least well enough for that to be a possibility.


Anonymous said...

Great post Aqua and once again showing just how well you are doing understanding your illness and all the thought processes which come with it. Actually analysing how the misunderstanding occured gives you another lesson in the way you view the world in different mood states.

I think you would make an excellent teacher BTW, you have a very high level of empathy and compassion. Something which used correctly could bring you great satisfaction. You have a great deal to offer the world Aqua, try to remember that when things get bleak.

Lola x

Harriet said...

I think many people become counselors, social workers, psychs, etc precisely because they have problems that they need to resolve in themselves. 90% of the mental health professionals I have encountered have been wonderful, but I can see they have issues themselves. My current therapist talks about his own anxiety every once in a while.

I think you would make a great teacher or therapist. You're very empathetic and insightful. I'm a substitute teacher, and I see one of the problems with the teaching profession is the amount of time spent not actually teaching! Meetings, grading assessments, curriculum development, lesson plans. It's so time consuming and takes time away from the students.

As for my daughter, she is so social and creative. The careers that the test say are best for her are things like accounting, actuary, auditing, insurance, etc. I can see her in graphic art, marketing and PR, retail, hospitality or tourism. Maybe prison guard? I'll have to ask her about that one.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I too wish I could do what I am best suited for. I am an artist, which is great but I don't make that much money at it.

I am trained to be a professor but can't because of the mental health obstacles. I know how frustrating this is to you. I feel like I am just surviving and not living life.

I get so tired of barely staying afloat while others excel in their lives with their hopes and dreams.

Ugh (sigh).