Who knew I would be here in 2019. Just a few days ago I was bubbling with excitement and trepidation over the vocational school I signed up for in the hopes of landing a job after graduation. I thought, This is it, I am finally doing something with my life. I’ve made a decision for myself and I am moving forward with or without the support of my family.
If you read Stresses of Registering for a School, you know all about how much anxiety I had every step of the way to getting myself a seat in the school program. From researching agencies that offered training for the job position (home health aide), to actually getting in contact with them for more information (phone calls, ugh), to sorting out the documents they needed from me for medical clearance, etc.
Thinking about what I did then, it seems like an empty joke that I assumed I knew what I was getting myself into. I did not know; not really. Yeah, I was under the impression the job training would be good and it would be suitable for me. At the time I did read the descriptions for what a home health aide does for a client, which included a range of things like keeping the person company, doing light housework, helping with personal grooming such as toileting or bathing, changing the person’s catheter, etc. The very idea of aiding a total stranger in these ways secretly repulsed me, yet I stubbornly wanted to cling to the fantasy that I could tolerate it for the sake of no longer being unemployed and not feeling so low about myself for not knowing where I am going in life. I tried to imagine maybe I would be disgusted in the beginning but would get used to it the more clients I dealt with. I even wondered if it was possible for me to pretend I was caring for my own mother or father if and when I was assisting a disabled/elderly client. I ignored my own instinct that this job wasn’t going to cut it.
So I went into the training with ignorance and stupid expectations that somehow I would be fine. Once there, having the experience of hearing my instructor basically drill all the 29 students (including me) about her own experiences of what home health aides deal with on the job, it was too real and jarring in a kind of “I just got ice cold water thrown on me” type of way. It made it more apparent how much I really could not picture myself handling the job.
To elaborate, she spoke about things I had no prior knowledge about. It was eye-opening. She said aides are matched with clients but they won’t know the client’s personality or temperament until they show up at the person’s house to begin work. And that clients can refuse to open the door for an aide. There were instances where an aide was stuck standing outside for a half hour because the client was still asleep and wouldn’t answer the door. Or times where a family member of the client was the one to request an aide’s services for the client, however, the client didn’t want that. Or even issues of communication in which the agency who sent the aide to a client’s house didn’t inform the client that someone was coming. All of this sounded like a HUGE headache to me. I am sure some people are well-equipped for these types of high stress situations. But not me. I thought the job was going to be like a nurse in a hospital attending to a patient, except in a home setting. Nope. Worse was the aide would be completely alone with the client in their home, which I perceived to be a potentially dangerous scenario if something were to happen on-the-job.
About the time I found out clients may ask aides to do stuff that they weren’t designated to do, in my mind I was already halfway out of the classroom. Apparently if a client requests help with something that isn’t on their care of plan schedule (which is decided by the aide’s supervisor), the aide is supposed to phone their agency to let them know. And that anytime they are having trouble with a client, they also have to phone in. There was the additional possibility the client might complain to the agency about the aide not doing their job properly. This wasn’t a job of just showing up and working. I was very surprised at how much an aide has to put up with from a client. Too much, in my opinion.
That second day of class during my lunch break, I took some time to walk around outside. It’s when I wrote the post Messed up on the Inside. I felt like my whole world had gotten flipped upside down. Things I thought I knew about myself no longer seemed completely true.
I don’t remember writing about it at all, but prior to attending the class, my dad was not supportive of me doing the job training. He knew what the job entailed and strongly advised against it. I took it the wrong way. I believed he was trying to shut down a decision I made for myself on my own terms. But now I regret how hasty I was. That’s the hard truth about being a grown adult like me. I didn’t want a second opinion and in a lot of ways I am still not mature enough, I think, because I wanted independence but I went about it without wanting to let my family in or acted like I didn’t want them to be part of it. I’ve said before confiding in them about real stuff can be a trying task. Some things I’ve had stuck in my throat for years and the words just never came out of my lips.
The conclusion of Messed up on the Inside was that I did not go back into class. Gosh, I remember the minutes ticking down. I was pacing back and forth about a block away from the school entrance with my bag over my shoulders and my phone clutched in my hands. I went further down the street the closer it got to 1 PM, the end of my lunch break. The details seem pointless to recount now, but once 1 PM rolled by, my legs felt like jello and I crouched down for support against a street tree. My heart was racing and racing. I knew any moment then in the classroom, my instructor noticed my absence. I had also left my textbook and workbook there too, though I wouldn’t need them anymore anyway.
After that I made a long, arduous walk home. I usually love walking. For the first day after school, I had walked more than 40 blocks to get back to my neighborhood rather than take the subway home. That second day though… It was like the longest walk of my life because of how sh*tty I felt. The single thought that repeated on a loop in me:
I dreaded going home and breaking the news to my parents but I did. My dad was understanding about my reasons for leaving. He said he had known from the get-go that the job was not it for me. The conversation was a little awkward because I still didn’t verbalize how I felt about the whole thing, I only said the schoolwork wasn’t hard to study but to actually do the job duties was too much. It helped that he had knowledge about home health aides and what a hard job it would’ve been for me. My mom’s reaction was harder to read. She was more reserved than my dad and she listened for most of the conversation but didn’t make any remarks.
This whole mess has made me reevaluate how I’ve been lately as a person. I don’t think I have been doing well. I was getting to the point of realizing I have a tendency to allow my mood to cloud my judgement and how not okay that was.
Last Sunday, I felt very uncomfortable having brunch with my parents and brother in an unfamiliar place and not knowing what to order from the menu. I got even more uncomfortable when my dad suggested stuff and I kept saying no but I wasn’t more specific in my responses, like telling him I didn’t really want anything in particular and could just share the larger dishes that had already been ordered. Instead I stayed quiet and then my brother seemed to pick up on the tension. He chided my dad for his questions and advised for him to let me figure it out for myself. I felt a mixture of embarrassment and irritation that he spoke on my behalf. The one I was truly mad at was myself. Everything that followed when either my dad or brother spoke to me, I either gave short or really curt answers. Eventually my brother asked me, “Are you in a bad mood?” I said no. A total lie, but after that I made the effort to drop my unexplained attitude. I was only hurting myself.
The thing about social anxiety and anxiety in my case… Verbal communication can feel unnatural to me, particularly if I am around my family who I am used to speaking very little to if I can help it. It’s a habit I developed that got worse with time. Whenever they talk to me or ask me for my opinion on things, I sometimes feel defensive as if I have to prepare a vague answer to shield myself rather than be honest with them. It’s a feeling of both being distrustful of them but also incredibly anxious/paranoid about giving them my input on a topic.
For example, very recently my dad asked me what I thought of my brother’s new girlfriend. Immediately I got nervous over the question. I am insecure in the presence of my brother but even more so when his girlfriend is around. She is very cheerful although I haven’t really talked to her at length before. Most of the time I’ve just been present while she is there and hardly said a word, due to how uncomfortable and/or unsure I am about what to say to her. So the question from my dad brought out how insecure I felt about myself, including the assumption I have that my brother’s girlfriend doesn’t like me. And that’s why in my mind it was so easy for the nervousness to turn into anger. Like the situation from Sunday, I was upset at myself for being anxious but I misdirected the emotion onto someone else. Suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking my dad had ulterior motives for asking me and was trying to hurt me or mock me in some way. The response I gave him was terribly mean. I said, “Why are you asking me? It’s not like I’m the one dating her.”