Is it a good idea to go back to the mental health clubhouse?
February 20, 2018 6:09 PM   Subscribe

The clubhouse is a place for people living with mental illness to socialize and do unpaid work to gain skills. I don't feel welcome there.

I have anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. I get confused easily when I'm trying to do tasks, which has costed me jobs, school, and volunteer positions. People often get angry and impatient with me. I get anxious and quit.

My therapist referred me to the mental health clubhouse as a smaller, theoretically more doable step for me to learn the skills to be productive in society.

I tried it before and quit because somebody got angry with me because I had a difficult time learning how to peel the carrots for making dinner. He said, "I can't deal with you."

With my therapist's encouragement, I tried again. During social time, I said hi to someone and she didn't respond. I tried working in the business unit this time, but was having trouble with the computer program. Someone seemed frustrated with me. I said that I wasn't feeling well and went home.

I feel hopeless about ever being able to connect socially with anyone or find a work place, even just a volunteer position that will be respectful while I try to learn a task.

The volunteer coordinator at a mental health hotline said that if I volunteer at the clubhouse for a few months and get peer counseling training, I can get a volunteer job there. He might not let me if I quit the clubhouse.

Is it a good idea to go back? Would society be happier if I just continued to stay home as much as possible and stay out of the way? Can I ever feel welcome anywhere, whether socially and/or vocationally?
posted by Eevee to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Are you familiar with the idea of the Imposter Syndrome? If you're not: basically, it's really common to feel like you don't belong somewhere or aren't worthy of being there, and to presume that everyone else feels fine. But no, we're all walking around feeling like we're not good enough.

I don't know you or the Clubhouse, but I bet that most of the other clients there also feel like maybe they shouldn't be there -- even the people who you think we're frustrated with you. I doubt society would be happier if everyone who was uncertain about themselves stayed home; the only people out and about would be arrogant jerks.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:28 PM on February 20, 2018 [15 favorites]

The "joy" of social spaces geared for people with mental illnesses is that you're surrounded by other people living with mental illness. If you're lucky you'll encounter people who have oodles of empathy for your struggles because they've been through something similar. But, you may also encounter people too wrapped up in their own anxiety/depression/anger/social awkwardness/etc to spare you much time or compassion. Just because someone was rude to you doesn't mean you don't deserve to be there.

I think there's real potential benefit to you to keep trying. I assume there are employees or volunteers facilitating activities at the clubhouse? You could try getting to know them first before branching out to socializing with other clients.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:36 PM on February 20, 2018 [18 favorites]

Those others who are there who might have had negative reactions are also dealing with issues of their own, I'd assume. I'd take your cues from the volunteer coordinator and your therapist. Try to be nice to the others, but you might not always get nice reactions back. I know it's easier said than done, but try not to worry about it. Hang in there.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I agree that it's worth it to try to keep going to the clubhouse! Keep in mind that other folks all have their own struggles and are there because of their own mental health issues, so it might be hard for them to figure out how to respond socially. I think you seem like a person who has a determination to do good in the world, and you should do what it takes to reach your goals. You can do it!
posted by fairlynearlyready at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have depression. For me, work is the best medicine. I love working, whether it's a volunteer job or a paid job. The volunteer job at the helpline sounds like a great opportunity.

Because I love work so much, I want you to have the chance to experience how a good job can make you feel. So yes, I think you should go back.

When people are mean to me, sometimes I cry in the bathroom! But sometimes I'm OK. I tell myself things like, "These are people with problems of their own," "it's their problem, not your problem," "this person sounds like he has something bad going on in his personal life," etc., etc. You can come up with the phrases that work for you.

Good luck! I think this is a solvable problem. You'll find a way to make it happen.
posted by 8603 at 6:56 PM on February 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

Would society be happier if I just continued to stay home as much as possible and stay out of the way?

Society is not in the category of things capable of happiness.

It is, however, in the category of things capable of complete indifference to you and your circumstances.

I said hi to someone and she didn't respond.
Someone seemed frustrated with me.

These are examples of difficult encounters with people. They are not examples of difficult encounters with society.

It may well be reasonable to talk about what society wants and what it doesn't want in some sense, but you need to understand that all such talk is metaphorical; it treats society as broadly parallel to a personal consciousness with an overarching memory and an overarching will, but in fact these are things that society as a whole simply does not have in the same way that you and I do.

That non-responsive person, and that frustrated person? They don't speak for society as a whole. They don't have a right to push you around and run your life for you just because they are parts of society. You are just as much a part of society as they are, and you have a say.

If you start suspecting that society can't deal with you as you are, then the counter to that is frankly, fuck society. You look after you. Put your own oxygen mask on first. If somebody doesn't like the way you peel carrots: well, sucks to be them today. You just keep peeling the damn carrots because you need the carrot peeling practice, and anybody who doesn't like where you're up to with that process can just fuck off.

Can I ever feel welcome anywhere, whether socially and/or vocationally?

Yeah, you can. But if your depressive episodes work anything like the way mine do, getting there will require a fair bit of internal work to shut down the negative spin your depression will be putting on the way you interpret every interaction with the people around you.

Something that has worked really well for me has been taking opportunities to just hang out with horses. Not ride them, or work with them or touch them or pat them or in any other way impose myself upon their personal space, just hang out with them in a paddock. Horses are big, they're calm, they smell good, and they have a way of just getting on with life that delivers perspective in huge and cleansing doses. I have no idea where you live or if doing something similar is in any way feasible for you, but if it is, I recommend it.
posted by flabdablet at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

My partner's son has a similar diagnoses and a similar type of clubhouse in his area that we're always trying to get him to go to. I think people have a lot of good feedback for you. Learning to deal with people who are giving less-than-encouraging feedback is a good skill to practice. Unfortunately it also sort of sucks because getting feedback that feels bad from people can hurt your feelings. So, think of it as not just work practice but putting-up-with-people practice. Which is a really useful skill for people of all levels of moods and abilities. Some days I am too frustrated with the world and with other people to really go to the supermarket without being all ragey with people. However, most days I can. In the past, many days I couldn't. Practice helped me get better able to do that.

And so some of this is not just carrot-peeling type of practice it's "What to do when that other person doesn't say hi?" practice. It's normal for that to not feel great. But also trying to find a way to not make it wreck your day is a good thing to work on. With my partner's son, he has a lot of emotions that are hard for him to manage and it's mostly my partner who has to manage it. So his son doesn't get feedback from other people about how he is to interact with. I think it would be better for him, more useful, to get feedback in his life from more different types of people. However, it's hard for him to break out of what works (being at home, mostly only interacting with my partner) to do that. You're already making good steps my making the effort. See if you can give yourself some small tasks to accomplish (show up, say hi to a few people, help with dinner, eat, go home) instead of the big Do Everything task. Some days you may just show up and it's not for you and you go home. Other days maybe you're feeling more resilient and you stick around.

Feeling welcome can be hard, but over time it can happen. It's good to have places you feel like you can be besides home even if it's not a place you always feel like you want to be.
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 PM on February 20, 2018 [13 favorites]

From a member who would like to remain anonymous:

I have followed your blog for a bit and have found it very helpful as I have a relative who, like you, has schizophrenia and has been having a hard time with a similar decision. You are both intelligent, sensitive, and insightful, and I admire you a lot for asking this question since I know your first experience with the clubhouse was disappointing and left you hurting. I believe you are capable of returning and trying the experience out again, and wanted to write and chime in with everyone else to encourage you to do so.

You've mentioned in some of your previous Asks that you have a really difficult time when you perceive someone to be angry with you for something. Depersonalization is one of the hardest skills to develop when you have depression and anxiety and I don't blame you for choosing to go home after you feel you're on the receiving end of someone else's off mood. It's good that you have somewhere to go and decompress.

You have also mentioned how much you want to continue your therapy and so you can rejoin the workforce and become a therapist too some day. To accomplish this goal (which you are 100% capable of doing), it will help so much to keep doing exactly what you're doing now: re-examining situations where you've felt overwhelmed and trying them again.

Being at the clubhouse again can bring multiple benefits, as you've noted. The one I encourage you to focus on is the opportunity to build up your resilience. You already have a lot of it, as evidenced by what you recount in your blog. It's a muscle that needs to flex in order to stay strong. Every time you can figure out a way to be gentle with the person you're interacting with, even if they seem to be frustrated with something, you flex that muscle. With resilience, your confidence in yourself and others will grow. You will keep moving forward with each try.

Let's say you go back and interact with someone who expresses their emotions in an outward way. You find yourself feeling overwhelmed, hurt, sad, sick. Your first response may be to feel despair and to decide to go home to decompress. I also get overwhelmed and do the same thing, because I want to hide, and lately I've been doing it a lot because work and people are hard.

Instead of heading home completely, I seek out another area of my office that isn't as full of people and just sit. Sometimes I will go for a walk outside. Sometimes I will go for another walk depending on how bad my anxiety over a situation has become. Then I go back and try again. Maybe you've tried this too and found that it didn't work right away. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes it will be best to just to go home, if that is the form of self care that you need in that moment. I encourage you to try again, to exercise that muscle you think you don't have, and build on each try with one more. We do the best we can with the tools we have. When we want to do better, to get a different result, finding another tool or two can make that happen. Find a way to take a break instead of immediately heading home. You can do it. I believe in you.

You have endured so much over the course of your life. That you are still here is a testament to how strong you are. You are your own proof that you are capable of doing this if you want to.

Keep going, eevee. It will take time, it won't be instant, but it will happen. Remind yourself of how far you have come and that your progress is due to you being stronger than you realize.
posted by taz at 11:34 PM on February 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

Thanks, everyone. I smiled reading these answers. I'll stick with the club and work on my resilience.
posted by Eevee at 2:39 AM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

Social skills are SKILLS as they take lots of practice and you will be clumsy and make mistakes at first and they atrophy over time if you don't keep practicing. So unless you plan to become a lifelong hermit, you should probably keep plugging away and practicing until you get better.

The #1 thing is to always try to be nice and kind. A lot of awkwardness and cluelessness is forgivable and tolerable as long as the person making social mistakes isn't being mean or nasty to others.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:33 AM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

BTW, in this encounter:
He said, "I can't deal with you."
The person who made the social mistake there was him, not you. That was a very rude and nasty thing for him to say to someone who was trying to be helpful. Being patient with others is a social skill that he needs to work on.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:37 AM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

Please know that you're not alone, and that many, many people who have jobs and apartments and seem to have their shit together are also working really hard to seem normal. Sometimes you just have to remove yourself from the situation and try to remember all your coping skills. I think the folks who have pointed out that the real practice here isn't "how to peel carrots," it's "how to learn to deal with other people and keep yourself together" are on the right track. It's hard as fuck. Sometimes I have to leave my stupid cubicle (open-plan offices are The Worst) and just go sit in a bathroom stall so I can have a door I can close.

I'm proud of you for not giving up on the clubhouse. It sounds like it can be really valuable for you, and I'm glad that you have that place to go to work on this stuff. Think of it as training wheels. Hang in there, kitten. <3
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is a wonderful line from Max Ehrmann's Desiderata that I used to say to myself when I had impostor syndrome or felt unwelcome (which was QUITE often). "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here."

You have a right to be at the mental health clubhouse. It is just as much for you as it is for anyone else. If someone is impatient or angry or stressed out, that says much more about them than it does about you.

I hope you do go back and I hope you find people who are kind and caring and help you continue to build your skills so you can bring your dreams to fruition. They are important - and so are you.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older facial recognition software   |   Corporate jobs are worth it because... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.