Jennifer's counselors and case managers helped her progress from extreme depression to a functioning woman, allowing her to turn what she's been through into something positive, powerful, and useful.
As a Peer Support Specialist at the FHN Family Counseling Center, Jennifer Robinson spends her days helping people with behavioral health challenges. “They learn life skills that help them function and lead independent lives,” she explains. “I go into their homes and teach them basic hygiene, and how to sort laundry, vacuum, and care for their living space. We also go to the grocery store, and I guide them as they think through their budget and how to handle money. I can even advocate in medical situations, directing their discussions with doctors and other professionals. If it has to do with everyday life, I pretty much help them do it, each week, one or two hours at a time.”
Jennifer finds her job very rewarding. “I love coming to work!” she enthuses. “It makes me feel good to help people. I am a patient person and I try not to judge. That helps.” She is recognized as both positive and encouraging, and it pays off. People often share appreciation for her support. She shares, “Just last week I got an email from a doctor telling me how much one of her patients likes working with me. That really made me smile!”
Learning to Embrace the Positive
Jennifer makes a point of ending each appointment on a positive note. “These people need reassurance and stability. I give them a regular contact each week that keeps them on track. I have been with most of these patients for five years. We develop a trusting relationship that goes both ways,” she explains. “They help me learn and grow, and we have fun doing everyday things like singing and dancing while we work. That’s a great lesson for all of us!”
Being a client at the FHN Family Counseling Center helped Jennifer learn many of the skills she incorporates in her job. “I was a patient before I was an employee,” she shares. “I have bipolar disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and I am not ashamed of my diagnosis. I am just happy to be getting better.
Although I still have issues to work through, my counselors and case managers have helped me progress from extreme depression to a functioning woman, allowing me to turn what I’ve been through into something positive, powerful, and useful. I feel full of potential and am happy to help provide hope and dignity to other people who need a hand.”
Learning to Let Go
Jennifer faced some horrific events in her youth – scenarios that would haunt anybody. At age six, she witnessed her father being murdered, and in the years that followed was regularly beaten with a belt until bloody by her mother’s boyfriend. As an adult, she experienced problems in her marriage. She says she faced stretches of depression where she “sobbed for a month, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, just isolated myself. I felt overwhelmed and was in and out of mental health centers.” Though it has taken several years, she is no longer plagued by bad dreams and doesn’t “see the murder over and over again,” day in and day out. Jennifer credits her counselors for teaching her strategies to quit “stuffing” her emotions. With their help, she has learned to let go of her past trauma.
Learning that Dreams Can Come True
“I used to live across the street from the counseling center and watch employees go into work each day. I said out loud, ‘I’m gonna work there someday. I’m gonna work there and help people with their problems.’” With the support of FHN’s Family Counseling Center and training from the Workforce Development Institute, Jennifer made that dream come true. “I am grateful for my job, my clients, and my life,” she shares. “It brings tears to my eyes. Yes, yes, yes, I am happy now.”