Five years ago, I worked at a Mental Health outpatient facility. I remember being excited when I got the call that the position was offered to me. By then I was in college going for my B. A in psychology and raising my son, so my plate was full. I also lived in my studio apartment and was desperate to make more money for the rent.
On my first day at the job, I met my boss the director of the program. She asked me a series of questions and made presumptions of me that were offensive. She said oh so you are in school studying psychology and you use to work at Congreso as an educator? I said yes, and she said “I guess that explains why you got this position then.” I should have seen her odd serious behavior as a red flag, but instead, I saw this as her testing me. I smiled and answered all her questions. She said I will fully start tomorrow.
So, the next day I met my new coworker, she was short and cold with me. She kept on writing her case management notes while I asked her questions and she had me do one of the notes, so Id learn. I was given a caseload of 60 participants and all were of Hispanic and Latino descent. The secretary would always smirk and shake her head when she saw me walk past her desk, it was almost like she knew something, and she and my coworker would chit-chat and gossip anytime the director left. My office was on the second floor and anytime I was in there alone I did not feel like I was alone. The floor had various rooms the hallways were small with an ugly green rug with a dusty stench. The room had wooden walls; I could automatically tell it was an old building. I was also able to realize that the facility was a different type of place a long time ago.
As a new Recovery Coach, I saw all these strange behaviors as a test. I thought they are just trying to see how I react. I kept it cool and did my job. Over time my coworker, and I started to have a good bond. She and I would take turns facilitating group therapy with the participants. They all had an arrange of mental illnesses and anytime the director entered the room in the morning everyone would stay quiet. Everyone hated her, she had such negative vibes and would be demeaning and degrading in her tone. She said that the participants are like children and we need to keep them in check. Over some time I started to dislike her as well. In the morning she would say “ok kids remember to please sign in and out every day.” Our participants were 40 years old and up so after a while I was not understanding why they would even let her call them kids.
The second floor had a kitchen and a bathroom. Anytime I walked around up there I felt like someone was watching me. I did not feel scared, I was more apprehensive and felt better when I was talking to one of my participants in the office. There were a few times that I would walk into my office and my desk chair was spinning on its own. After two months I had to ask my coworker more about the facility especially since I saw two men walk down to the basement of the place and when they opened the door the smell was awful. I asked her what this place was before? She straight-up laughed at my question and said don’t you know… this place used to be a funeral home! My eyes opened wide, and I thought to myself this explains why I been feeling so strange when I am in this building.
Everything started to make sense more. I thought to myself well now that I know this was a funeral home maybe I will not feel so odd anymore. I was wrong. I had a client by the name of Maria, she suffered from depression and paranoia. She was a sweet lady, but one day she was acting not like her regular self. I had a one-on-one therapy session with her in my office and she kept scratching her neck nervously. I asked her what was wrong? and she started asking me questions she said “how do you feel when you are here in your office?” I am typically the one to ask questions, so it felt good to have someone ask me something, and I smiled and said “well I honestly feel fine here in my office, I just don’t feel like I am alone here.” She then said something I will never forget, she looked at me right in the eyes and said: “you are not alone here and there are spirits always around walking in the hallways, I see them all the time.” Now my heart was beating fast but I kept my composure and being as though I worked there every day I asked her “are these good spirits or bad? She said they are good, and I said ok good.”
After a while here the negative vibes of the facility started to rub off on me. Everyone was just miserable, and I started feeling miserable as well. The receptionist would go days without coming in, so we had a temp for about two weeks. One day I was in my office then went downstairs to talk to my clients. I was with them for about 10 min before going upstairs. When I went upstairs my purse and the cell phone were gone. My papers were thrown on the floor along with my coat. I freaked out! Luckily, I opened one of my jurors and my car keys were still there. I told my director that I was robbed, and I had to leave immediately. My mom is a police officer, so she told me to report what happened to the police. She then took me to buy another cell phone. I felt so violated and upset because it was my favorite purse. The next day the temporary secretary admitted that she allowed homeless outsiders to use the restroom and they must have gone upstairs and taken my things. She gave me a letter apologizing and 60$. I did not want to accept the money, but she strongly told me to please have it.
After a while, I had to leave the facility and found another job. I started getting into disagreements with the director just like my other coworkers because of her strong discriminating remarks against the participants. She called me urban one time and said I was getting influenced by my coworkers and everybody there. It gets better, my coworker was dating one of her clients and eventually got pregnant by him. Some of the participants knew this so the director kept trying to get answers about it from people. I cannot make this up, it was like a novella soap opera film.
One morning we got the biggest surprise yet, the entire right side of the building was destroyed. It looked like the incredible hulk came in and started ripping everything. Walls were punched in, the carpet was ripped up, file cabinets were opened. Someone broke into the director’s office and destroyed it. All the paperwork inside our desks was all over the floor. My coworker laughed and said, “is a million dollars hidden in this building that we should know about?” Now, this is the creepy part. No computers or money or medications were taken!
My new neighbor…
One of my new clients was in prison for 15 years so when he came out he was dressing like a young guy when really he was 46. He would get into debates with me and started being controlling during the groups. The director told him he needs to be a leader and it’s good to have leadership skills but he started spreading rumor's about other participants, and I had to call him out in front of everyone and tell him it was inappropriate. I lived in a studio apartment and I herd someone moving into the second floor of the building. Only two men lived up there, a regular guy with his girl friend, and a man with schizophrenia who would yell at the top of his lungs when he was having a episode. As I was walking to my car I see the new client that I spoke to about spreading rumors at work and he was walking into the apartment building, it was so awkward I said hi and he said oh you live here ? I said yes, and he said I just moved into the second floor. Now I felt even more awkward and uncomfortable that one of my clients was living in the same apartment as me. I met my husband back then so when I told him he started laughing, but lets just say I didn't stay living there for long.
I worked at this facility for almost a year, and a half and then I left. The gossip and rumors got worse and it was a relief to start at a different place. I established good relationships with my participants, but it was a stressful environment. After working as a Recovery Coach there I became a Advocate for pregnant mothers in the community, and I enjoyed that a lot more.