Summer, 2006 Jenn’s Story: A New Beginning 
I work at a bank as a part-time teller in Groton, CT. I handle customer transactions. I wait on the customers and handle everyday banking transactions, deposits, transfers, money orders, checks, cash advances, all of that good stuff. I work three to four days a week unless they need me because somebody is on vacation or is sick. Fridays I work eight-hour days. The other days I work during the week are normally five-hour days. I like the job. If I had known before I went into it the amount of stuff you need to know, I never would have guessed. We have all these tests we have to take every year. There are a lot of policies we have to be aware of. We have to keep our eyes out for counterfeits. There is a lot more involved in it than I thought there would be when I initially went into it. I thought that I would be taking people’s money and giving it back. Actually, I think having a job working with people has helped me socially. It has helped me to be a little bit more open. The most challenging part of my job is the sales aspect. I have a very hard time trying to sell products to people. We have goals that we are supposed to meet on a weekly basis. I would rather deal with the customers and not have to worry about the sales end of things, but unfortunately, it is part of the job. I had an injury to my knee on another job. So when I wanted to work again I had physical restrictions that I needed to be hired within. I was having a really hard time finding a position where my needs could be met. I spoke with Bill (employment specialist from Southeastern Mental Health Authority) and he immediately thought of the bank because it is sedentary. He has a friend that he contacted and I went and had the interview with a branch manager. Basically, it got the ball rolling. If he hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now. He has been very supportive and has followed through very well with me. I have had support from the whole team at Southeastern Mental Health Authority. My nurse practitioner has been wonderful. She has gotten to know me and I’m very comfortable with her. A while ago I was having a lot of anxiety and she gave me medication to help control it. It helped to relieve a little bit of that pressure. For me it was very difficult to go from a mental hospital setting where you are just responsible for being in the group to a job that you have to be there at a certain time. You have to do your job and you have to focus. You have got to function. It is definitely a transition that takes some time getting used to. One of the things I have always feared when starting a new job is that my mental health will come out as an issue. Almost like there is a stigma with it. Whereas if one of my fellow employees were to find out what I have been through, their opinion of me would change. I try very hard to keep all that stuff from people, which makes it a little bit more stressful at work. I started my bank teller job in August of ’04, so this August it will be two years. Far as I know, I will be there for awhile. Eventually, I don’t know when, I would like to go back to school. Believe it or not, I would really like to go back and finish my education for making pastry. I started attending Johnson and Wales University but had to leave because of my psychiatric illness. I was studying baking and pastry, which is something I have always liked. It is something that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I had to leave and right now I am hoping that at some point in time I will be able to go back and finish my education because it is really what I want to do. In the future I would like to open my own little shop. I have worked as a pastry chef at a couple of different places. I think that is what is right for me. Until I can do that, this teller job is going well. I really think I have the support. What advice would you have for others who live with mental illness and are considering work? It is not easy but in the end when you have something that keeps you busy, it helps you to hang in there. Get as much support as you need. It is not shameful to need support after you have been struggling with mental health issues and to use that support and not be afraid of it. I know one of my concerns was that people were going to know that I had a mental illness. The only way people are going to know is if you tell them. That is your choice. Don’t feel categorized because you had help finding a job. Just because you have mental illness and you have a hard time finding a job does not mean that you don’t deserve it, because you do. People change, people come a long way. Try to approach it as a new beginning. “Just because you have mental illness and you have a hard time finding a job does not mean that you don’t deserve it, because you do.” “Actually, I think having a job working with people has helped me socially. It has helped me to be a little bit more open.”