PBI Success Story: A Teacher’s Journey of Recovery
In this case, the professional is not a member of the health care community. She is a graduate of PBI, which has expanded over the years to help professionals in a number of fields, including the law and education. Despite their difference in field, we find many similarities in the experiences of professionals who experience licensure discipline, and in their journeys back.
My teaching career was everything to me. It was all consuming and I thought all I needed. I not only taught, I coached, attended every school event, earned advanced degrees in academic administration and counseling, and invested myself totally in my students.
Then I slipped. I was accused of unprofessional behavior, lost my job and then my license. I had three months of back pay coming, so I didn’t feel the financial impact right away. But the emotional impact was far worse. Teaching had been my life and now it was gone. Even more painful, I had always thought of myself as a good person, someone who cared more for others, particularly my students, than for myself. Now I was being told that I wasn’t fit to be around students. I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I was going to do.
I felt so ashamed I stopped going out in public. I had panic attacks. And while I didn’t contemplate suicide, I prayed every night that God would take me. And I woke up each morning devastated that even He didn’t think I was worth taking.
My family physician prescribed an antidepressant, which offered some relief. I also went to see a counselor, but when the paychecks and health insurance stopped, I was forced to chose between the medication and the counseling. I chose the medication.
Also I enrolled in the PBI Teachers and Educators (TE-16) course, during which I participated in weekly group teleconference seminars (Maintenance and Accountability Seminars). During the seminars, other professionals in trouble explained to the group what brought them to PBI and where they were in their journey forward. These seminars serves as my lifeline to the rest of the world. The other participants were understanding, supportive, and sometimes helpfully challenging.
As the weeks and months rolled by, it began to sink in that I was not the only one going through this. I was not alone.
I still had to earn a living so I took a series of low-level jobs. I was a clerk at a clothing store, a secretary for a local non-profit, and a waitress at a local country club—until someone recognized me and complained that I was not fit to work there. “The gift that keeps on taking,” is what Dr. Schenthal said when I told him about it.
During the holidays I took a job at a call center that paid $8 an hour. I hated the work, but I did it, and began suggesting ways that the company could be more efficient. My supervisor liked my ideas and when he found out that I had teaching experience as well as a masters in administration, he spoke up for me and I was promoted to a training position. It paid a whopping 50 cents an hour more, but it was a valuable addition to my resume and to my self confidence.
By working through my boundary violation, I began to take stock of my skills and strengths. When I was asked why I left teaching, I told the truth, adding that the experience had taught me never to let things slide, to confront problems and to be proactive. I came to realize that I was capable of way more than I had been When a medical facility needed someone to train customer service representatives, I used my new-found confidence, improved resume and the familiarity with health care professionals that I had gained through PBI to get myself hired. I did well, learned on the job and on my own, and I am now in charge of training for non-medical staff at a local hospital.
I still miss teaching, but I am proud of the work I’m doing and actually making more money than I ever did before. I feel more secure now, too, knowing that I can face just about anything and with the help of others come out on top. And at last I have a personal life. I give 110% at work, but now I leave my work at the office and take time for myself, my friends and my family. I’ve met the love of my life and, while I still get a little anxious when I meet people from the old neighborhood, I can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been.