Mimi's Story Mimi
The following is the speech of Mimi in the 11th International Seminar
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am Mimi Wong, from Phoenix Clubhouse, Hong Kong, It is my honor to speak in this special occasion and share with you my personal experience.
My life has been pleasant and uneven until I suffered from schizophrenia in 1972. In that year, I graduated from secondary school and studied in commercial school. After studying for a few months, I found it too demanding. I started to accuse the teachers of numerous things and could not concentrate in the class. I was then diagnosed as schizophrenia. My life turned into years of struggle with mental illness – going in and out of hospitals, spending numerous Christmases in the hospital. As I was very suspicious, I threw temper tantrum frequently, cried all the times and had poor relationship with people. I did not have any close friend at all. Later, I got married and my marital relationship was also adversely affected. My husband and I had frequent conflicts and quarrels: we even considered divorce at several points.
My mental illness not only affected my relationship with my friends and family, it also greatly hindered my work life. In my 10 years of working, my history was very fragmented. My longest job was a typist in a Government Department which lasted for 5 years. Unluckily, my mental condition was very unstable and hospitalization was inevitable. Because of the relapse of my illness and my fluctuated mood, I had frequent admissions to hospital each year and thee longest stay was up to 18 months. I had also worked as an account clerk and a fax operator. However, because of the hospitalization and poor relationship with colleagues and my boss, all the jobs I held was shorter than a year. This condition lingered on until 1996. Due to unstable emotions, I could hardly find a job. My psychiatrist persuaded me to receive psychiatric rehabilitation service and I was referred to the psychiatric day hospital. I was assigned clerical tasks by the therapist. However, my condition did not improve. I felt life was hopeless and full of sufferings.
In 1998, Phoenix clubhouse was set up. I was one of its earliest members. At that time, I was very self-centered, pessimistic, and passive. I had frequent conflicts with staff and members. When I was in a bad mood. I would scold staff and members loudly. At one time, I threw a temper tantrum at a restaurant and threw all the food and dishes on the floor. I even lay on the ground to seek people’s attention when I was having an outing in the Ocean Park.
I was so misbehaved that I was not welcomed by most of the members. As you can imagine, some members did not want to work with me in the Clubhouse. They frequently made complaints against me. I was such a nuisance that my staff worker had to spend a lot of time in dealing with my emotions and interpersonal problems.
The turning point in my recovery came when the clubhouse set up a Reception Unit. I was heavily involved in it and I took up the role of receptionist in the clubhouse. The post attracted me as it fit my ability and it was a real and important work in the clubhouse.
I worked in the reception daily and I grew an interest in the work. I tried to create more new ideas so as to meet the needs of the clubhouse. I was responsible for receiving guests and phone calls, recording the daily attendance of staff and members, updating the daily attendance sheet, faxing at the clerical unit, doing some typing work and preparing the orientation package. My confidence and patience were not so good in thee beginning. I sometimes made mistakes and got frustrated but the staff and members supported me and gave me chances to practice all the skills. In several months’ time, I gradually took up all the reception tasks and worked independently. I even started to teach other members how to do the tasks. My control of temper and mood improved as my confidence of the job grew. I also started to build up good relationship with staff and members. I turned out to be more open-minded. optimistic with initiative. I also strongly desired to return to work. As I was not confident enough to try open employment, I tried transitional employment first.
I was interested in the shop assistant post in the staff co-op shop of the Hospital Authority's Head Office. After discussions with Eva, my staff worker, she suggested me to work in the tuck shop of the Clubhouse in order to have a similar work experience as shop assistant. So I came back early every morning before the opening of the tuckshop at 8:45am. I also voluntarily worked for longer hours through lunch. I worked in the tuckshop for 2 months. I gained much confidence in coping with the work stress of handling money and the long queue of customers and gained proper social skills.
Before the start of my first TEP, the staff and members supported me in various ways. The Staff at the Clubhouse gave me suggestions on appropriate clothing. A member even looked for suitable clothes with us. Finally, I started the TEP on June the first 2001 as a shop assistant. On the first day of my work, placement managers accompanied me to my work place and trained me on the job. At the first sight, I was scarred by the computerized cash register. However, after demonstration, I could handle it easily. Apart from operating the computerized cash register , I needed to handle the use of credit cards and EPS for money transactions, to check the stock and answer phone enquiries. Recently I need to handle large amount cash flow up to HK$ 70,000 (about US$ 9,000), I work 24 hours a week. Consultation and support from the staff of the clubhouse are provided whenever I needed them. When I am on leave on Mon and Tue, I go back to Phoenix Clubhouse to help with the work of the reception. By now, I have been working for more than 4 months, both my boss and my co-worker are satisfied with my performance. My salary is enough for my expenses. I feel very content and satisfied. My dream of returning to the work force comes true through TE.
Working as the receptionist in the Clubhouse and my TE give me not only job satisfaction, they also bring me back my confidence and good relationship with people. I feel being welcomed by the members of the Clubhouse and they are willing to work with me and establish friendship. I really could not believe being nominated and supported by all the staff and members to represent the Phoenix Clubhouse in attending this International Seminar which has been my dream for years. So, when people ask me, “Are you afraid of flying to the US in this special moment?” I said with a smile, “No, this is a precious opportunity to share my success with the world!” My husband also supports me and remarked, “ It is a reward of Mimi’s hard work to be representing Phoenix Clubhouse to attend the Seminar.”
After finishing my first Transitional Employment, I will try another TE or look for other suitable jobs myself. I would also like to enroll some vocational training course to further enrich my skills and knowledge.
I am grateful that the Clubhouse has offered me tremendous opportunities to grow and regain my confidence in a work environment. I never would have imagined that I could come and speak to you guys. I am very honored and I am sure that a lot more people can be helped through this Clubhouse environment of support and TE. I would like to invite you to visit us in the future. Thank you.