My Journey as a Social Worker

My grandparents migrated to the United States from Bangladesh- a developing country struggling in its late 40s. I don’t have much memory of that age but I was told that they asked me if I wanted to move here with them and my response to them was that when I move, I want to bring all the poor people with me. I’m sure they laughed it off.

Some of my own memories consisted of my first non-directed drawing being of the family shivering in the cold with nothing to wear and deciding that I was going to eat only plain rice with salt and onion because that is what I saw the beggars on the street eat. I have come far from that kid with crazy ideas on how to relate to others but that fire to want to make changes- to make the world a better place- still exists. It burns stronger every day.

Fast forward to college. After changing my major from psychology to interior design to accounting- I finally found social work. This field has taught me to be proud yet humble, guarded yet empathetic, outgoing yet quiet…I suppose a walking contradiction.

What we learned in books, and even the questions on the licensure exams were pretty different than what real life experiences have been for me. My undergrad internship consistent with spending time learning about case management with the immigrant population. To my surprise, one of my assignment ended up being baking a cake for a child turning 4 in the shelter. My perfectionist self wanted to make him a layered cake when I have never baked before. The cake looked awful. It was basically a mush with frosting on it- and he loved it. That internship also taught me the importance of reporting child abuse. Till this day, I have never missed a report.

I took a year to serve as an AmeriCorps member and developed high anxiety. Funny thing was I accepted that position because I felt that working at a shelter was too intense at that time. Experience as an AmeriCorps member encouraged me to complete my Masters. The graduate level internship was extremely different than undergrad.  I continued to struggle with trusting my abilities or even faking to make “it.” The difference between both of my internships and the clinician that I am now is that I am comfortable asking when I don’t know something- it doesn’t make me feel less of a therapist.

I realized that if I wanted to continue providing therapy, I needed a license. Licensure meant more responsibility but it also meant credibility among my peers. After I received my license, I did what I never wanted to do- worked in a psych hospital. I needed experience and like many other recent graduates, took the first job that paid.

Working in a psychiatric facility is uncomfortable and pushed me beyond my limits. I strongly believe that every clinician needs to work in a psychiatric facility to grow stronger and receive probably one of the best training to think on his/her feet. Over the next two years, I felt somewhat jaded and extremely angry with the mental health support offered in Texas. I questioned my purpose- especially those days when I saw the same patients return with similar symptoms. But I kept showing up. My coworkers kept me somewhat sane. We bonded over our frustration over the system, food, and “sick” sense of humor. The somewhat timid Sumaiya became less conscious and learned to be quick and trust my judgment. These qualities helped me tremendously with my next position as a therapist in a domestic violence agency.

Working as a therapist helped me remember my purpose again and allowed me to use the skills learned from the admissions department at a psych hospital to provide a better understanding of mental health diagnosis clients were experiencing. While working with my clients, I fell in love with myself. I fell in love with the therapist I had become and trusted that the faith my previous supervisors have shown is possible to achieve. I made a lot of mistakes- and I worked through them, with my clients.

So, when it came to deciding the name of my practice, Zenergy felt right. I am not perfect- and neither are the clients I had the privilege of partnering with but I can say that at the end of our work, we both learned and grew from each other. We learned to be comfortable in our new-found energy. Zenergy.

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