Learn how ITA’s internship provided an opportunity for a young man to learn how to cope with symptoms related to his disability, including anxiety
Hello, my name is Ben Auerbach, and I am an administrative intern here at ITA about to finish my internship. I am currently on leave from New York University, at which I am pursuing a degree in Applied Psychology with a minor in American Sign Language. The reason for my leave of absence is due to the fact that I, for most of my life, have dealt with many mental and neurological disorders. Along with my diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome, I also have Chronic Depression and undiagnosed anxiety. Because of these, I could not handle the pressure of school right now. Well, that’s not entirely true. Because of my lack of skills on how to overcome these, I had to come home for the year. Throughout my life, I have never truly dealt with my disorders in a healthy way. I always took the easy way out when offered, and avoid everything to not have to deal with the pain.
It wasn’t until I started work at ITA that I finally got the help I needed. My family and I finally realized that the real cause for my avoidance and lack of motivation was my anxiety. I had never really learned how to overcome anxiety. In my head, avoiding what made me anxious was the right move every time. Of course now I know how wrong I was.
When I heard about working at ITA, I was excited, but also extremely nervous. I had never had a real job before and never learned how to actually get work done. After eight weeks of working here, I can safely say that I have seen so much progress in my recovery, progress I never thought was possible. I learned how to work with deadlines, be professional, and even learn about creative arts therapy in depth, a career I hope to one day pursue. I have had successes here, and also made many mistakes. I do not do well with disappointing others, but I learned with the help of my supervisors how to overcome that fear and take these mistakes as learning experiences. What also helped the most, was that I was working with licensed therapists, who encounter anxiety all the time. They were able to provide me the proper accommodations to be successful here. They never cut me slack, but also understood and were supportive when times were tough. I now know that I can be successful in the workplace, and I feel much more confident in returning to school. That being said, I still have a ways to go in my recovery, but I would not be the man I am today without the amazing experience I had working at ITA.
So, you must be thinking, “well that’s all fine and dandy Ben, but what can I do to ensure that I too will be successful?” That’s a fair question. So here are a few tips that I have learned over these eight weeks that might help those with the same struggle to succeed. If you ever forget them just remember that you learned them from Mr. HOBMAN (It’s a mnemonic I created: Honesty, Ownership, Balance, Mistakes, Anxiety, No fear)
- Honesty is the best policy. I know that seems cliché but it is the best advice I can give you. Be honest with your co-workers and with your supervisors, as well as, and more importantly, yourself. If you do not believe in what you are saying, they won’t either.
- Take Ownership in what you do. If you don’t believe what you are doing is valuable, then your work will show that. Also, make it yours. You should care about your work, and you should realize that your work matters to your organization as a whole. Otherwise you wouldn’t be given that work in the first place.
- Create a Balance. Be realistic with yourself on what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can tell your supervisors what kind of work you are best at. However, don’t lie to yourself and your supervisor so you get less work. Believe me, too little work is worse than too much work. It leads to unproductive habits and can actually be detrimental to the work you already have. Try to find a balance of work that highlights your strengths and work that challenges you.
- It’s okay to make Mistakes. I started off my internship doing really good work at first, but then started to make mistakes. I got so scared that my supervisor would be so disappointed and angry that she would fire me which caused my anxiety to rise tremendously. Trust me, your boss realizes that you’re human and does not expect you to get everything right on the first try. If they give you criticism, it means they care about you and want to teach you different ways to approach mistakes in the future. Perfection is complete fiction. Also, if they want to fire you, they will tell you so.
- Not all Anxiety is bad. People often think that if they had no anxiety in their lives, then things would be great. Not true. People need some anxiety to help them actually get the work done. This anxiety helps you meet deadlines and make sure you do your best work. A little anxiety means you care about what you are doing, which is what your supervisor is looking for.
- Have No fear of your anxiety. I know that seems counterintuitive, and I assure you that it takes time to understand. I had many anxiety attacks over my time here at ITA. In the beginning, I would shut down and run away from the work. But pretty soon I learned that avoiding the thing that gives me anxiety is the worst thing I can do. All it does is make me believe that what I am scared of is actually scary. The best thing to do is to accept the anxiety and ride it out. Acknowledge what is giving you the anxiety, and accept the fact that you will feel this way for about 10 to 15 minutes. But then, realize that after that time, the anxiety will dissipate on its own, unless you fuel it to keep giving you anxiety. My favorite quote of all time is King Solomon’s, “this too shall pass.” It’s the truest statement I know. Every time you get anxiety, realize that it will pass, just as it did every time before, and just as will every time in the future. If you understand this, though it may not be easy, you will be able to go back and continue doing the great work you’ve been doing until now.
These six tips were not easy to learn, and each one came to me through struggle and hardship. But I can gladly say with complete confidence that learning these six lessons helped me grow tremendously and let me enjoy my time here at ITA.