Melinda Drake

For fans of:Looking for Trouble, 50 Shades of Grey, Eyes Wide Open

My self-esteem came from years of self-doubt; feeling that I am never good enough. I still remember the day, when I finally saw myself. I was shopping at Macy’s and as I was looking at the glass case of jewelries, I saw a glimpsed of a woman in the mirror. I looked up and saw myself, that day, for the first time in my life, I thought, “I’m beautiful.” I like the person looking back at the mirror. I like myself. I earned my doctorate in business administration in 2000, master’s degree in social work in 1997, and master’s degree in computer resources and information management in 2003.

With more than a quarter century of working with people as a clinical social worker has taken me across the country. I am fortunate enough to have worked with people with mental disabilities, chronic mental illness and addiction. It is in both my work and the people I meet in my work, that I found how much more common it feels to be lost and alone, specially when one is always surrounded by people. My humble work in the behavioral health field began in 1991 with the Williamsburg County Department of Social Services in Kingstree, South Carolina. I watched foster children move from one home to another, with their belongings packed in plastic garbage bags. Watching how children can feel so disposable prompted me to write the first grant I have ever written, to simply obtain bags for them. I have worked with severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents when I joined the South Carolina Governor's Office of Continuum of Care and saw how few resources are available for them. When I became a lead clinical staff at Willowglen Academy South Carolina, and worked with children and adolescents with severe emotional disturbance and mental disabilities, I began to understand what "Meaningful Life" meant, through the eyes of those I've served. It has since guided my practice as I have seen the suffering of young adults in Hawaii battling with meth, the adults in the North Country of New York as they deal with addiction in a uniquely rural area that may have been part of the state of New York, but did not have the resources for the opiate and heroin epidemic, and in California, the difficulties that young people experience as they try to find themselves in the world and found themselves not immune to addiction and mental illness.

Somehow, in this busy schedule I was able to raise my only child, Asa with the help of my mother. My work has taken me across the country from South Carolina to Hawaii, New York, and California. A journey that was as much planned, as it was not. That journey began when I realized that my attachment to my job in South Carolina kept me from becoming the clinician and the person I wanted to be. The journey also opened my eyes to how much the materials I accumulated in my life weighed me down, and finding that I am always where I am supposed to be.