Almost one year has passed I stopped working any sort of formal job. When I quit my last position, I was sure that I would find something else, once the mania and depression and overall craziness blew over. Sure that I would breeze right back into the mental health field, armed with my several years of experience and (nearly-useless) Bachelor’s Degree. It turned out that, instead of this happening, as had been the pattern for several years (work, severely decompensate, period of unemployment, back to stressful job, rinse and repeat), I ended up choosing another route.
And it was a route that I was not altogether convinced, at first, would even work out, nevertheless be the best thing that had happened to me. Every member of my treatment team encouraged me to file for disability. My family and DSB and everyone I asked agreed. No one thought that I should go back and repeat the stressful job to severe decompensation to unemployment and back again cycle. The cycle that has gone on my entire adult life.
I had a good part of my identity tied up in my career, as do many people. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be working with the mentally ill, that I wouldn’t be advocating for them, that I wouldn’t be able to help people get up out of the mire. Most of my self-worth was entrenched in this work, and I just didn’t know how I would fare without it.
I filed for SSDI/SSI in April of 2012 and was approved in June of 2012. I didn’t receive a check until November 2012, but thankfully my parents and DSB were able to support me during that time. It wasn’t my concern at the time, but I never wanted for anything. I was too busy being depressed and irritable and generally unwell.
Time has passed and I really feel like I have evened out. I’m would even consider myself content, happy on a good day. Not working took quite a bit of getting used to, but I found things to do to fill up the time and I am working at my parents’ businesses on a very part-time basis. DSB and I are able to spend a lot of time together, which is simply wonderful, and I also spend quite a bit of time with my mom, QoB. I think not working has really allowed my relationships to get stronger, as well as allowing me to focus on what is really important: love and family.
I will be working more this summer, as my parents’ businesses are somewhat seasonal, but I have worked out a schedule with BigDog and QoB so that I will only be working about 12-15 hours per week. I am pretty sure I can handle that and I know it will be a huge help to them to not have to hire someone for those hours.
Working at the shops really gives me a sense of achievement, as it puts me out in front of the public and forces me to interact with others. In other words, it puts me out of my comfort zone, and that is a good good good thing. Building mastery and building structure, both DBT skills, are very key to my success as far as my mental state goes. I need to feel useful, like I am challenging myself. I also need to stay busy with structure in my life. This small bit of work does that.
Not everyone with a mental illness has the incredible support system that I do, and I am immensely grateful that I have several people that I can always count on. I don’t think I would be faring as well if not for these people, and for them, I am eternally grateful.