The Joy of Working Despite Disability

It is a wonderful privilege I enjoy, having a full-time job.  In fact, it is a sheer miracle, given that I am diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder.  This is a combination of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  I have suffered from tactile hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, depression, mania and anxiety.  Such crippled me mercilessly for years, and I was unable to hold down any job.  I went on disability, prepared to never work again.

 

Yet I recovered against all odds.  Four years ago, I started the drug Clozapine, and it completely reformed my life.  No longer do I relapse and fail, repeatedly falling to square one.  Instead, I can climb higher and higher each day, dedicating myself to my profession.  And my current profession?  Mental health work and advocacy.  Namely, I work as a peer specialist at an agency that provides housing for people with mental illness disabilities.  Given that I am diagnosed myself, I am able to understand clients on an equal level.  A degreed professional cannot do this.

 

Now that I have a profession, I enjoy going to trainings and conferences where I can meet and network with other similar professionals.  It feels good to belong to such a passionate community.  I also now sit on three committees with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), sitting at the table as a representative for those who receive Medicaid health insurance for a mental illness disability.  My insights and opinions are well received.

 

As I devote myself to mental health advocacy, and as I encounter professionals with masters degrees, I realize that the “world” of consumers in the system is much different than the “world” of well-off, working professionals.  Working professionals can assume a cushion of sanity within their their minds, while those struggling with mental illness suffer from being robbed of stability.

 

Mental illness can be difficult for an unafflicted to fathom.  Why would a person behave paranoid without provocation?  Why would a person spend thousands of dollars wildly at fruitless investments, without being able to discern imminent failure?  If I could explain succinctly why I personally once behaved this way, I would say thus:  I had no choice.  Thoughts attacked me, and I had to express them outwardly if I was to have any emotional release and releif.  Bottling thoughts up is unhealthy for anyone.  If insanity is what comes out, then just imagine what that person’s internal condition is.

 

For some people, only Christian hell can compare.

 

Looking back at my own unstable years, I realize that I had no capacity to learn from past experiences.  I was unable to learn from the people around me, and I was unable to grow and develop as an adult.  This is because the voices in my head never evolved.  Thus, the same conditions afflicted me year after year.  This lack of change served to keep me at the same age and maturity level for many years.  I failed to age emotionally.

 

This is why I often feel younger and less mature than others my age.  At age thirty-one, I only have worked two years full-time, and have not yet earned a master’s degree.  (The latter is not so terrible.)  I see friends from school now working as doctors and lawyers, and I feel dreadfully behind.  What makes me different from them?  Why was I afflicted, and not they?  I suppose it does not matter.  I have survived.

 

That is all that matters in the end.  I have survived.  And now, I want to help others survive.

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5 thoughts on “The Joy of Working Despite Disability

  1. Wow you have no idea how inspirational this was to me! I can relate to this post in so many ways. I have NEVER thought of the voices never changing causing my mind and myself to feel stuck in the same time warp, if that makes sense. I even screen-shoted this post to show to my fiancé. You explained it so well!

  2. That’s wonderful that you found your passion. Enjoy your writing. With that being said as I myself leave the advocate certified peer work behind for personal pursuits after 10 years I hope I inspired one person but something troubles me being able to work full time should not be the end all goal for every one because simply everyone is at different places in their journey and a job slaving for money for someone else may not be for every one. 🙂

  3. don’t envy the doctors and lawyers … many (if not most) of them have no business being where they are anyway. they find ways to cope with their ill-fitting profession … or not. America’s obsession with education and income has turned them into the “gods” of our society. unfortunately, this artificial construct leads many people into wasted years (and lives), never realizing the full lives they could live outside the construct.

    as a final point, note that an entire profession of therapists, psychiatrists, and now psychiatric nurse practitioners has sprung up to deal with the mental health issues of doctors and lawyers …

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