FINDING MY WAY: Work may be my recovery


Dear Readers,

I have been showing you the most painful parts of my life for many months throughout the last two years. I suffer from schizophrenia, major depression, anxiety and PTSD. I also have dissociative episodes. At my worst I was bedridden. You guys, something has changed. Something inside me.

All people with an SPMI “serious and persistent mental illness,” have a care team, crisis plans and care plans. I am not super religious, but I do believe in a higher power. I ask for things. I asked for a well-paid job, full-time with benefits. After eight years of living on SSDI benefits, I got that job. I start later this month. I asked for a male partner. I have no luck there. But there is still time.

My depression has lifted. I smile and laugh. I no longer think about how awful my life is. It isn’t awful anymore. Thanks for coming with me on this journey. When I do have a relapse, I follow my care plan. I do adult stress-relieving coloring. I knit scarves for people

Now that I will be working Monday-Friday, I will have very little time to de-stress. I’m a bit nervous and I am committed to my new career. For those of you who have had an SPMI in the past, you know how bright the sun shines when you recover. I wake up moderately cheery. Nothing great happens before coffee though.

As I put my life back together, I am not going the “I am cured” route. But I can function well enough to work every day. I can shower. I can take out the trash every night. I wash and iron my clothes. If everything goes well, I will be off benefits totally and will be self-sufficient through my job.

On the issues of “self-sufficiency” I believe that for people with mental health issues independence is not as important as survival. Without the federal and state programs for the disabled, including public health care, I would never have survived as long as I have.

With help from family I am able to pay my health insurance premium until I get benefits from my job. I also bought new clothes that fit and a smart pair of comfy but professional work shoes. I do have access to a vehicle, but as far as my job goes I will be using the buses and trains.

What hit me hardest when I accepted my job offer was my class privilege. No, it isn’t white privilege. I am not white. I am African 50% and European 50%. No one really knows what I am and they often ask. A bit rude but I answer. If I did not have working family members to help me at this crucial change from government support to a job, I would have been evicted from my apartment, lost my health care and disability. No insurance. No meds. No ability to function.

Many people I know through the mentally ill community are homeless. They have no one to take them in. They are afraid of losing benefits and never finding housing. I have lived for the past eight years paying 85% of my income in rent. There is no supply of fair, clean and up-to-municipal-code housing for the low-income.  I believe that with a finding by the Social Security Administration that a person is disabled, housing should be provided.

As my dark cloud is lifting I am cautious. My theory about my illness is that “Work is my Recovery.” Therefore, as long as I am working I am recovered. Or recovering happens through work.

Things that will comfort me at work are a tree of life medallion that will include an essential-oil soaked pad. I just bought a nice set of essential oils. I am waiting for my clothes to be delivered. Payless is my place for shoes.

I want to eventually work the weekends at a new job. I am just a workaholic, which is why loss of an avocation, lawyering, devastated my life. My spirit guide told me that being a lawyer would take 10 years off my life. In the end, there were many factors that led me to disable and then resign my law license.

I know I was bullied out like so many women before me. However, I can’t waste my time fighting for justice when I need to work. I have to move on. I don’t want justice anymore. What I really want is to be left alone. Sad. Maybe. But I feel the weight of the world lifted off me.

I may have never revealed this, but I am writing a novel. I hope that my futuristic novel will show what happens when homeless and mentally ill persons are treated with contempt instead of support—unwavering support.

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