When People Ask Why I Work When I ‘Struggle’ With It

I often get asked a question frequently from strangers or the occasional rude guest at my booth that just rubs me the wrong way. It takes on many forms and is often phrased based on the conversation or situation at hand.

“Why do you have a job when you struggle so much at it?”

“Why bother working all these hours when your body/mind can’t handle it?”

“The government can take care of you. Why keep this job when you can be out having fun?”

Usually in these situations, I’m unable to answer the way I want to and I just hastily reply, “I just love what I do.”

In reality, that is true. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world who come to my booth at the happiest place on earth. But my reason for working isn’t all positive.

I was raised to take pride in what I do, and sitting at home all day tends to make me even more depressed. I am legally blind, and I also have depression and anxiety. My eyes are in pain a lot, and my mind can hurt just as badly sometimes (though it’s better now with treatment). Working sometimes puts a big strain on me, and I often come home wiped out and in pain. I have to put in twice the effort as others to do the same job, keeping pace with them despite getting bouts of double vision and migraines.

I work twice as hard to make it to where I’m at. The many programs out there to house me and pay me for food and such denied me because I’m too high-functioning or there isn’t enough funding. Friends I grew up with who have various disabilities are stuck on waiting list after waiting list hoping they’ll get that help they need.

We all strive for independence like anyone else. I put up with long bus rides each day on top of added work stress to make my dreams work. But what about those of us who can’t?

I cringe when my co-workers ask questions like that, and I cringe even more when it’s a guest. I can’t be truthful because not only is it unprofessional, but it would result in a long explanation that not many people want to take the time to hear.

I wish more was done for others in my footsteps as well as those of my friends. All we want is to be on a level playing field as anyone else — a job, reliable transportation options, housing and whatever staffing or coaching we need to get there.

But I’m impatient. Why wait for a phone call that may or may not happen?

I work because I refuse to settle for less. My differences make the chase for the American Dream harder, but to me, it’s worth it.

Because I am worth it.

Mandy Ree

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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