When You Can't Work Full-Time Because of Your Mental Illness


The thing about having a mental health problem is that it feels like you’re not “normal” any more. Suddenly it seems like you’re not like most people. You’re not like you were or you may be in the future. You’re different now – whether for a short amount of time or for life – you’ve changed.

The way you live your life has changed.

Everything is harder. Hard. Getting up. Breathing. The very concept of looking after yourself becomes an impossible idea. Work. Remember working? Working like everyone else, yeah, that’s harder too. Even if you love your job it’s still a nightmare to do. I’m working 32 hours this week, spread out over six days. It’s Friday and I’m a wreck. Hell, I was a wreck by Wednesday and I’d only done my usual hours by then (as well as working the Saturday before which I don’t normally do). It didn’t help I didn’t sleep properly Sunday or Monday night this week, but that feels like an excuse.

Every reason you have for not being able to do something like your friend, neighbor or colleague sounds like an excuse in your own head.

Because you know people do more while you’re floundering while trying to do less.

Which I think is where the stigma lies. Most people work 37/40/60 hours a week. Work more hours than I do, without even thinking about it, while I’m standing here exhausted after doing one extra day, crying and barely able to stand or walk or breathe. I’ve not even done half the hours they have and it’s hard to understand until suddenly you’re me and God damn, it’s hard.

It’s always so hard.

I’m tired of it being so hard.

Comparing yourself to other people, other people who may have their own problems but are clean and healthy and working full-time, is half the problem. Cause suddenly, you have no self-esteem because of the depression. Then you’re faced with a 100 other people who are not curled up into a ball in their underwear sobbing on a semi-regular basis. You end up wondering what you are doing wrong because you assume it’s your fault, something you’re doing.

It’s hard, all this, but it’s not my fault. I can’t work six day weeks even if four of those days are half days because I can’t, not because I won’t (because, I am) but because it’s so damn hard all I want to do is cry or scream.

I am picking crying at the moment.

Some people are lazy. Some people can afford to work 20 hour weeks.

Some of us want to work more hours even though I can’t and keep my sanity. I can’t work a 40-hour week. I can’t live on a 20-hour one. No one seems to care either way.

At one point I had to nap every day around four. Even though I had only gotten up around 11. Now I actually get up and work. I am getting better, but there are some days when you’re looking at the world and your place in it, and it seems like you’re a waste of energy. That the amount of energy it takes for me to actually do anything some days is just wasted on me – someone much more productive could be using that energy, breathing my air, filling my space.

I hide it well. I laugh. I smile. I joke. I joke about being tired and crawling up into a ball and crying. Cause it’s easier than trying to explain my reality of crawling up into a ball in my wife’s arms and crying because I can’t get my head on straight today and the stress of just being alive has finally reduced me to this wreck once more. A few people understand. A few people in my real world get it and only need the odd reminders of my inabilities.

This is all horribly negative but it’s hard to be wonderfully positive when I fell like this. Hell, it’s hard to be neutral.

Take care. Don’t judge the part-timers, the unemployed, the constant yawners. Some of us are doing better than we thought and still don’t think it’s enough. Most of the time we’re just glad we’re still breathing.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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