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

4k
4k

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.

4k
4k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

One Day My Son Will Ask What's Wrong With Mommy. This Will Be My Answer.

34
34

author holding baby My 6-month-old is perfect; you just have to meet him, and you’ll agree. He is the embodiment of love. He is bashful and friendly. He is smart and hitting his milestones earlier than expected. He is healthy, and he is so happy. It’s rare to catch Jack without a smile across his face. His laugh could warm the coldest of hearts.

I am so lucky because as of right now, I am his world. I was his first kiss, his first hug. I was his first friend. I am the person he can depend on. I am the person who provides for him. We are together all day; we barely ever are away from each other. We are connected at the hip. We are deeply in a love I’ve never experienced. Right now, in Jack’s eyes, I am perfect. And I’m terrified because that won’t last.

Of course I’ll make parenting failures because I am only human. But in addition to knowing I’ll let him down, I know some days I’ll be sick, and I won’t be able to be the mom I want to be with Jack. Some days, my ADHD will distract me from loving him to my fullest, my Lyme disease will weaken me when I play with him. My PTSD will send me in a panic and make me forget, and worst of all, my bipolar disorder will take control. I know I am not perfect. I know my mental illness may win a battle (although, I think I will win the war some day). I’m kind of used to having my mental illness hurt other people; I try to do damage control, and I try to listen to my body to stay away from my loved ones when I lose control. A lot of times I’m forgiven, but I’ve lost a lot of people too. I don’t necessarily blame the people I’ve lost; I don’t know if I could maintain a friendship with myself.

But now I have everything to lose; I have a little human who relies on me. I can really let someone down; I could really do damage. And that terrifies me.
I have thought long and hard about how I will explain this all to my son on days I don’t feel well. I can’t just tell him the medical reasons when he’s so young.

So I’ve decided, instead of isolating myself or trying to over-educate someone who can’t really take all of that information in, I will educate him simply by teaching him mental illness is a sickness. And I think that’s all I’ll tell him at first: I’m sick. Mommy doesn’t feel well. As he gets older I’ll go more into detail: Mommy’s head doesn’t feel good. Do you think you could go for a walk with Mommy? I will teach him about self-soothe and have him involved in my treatment. My hopes in doing this is to break the stigma.

The biggest reason I will be doing this is to prepare him; there is a chance he will have a mental illness. I don’t want him to think there’s no help, that something is terribly wrong with him. I want him to treat his mental health just like he would a cold and seek treatment and keep up with medications. I think by making my mental health something that isn’t a big deal, he’ll know it’s something people normally need to take care of.

Someday he will ask me what’s wrong, and I will tell him I’m sick, that I’m battling something I know I can conquer — especially with him and his love by my side. My son gives me the courage to fight my demons, and I won’t let him down.

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

34
34
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why It Doesn't Matter Medication Won't 'Cure' My Mental Illness

1k
1k

I sometimes hear that treating depression/anxiety/bipolar/schizophrenia (and all mental illness) with antidepressants and antipsychotics is just a Band-Aid. Not useful. Not a cure. Why bother?

My reply would be — because they help us to live our lives. There’s no cure for diabetes, but to maintain life, and quality of, they use insulin. No one balks at diabetics. No one questions their faith. No one tells them to watch kitten videos and just stop thinking about it.

Do you see how absurd that is? People with depression (and on and on) have symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can turn deadly. The illness is disputed because it’s not visible. The illness is disputed because it’s in our brain. People connect our brain with our hearts, and so wrongly assume our hearts aren’t in the right place. We must be lacking in some way. But surely it can be fixed with proper prayer, positive thoughts and meditation. Do you know how costly this type of mentality can be? It can cost your loved one’s life. We don’t need a sermon. We don’t need suggestions. We need love. We need acceptance. We need to know we don’t have to advocate for our lives alone.

No. The antidepressants and antipsychotics don’t cure us. They do, however, help us live life as best we can, day by day… while our brains and the chemicals we lack fight against ever single fiber of our being. What we lack chemically causes us to question our value. And it causes us to question if we are even worth the cost.

You can’t yell someone’s mental illness away. I can speak for myself and say that mine could not be prayed away. Trying to do that, and that alone, nearly cost me my life. It nearly cost my mother her daughter. My husband his wife and my children their mother. I needed real, tangible care. Quickly.

That is how very real and horrible this thing is. Don’t guilt your loved ones out of help. Ask when their appointments are — offer to drive them. Listen to them. They need you to hear. What they say might scare you — all the more reason to fight along with them. To advocate beside them.

This is a matter of life and death. It’s as real as any other disease or illness. And it is sorely misunderstood. It is frightening to be on this side of things. Asking for help is hard, receiving help is hard. Finding good, quality help, nearly impossible.

We need you. Like air, we need you. Continue to pray, continue to encourage us, but take action and help us live. It all matters. Every person matters. Their heartbreak — matters. Don’t delay — don’t wonder if you shouldn’t intervene. Show up. Choose love. Tender, caring, supportive love. Be proactive. Don’t be too late.

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.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? 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.

 

1k
1k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

12 Things I Wish I Had Known Sooner Than Later on My Mental Illness Journey

711
711

A preface to this piece: In no way is this meant to romanticize mental illness. In no way is this meant to be anything but a personal account of living with concurrent mental illnesses. I do not know who, if anyone, will read this. However, I felt compelled to share my story. It’s not a remarkable story, nor am I a particularly remarkable individual. This is simply the truth about what I have experienced. My greatest hope is that whoever is reading this will feel less alone.

As I sit here on my twin bed, I find it difficult to find a place to begin. After studying history at university, I developed the ability to write about events, people and their effects on the world around them. However, when it comes to my own story, my own decisions, I have a hard time doing so. As many doctors and psychiatrists have told me, I am an “interesting and unique case.” What does this mean? I’ve been trying to figure that out for a while. I’ve cried over it. Agonized over it. Gotten angry about it. Tried to avoid it. And now I simply accept that it is a part of who I am.

Being diagnosed with any illness is disarming and frustrating. There are knowns and unknowns. Fear and anger. Through the years I’ve been through the mental health system, I’ve had the majority of the ten dollar word diagnosis thrown my way. I will not list them all, but trust me when I say this – there have been quite a few.

I want to tell tell you what I’ve discovered along my personal journey. They are not meant to generalize at all. However, I know I would have liked to know a few of the following sooner than I did.

1. Just like any part of the human body, the brain can also get sick.

This is the most important and simple statement that changed almost everything for me. So simple right? Right. However, I look back on health class and can only really remember cringe-inducing demonstrations of how to put on condoms and not a whole lot about mental health. I learned to identify the symptoms of various illnesses and conditions through biology and health class – but do not remember learning to identify symptoms or early onset warnings of deteriorating mental health. If I had known that the brain got sick, maybe I would have sought help sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have been afraid to disclose all of my diagnosis to an employer or romantic partner. I can’t be sure. But knowing that has helped me reach acceptance. My brain is sick. Just because I don’t have a bandage on my head saying so doesn’t make mental illness any less of a sickness.

2. Not everyone will understand.

This was a hard one to swallow. No, not everyone will understand that an eating disorder is not a choice, that depression can’t be cured by enthusiastically suggesting I “cheer up” and that anxiety cannot be reduced by simply being told to relax. I fear a rant coming on with this one, so I shall end the point there. However, for those who don’t understand, there are always going to be people who, although they may not understand the full scope of a mental illness, will be patient with you and listen and care and love you through it. Make sure you say thank you to those people. Those are the good ones.

3. Sometimes anti-depressants can make you really gassy.

That’s it. Would have been a nice to know.

4. It will take some time for medication to kick in.

I know other ways I used to provide myself a quick relief from the heavy feelings I was often filled with. These were not healthy. These were not sustainable. I told myself I deserved a chance to feel better, so I gave medication a try. I’m glad I did.

5. Sometimes the first medication isn’t the right one.

Or the second. Or the third. That’s OK. If a medication is making you sleep through 15 alarms every morning, give your psychiatrist a call. Chances are, there is a better match.(There was in my case.)

6. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would treat a loved one if she was ill.

You deserve it.

7. Do not attach yourself to a diagnosis.

This was another big one. Instead of allowing it to define me, I am working on accepting the fact that although it is a part of my life, it doesn’t have to define my life.

8. It can be scary to challenge a mental illness.

It will be scary to leave that dark place. Although it’s dark, it’s also known. Anyone who knows me at all will attest to the fact I don’t do well with change. However, to be totally cliché, it does feel much better.

9. Success in recovery is what you make of it.

Give yourself recognition and kindness. You went to a full day of program and managed to meet a friend for tea? Kudos! You got out of bed today and showered? Kudos! You enjoyed the flavor of a food you ate? Kudos!

10. My recovery has not been linear.

There have been many side steps and changing directions. Accepting this has allowed me to be more mindful and present. Through it all though, I have found lights to hold onto and darker things/places/people to let go of. My initial expectation of recovery was a straight line. Now I know it is a wiggling line that is always changing. And that’s OK.

11. You’ll meet incredible people. 

The people I’ve met through various programs and groups are so incredibly special to me. Nothing is more refreshing than having someone say, “I know how that feels.” And you know they do. Hold onto these people.

12. “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

I know this is a song lyric. However, a very special person in my life told me this when I was deep in the throes. It stuck and it was true.

Although at times it felt like so much was taken from me from my illnesses, I have also gained a lot. I know what triggers me. I know quite a bit about community resources for mental health in my area. I’ve met lifelong friends and can truly say, for the first time in quite some time, I’m starting to truly love myself for who I am. But most importantly, I know I am not alone. And if there is anything that you can take from this rambling about my life, I hope it is this:

You are not alone. You deserve help. If you are worried about a loved one who might be dealing with mental illness, please approach them with acceptance and an open heart. Above all, talk about it. Break down the stigma that silences/has silenced so many (myself included). Have an open conversation. Educate yourself.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. 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.

711
711
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

17 Messages for Anyone Who Just Received a Mood Disorder Diagnosis

272
272

Receiving a mood disorder diagnosis can feel like getting slapped with a scary label. And although one out of 10 people live with a mood disorder, it can make you feel like you’re alone.

But a diagnosis isn’t just a label — it’s a way to get answers. And it doesn’t mean you’re alone — it means you have a tribe. There are others who can help you navigate the world with a mood disorder. They’re waiting to tell you, “I’m here.”

To let people know they’re not alone, we teamed up with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and its “I’m Here” campaign, and asked people who live with mood disorders to tell us one thing they want someone who’s been recently diagnosed to know.

Here’s what they had to say: 

1. “‘When you know better, you do better’ applies to mental illness, too. Now that you have a diagnosis and know what you’re dealing with, you’ll be able to find treatments that will make your life better.” — Meg LeRoy Schlagenhauf

finalDBSA_Mighty1

2. “Life can get better when you have a mood disorder. Many people have them! Get out, talk to a therapist and try not to seclude yourself. I’ve been on both sides — I’ve kept myself isolated, and it just made me feel worse. That’s not the way to do it.” — Pamela Scott

3. “I would say never ever give up the fight for life. Remain positive and try to keep the negative out of your mind. Keep moving and do the simple things. Don’t fall in to the trap and think you’re worthless. Keep your head high.” — Colin Tawhai

4. “I’m here if you ever need me. It may take time finding the right combination of therapy, self-care and medications, but take it one day at a time and trust your instincts. Be cautious, keep asking questions, educate yourself… and don’t settle until you’re happy with where you’re at.” — Anita Soule

5. “You are not alone. There are so many of us out in the world fighting mood disorders. Find a group or at least one person who is dealing with it, too. You can help each other so much. Life may have thrown this disease at you, but you can get through this and come out the other side even stronger.” — Jessica Fosnaugh

finalDBSA_Mighty2 copy

6. “Truly have hope. The journey is long, but you are stronger than you could ever imagine. Don’t hide. Don’t be embarrassed. There are so many others touched by the same things.” — Andrea Armstrong

7. “Keep going! Talk to your doctors, take your meds, let your doctors know what’s working and what’s not. Make yourself go out with friends, get outside, exercise, whatever you used to enjoy. It’s hard, some days it will feel impossible! But you can do it and it will help.” — Crystal Toner

8. “Take your meds. Be part of your own treatment. Care about getting better. Get your family and friends involved. You can do it.” — Athena MacDonald

9. “A mood disorder doesn’t mean you are less than anyone else, you just have to work a little harder some days. Some days are going to really suck, but you are strong and you will get through this. Don’t isolate or push everyone away. People want to be there for you and support you. Let them.” — Danielle Hark

finalDBSA_Mighty3 copy

10. “Be kind and understanding of yourself. You may have days where you feel like you’ve slipped back a few steps. That’s OK. Acknowledge that and tomorrow move forward again. I wish all of us continued healing and growing. No matter what our mental health issue is, we are worthy of love and support.” — Bonnie Kirsch

11. “Read and educate yourself, plus the people around you. It may come down to joining a support group online or in your community, but it really helps you not feel so along.” — Mardi Taggart

12. “It’s not the end of the world. Yes, it feels that way now, but you can get stable. Get a good psychiatrist and therapist and a good support system. These will be as important as the medicine you take. And lastly, take care of yourself.” — Athena MacDonald

13. “You will have hard days. There will be times you won’t/can’t get out of bed, times when you wonder if your meds are working, moments where you ask, “Why me?” So yes, there will be bad days, but there will also be just as many good days. Good days that make you feel so alive you’ll forget about the bad times. Days when you watch the sunrise, spend time with family and friends and do things that put a smile on your face. A diagnosis is not what defines us as a person, only we have the ability to decide what we become.” — Casandra Little

FinalDBSA_Mighty4copy

14. “Medications can take time to get right, so hang in there through the bad times and look towards the better times. Best of luck in your fight, everyone.” — Christopher Mulcahy

15. “You are still a person. The same person you always were. You might find people treat you differently. Set your own boundaries and look after yourself.” — Natasha Rose

16. “I’m listening.” — Bonnie Kibbe Reinhardt

17. “Some days will be harder than is conceivable, but those days will make you stronger than you ever dreamed you could be! Be a warrior every day.” — Jean Vinyard-Vickers

finalDBSA_Mighty5

*Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity.

To learn more about DBSA’s “I’m Here” campaign, click here.

I’m here… is a program brought to you by DBSA made possible through the support of Rebecca’s Dream® Foundation.

 

272
272
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Energy Drink 51Fifty Under Fire for Stigmatizing Mental Illness

22
22

An energy drink company is under fire for its name, which advocates say is stigmatizing and insensitive towards those with mental illnesses.

The drink, only sold in California, is called 51Fifty — the term used by law enforcement and first responders in the state when someone is deemed “a danger to himself or others” and needs to be evaluated and placed on involuntary psychiatric hold.

Its tagline is: “Live the Madness.”

Eve Hinson, who lives with post-traumatic disorder and suffers from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, said when she first saw the 51Fifty delivery van in her town, she was outraged — and it didn’t take long for her to act. The next day, she launched the #TheReal5150 campaign.

“I wanted to make this negative a positive,” Hinson told The Mighty. “If they’re going to use it, we’re going to take it back.”

Using the hashtag, #TheReal5150, Hinson and her campaign partner Rhonda Wirzberger-Thornton encouraged people in the mental health community to share their stories. Meanwhile, they started a boycott of the brand and put pressure on local stores who were carrying the project.

One of those stores, Save Mart, pulled the drink from its locations just last week. According to ABC30, this was 51Fifty’s biggest big box retailer.

It’s important to us that we source local products. 51Fifty energy drink was popular among Save Mart shoppers; however, our sale of the product was never intended to diminish the seriousness of mental illness,” Save Mart spokesperson Nannette Miranda told ABC30. “We have made the decision to discontinue this product in our stores.”

According to ABC30, Carlos Vieira, CEO of 51Fifty Enterprises, said the name came from when he started racing cars — 51 was the number of his car and his friends “called him crazy for starting the hobby late in life.” Vieira said the name was, “A reminder to never quit and chase your dreams.

For Hinson and Wirzberger-Thornton, 51-50 is not just a code. Wirzberger-Thornton has been hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals at least a dozen times. And the same week she heard the news of Save Mart, her husband, who is bipolar 1 with psychotic features, was being evaluated under 51-50 to determine if he needed psychiatric intervention.

“So you can imagine my sensitivity,” she said. “People are saying I’m attacking freedom of speech. Well my husband is ‘living the madness’ — he almost killed himself.”

Now, they’re hoping other stores will follow Save Mart’s lead and pull the product. But ultimately, they’re after the trademark — hoping the company will change its name to something less stigmatizing.

The Mighty is still waiting for a comment from 51Fifty.

22
22
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.