I’ve changed so many jobs in a span of 10 years that I can’t keep count. At 32 years old, I have ended up with nothing. This is not because I’m lazy or I don’t want a job. This is because I have been incapable of holding a job for more than a month or two, based on how my brain reacted at the time.
I still remember how I used to wake up somehow in the morning, regretting I woke up at all, and then taking sleeping pills to get through the job and my day. I used to enter the office with shivering hands. I was used to being isolated even at work. I remember how I heard everyone talking and laughing behind me, and my paranoia told me, they’re laughing at you.
I used to run out of my workplace as soon as the day ended.
Some days I went to work with bandaged wrists where I’d self-harmed, and I told coworkers some lies about grazing my hand on some fence wires. I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone; the looks in their faces told me I wasn’t fooling anyone, that the moment I turned around they were going to be talking about me, how “crazy” I am.
All this happened when I was still in my 20s, and at the time I hadn’t received my diagnosis for bipolar disorder or anxiety. I hadn’t come to terms with any of my issues. I took sleeping pills to try to make the world around me feel a little more bearable. I didn’t have regular therapy or a doctor to treat me properly. I was always suicidal.
I still remember the panic attacks I used to get while I was at work, even though I didn’t know what panic attacks were. I didn’t know much of my illnesses for the greater part of my life.
My heart would give a jolt, and I would sweat profusely in the air-conditioned room every time my team head showed up. He was a man who shouted out orders even though shouting wasn’t really necessary. And every time he showed up, my hands would shake uncontrollably, and I’d feel like I couldn’t breath anymore.
Every person who gets panic attacks knows they can be the worst and scariest part of having a mental illness. And one point of time, I had them several times in a day at my job, leaving me vulnerable and exposed to everyone in sight.
I felt guilty and ashamed of myself. I left jobs because I’d wake up one day and realize I couldn’t go back to that place anymore.
I know plenty of successful people with jobs and mental illness. And I appreciate their strength. But I feel as though I’ve failed at this.
If I’d had a rightful diagnosis and treatment going on, things might have been different. But I didn’t at the time, and trust me it was not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t. My brain wouldn’t let me.
To people who judge me because of my mental illness and being unemployed, I wonder what you would have done under the circumstances I have been through. Would you like being incapacitated by your brain in a room full of people every day of the week? Would you be OK with them talking behind your back, pointing at you while you have devastating panic attacks and take sleeping pills to take the edge off?
I apologize for not being like others or being “normal.” I apologize for not being able to hold a job. I apologize for being unemployed. But don’t judge me for all I couldn’t do.
Judge me for all I did achieve. Find me in my achievements. Today I know my disease better than anyone else. I have started a campaign to eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness in our society. I want to do good by others struggling the same as me. I write to help others know how to make their lives better.
I’m a human being with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m putting up fights every day with my own brain that torments me, holds me hostage against my own will. And so are millions of others like me.
So before you evaluate me or others like me who are unemployed because of their mental illnesses, step back and give it a thought.
And to anyone who is going through what I went through, know that getting help makes it easier, and you’ll understand yourself better as years go by. You don’t have to feel guilty or be ashamed of yourself. Keep trying and don’t give up on yourself. You’re doing fine.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping any medication.
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Image by Slavaleks