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How I'm Learning to Accept Being Unable to Work Because of My Mental Illness

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When people look at me, they just see a woman. Nothing visible to them in any way depicts a 27-year-old woman who is unable to work.

But that is not the case. It is not easy to meet new people and have to say that you are unemployed. The usual stigma applies, “Oh, she must just be lazy and not ‘want’ to work.”

Well, no. Sorry I do “want” to work, but what you can’t see is a woman who takes two hours just to wake up and feel even the slightest fraction of a possibility of facing the day.

Do I want to leave the house? That entails more energy than I currently have. When it comes to showering, dressing and making my way to whichever destination I want to reach, it all feels like I am about to undertake a marathon.

I know people who wake up at the same time every day. Regardless of the way they slept the night before. Regardless of whether they are actually required to be anywhere. They get up, they undertake those tasks and off they go to face their day. I look at these people and cannot understand how they don’t realize just how well off they are to be able to do such menial tasks and not become exhausted and ready to hop back into bed.

These people always offer the same advice. That one pesky little word that pops up all the time and makes me want to rip my hair out.


We have all heard it. Usually in the form of some sort of sentence that is meant to be helpful but really is just patronizing. “Oh, you just need a routine. That’ll make you feel better.” Sorry, but it just does not work that way, and I hope you never have to experience this blackness and finally understand why it is not that simple.

This is why I am learning to feel somewhat “OK” with saying, “I’m actually on disability, and not working currently. Though I do hope to someday achieve that goal of returning to the workforce.”

If I cannot even rely on myself to wake up in the morning and be able to brush my teeth, I surely am not going to have someone employ me and then let them down as well. I would rather the occasional feelings of shame of disability payments than the guilt of taking a job from a perfectly capable employee somewhere.

I know in my heart I am not yet a capable employee, and I have to accept that and be OK with it. Maybe once I do manage to do that, I will feel some sense of peace.

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Unsplash photo via Martin Miranda.

Originally published: May 25, 2017
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