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What It's Like Working With Anxiety and Paranoia

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I have schizoaffective disorder and anxiety. Schizoaffective disorder is a mix of psychotic symptoms and bipolar mood symptoms. The psychotic symptoms for me usually just consist of paranoia. I had hallucinations one time, but I haven’t since my first psychotic episode.

Stuck in a Work Cubicle With Paranoia and Anxiety

We all have either worked in or heard about “cube farms.” These are large office rooms that are populated by cubicles. You are squished in close with many of your coworkers. There’s no privacy, and you hear everything. When you are anxious about starting or new job (or just anxious in general), these environments can breed anxiety and paranoia. The last time I tried to work in one of these environments, I kept thinking everyone was talking about me. I was already nervous about starting a new job, and that wasn’t helping. The paranoia says, “They are talking about me. They must not like me.” The anxiety says, “You’re going to get fired. You’re going to get in trouble.” These feelings can be horrible. This is one of the many possible reasons some of use who have mental illnesses can’t work or have a hard time keeping jobs. In the two-and-a-half years I have been diagnosed, I’ve been through four jobs that didn’t work out. One of them just lost my funding and laid me off; that one didn’t have anything to do with my disease.

Unhelpful Comments People Say

Many people mean well when they offer advice, but some of the comments can be very unhelpful. One time when I was crying, I was told to “lighten up.” My response: “Do you think I haven’t f***ing thought of that?!” Yelling did help stop my crying, so maybe it did help.

Working at Home

In my case, working at home is the perfect solution. I still get anxious, but being at home is much less stressful. It can take some getting used to if you work this way. You have to be able to concentrate, prioritize your tasks and get your work done. You can do it, though! My symptoms have been greatly alleviated since I started working at home as a writer. Many people are too sick to do that, but those of us who are a little more stable could benefit from working at home. I have even been able to cut back on some of my medicines. If you are facing a diagnosis of mental illness, always remember you can do this. Many of us can have at least some recovery. We fight these symptoms every day. Always remember you are never alone.

Originally published: September 22, 2016
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