Holding down a job when you are mentally or physically ill
Posted Feb 16 2013 10:06am
As I was getting ready to graduate college, I wasn't sure I would ever be able to keep a full-time job. That year, I had missed -- as a professor reported to me -- maybe a third of my classes. I had more than a dozen problem sets to finish so I could graduate -- for quantum mechanics, no less, which is not something you want to do on the run. I didn't walk at commencement because I didn't want everyone looking at me. I got home and had music to finish writing for my composition class, again so I could graduate, having declared an incomplete as I left.
I had had to call off randomly at my job leading up to that year because my anxiety would kick in and keep me from opening my front door. Which is also why I missed so much class.
I stayed at my parents' place a month and a half after I got home, then I moved out without a stable job. It took me 2 months to take a job as a waitress. In the meantime, I lived on the money my family members had given me when I graduated, which wasn't a ton. I had very little furniture and used a free AOL trial for internet. I didn't have a cell phone, and I have no idea how I ate.
Okay, I'll stop bragging about how much that part of my life sucked.
And tell you that I was wrong when I thought I would never be able to hold down a job. I had thought so because I had been mentally ill enough to not leave the house for large parts of college and keeping up with my schoolwork seemed impossible. The smallest stress turned me upside down.
I told you a while back about a customer lecturing me about my disposition the morning after I had been awake all night with my clit ringing at me. But I am lucky to have had vulvodynia intrude on my employment very rarely. It has kept me home from work maybe five times over its course. Some days, I have barely been able to walk, but that doesn't always keep me home. The last time it happened, I still went to my psychiatrist appointment. I stood in the waiting room with my urethra twitching at me telling me to pee. I don't know why I went or how I did it. It's as if when my pain is worst, I get the most determined to dominate it.
I have been showing up to work late. This is not something I want to do. I am a late person in general, a time dilator. If it's 8:07 now, it will still be 8:07 when I finish my current task. I don't sense time passing.
Maybe it's a response to all the stress I experienced in college. A survival mechanism. If I worry about time, I'll be even more stressed, and then instead of just upside down, I'll be rotating through other dimensions.
Lately, despite the new medication, I've been waking up anxious. So this slows me down even more, and I get to work 15 minutes after my 8:30 start time. One day my boss emailed me about it. He told me I had shown up at 8:46 and that it had become the norm rather than the exception. He told me it is unprofessional and that I am to call when I'm running late.
I wrote an email to him in response. I want to post it here because it is witty and devastating! But of course I won't. And I didn't send it either. I saved it in my personal email's drafts so I can laugh at it once in a while.
Here's the point of this whole post: there was a time when I thought I would never be able to hold down a job. These days, I show up fifteen minutes late to my job. Every day. Because I go every day. I open the door and I walk out and I drive there -- and then I get out of the car when I get there. If my boss wants to fire me for being fifteen (or sixteen) minutes late every day, he can and I won't argue. I agree that it's unprofessional. But I've never lost a job or had to quit because of bipolar disorder, and that is a victory every day.
I've had to quit because of vulvodynia. Vulvodynia combined with anxiety . Put that experience together with my time in college and I value even more what it is to be well enough to work.