Saturday, February 16, 2013

Holding down a job when you are mentally or physically ill

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.


  1. I've never heard of vulvodynia. This is one benefit of the blogging world, you learn what other people's lives are all about, and learn of struggles they are having that you don't even know exist. So, it's well done that you continue to make it to work everyday in spite of this, and your anxiety.

    1. Thanks Kianwi! I agree about blogging -- it is a great way to get something like vulvodynia out there, even if in a small way.

  2. I don't know if your boss knows about your illnesses, but legally, they have to make reasonable accommodations for you under the ADA act. If this means, being 15 minutes late because of anxiety, then they have to allow that.

    I'm no longer able to work because of the bipolar and anxiety, and I totally know what you mean about not being able to get out the door. I'm going through that right now myself.

    1. I was going to bring that up to my boss, but I decided I would reserve it in case of more dire circumstances. Because 15 minutes late to an office job is no reason to fire someone, no matter the reason, at least in my book. As long as the person is doing her job and doesn't cut her day short as well.

      And honestly, I don't trust him with the information that I have a legally protected reason to be late. He's a gossip about anything and everything.

      I hope you know how strong you are to write and continue writing and be so honest about your problems. I'm sorry you aren't able to work, but clearly you are a gifted writer, and you've already brought a lot to my world through your blogs.

    2. I totally understand what you mean. Some people, and unfortunately including bosses, just can't be trusted, which is too bad.

      Esther, I'm glad you found yeah write and I'm glad I found your blog!

  3. I do honor your strength and determination. Glad you have a blog to inform others about your struggles.

  4. Yay for talking openly about mental illness. ALL THE LOVE. And hugs. xo

  5. Getting out every day really is an important thing. And talking about this, as others have said, is also so important. Sending much support your way.

  6. Not sure where you live but I hope you have the long weekend that many of us have and won't have to even think about this again until Tuesday! Good for you for keeping on, and writing about it to boot.

  7. I've read enough to know that Vulvodynia is and extremely painful condition. To get yourself to a job every day in spite of chronic pain and anxiety - that is an achievement.

  8. So here's a thing that happened when I was still on the medication for depression.

    My job right now is a bad job, to the point where I still want to quit...
    The thing is, when I was in the worst of the depression, I REALLY wanted to quit.
    I thought that, the depression was skewing my perception of work. I thought I just felt like things were worse than they actually are And to some extent it was...

    ...But when I was on medication, much to my own surprise: The desire to quit actually became stronger!
    I was like
    I thought that like, the depression was making me *think* the job was worse than it actually was.
    But when I was on the meds and my head was clearer, I looked around at the office and the office politics and I was like, "Wow... this place is f'ed up!" I thought it was just me but some of the big problems are actually way, way beyond my control & perception.

    I'm still holding the job down though. I'm still doing okay. I worry less about it, and my performance though. I do just fine, I'm not doing bad.

    But for me it's one of those cases where, the job in and of itself, contributes to the depression. Yet I Need the job in order to have the insurance to go get treatment for depression. I'm working towards getting out for multiple reasons; I think once I leave I'll probably feel better since I won't be getting triggered left & right every day. But it's hard, just to work on getting out, and simultaneously work with/fight off the mental illness issues.