Gotcha! I bet you thought this was going to be a post about politics or the election or something. Nah
(well maybe the first paragraph is but the rest is politics-free, I promise!).
I have a friend who has different political opinions than me and sometimes we talk (argue) about stuff but I try to keep it light most of the time. I don't like getting in contentious disagreements over politics. My opinion is pretty much this: everyone has the right to their own convictions. The end.
So anyways, this morning the friend said to me "I don't see how you can vote for Romney when you live off the government!". Ouch.
I was stunned, hurt, and embarrassed (there were other people in the room). I said "I don't think I live off the government...I work....."
"You don't want to work...you told me you don't want to work", she said.
Well I was shocked by that. I don't remember saying that and if I did I am sure I was joking. Working and getting off of disability has been a goal of mine for awhile now. Nobody MADE me contact Vocational Rehabillitation to start the ball rolling. Nobody made me get training and find a job. Social Security wasn't kicking me off anytime soon. Bottom line: I do not have to work; I am choosing to work.
Work to me isn't just about a paycheck. It is about pushing myself to do something that for years I thought I would never be able to do. It is doing what several social workers and doctors told me I would likely never accomplish. It is about gaining self-confidence and self-respect, and feeling like I am being a good role model for my children. I believe in the value of working for what I have, but for much of my adult life my mental illness had kept me from living this value.
I have been working almost a year and I still sometimes wake up and think to myself "hey, I'm working! I'm actually doing it" and it feels so unreal, but in a good way. It feels so good that hear my family and people who have known me a long time tell me how far I have come and how proud they are of me. Its not a feeling I have experienced much in my life (which is so wrong...when people are afflicted with cancer or MS people gather around them and cheer them on and run races for them and shit. When you have mental illness you are just a big dissappointment. Whatever).
Anyways, back to this morning. I am sad to say that at the moment I was too upset and humiliated to come up with a good defense. About the best I could do was try not to cry until I found a quiet place, alone. As I cried, my mind went to that negative place that it so often goes to when I am hurt or upset. Thoughts were running through my mind....."fuck this, just fucking quit already.....why even try...this is how people will always see you.....this is who you will always be....you are just kidding yourself to think that you can change....that you HAVE changed....you are still the same worthless loser and everyone can see it and everyone thinks so...blah blah blah". I think that my friend's comment hit me harder because this is the first week of my reduced schedule. Basically I feel like my hospitalization last month was a wake up call to me that I was pushing myself too hard and not taking care of myself. I felt terrible to ask to cut back to part time because we are really short staffed right now. But I would rather do that and preserve my ability to work than continue to push myself and risk another breakdown and a longer hospitalisation, which could result in a loss of my job. I am really sensitive that people at work think that I am lazy or just dont want to work. It is just the opposite. It has been a real blow to me to acknowledge that right now I am not well enough to work full time. Even though my family and my treatment team say I am making the right decision it feels like a failure.
Ok this is getting wordy. What I really want to say is that some times it is hard to believe that things will ever change. It is hard to keep that hope alive. It is hard when you sometimes feel like the whole world (and even your mind) is against you. It's is hard when you feel judged for what you lack rather than celebrated for what you have accomplished. But despite everything, I found a bit of hope today. I experienced shame, hurt, and anger. My mind was torn apart my the negative thoughts which in the past have led to me making self destructive choices. I experienced all of that but you know what? I let myself feel it, then I got up, pulled myself together, and went back to work. Such a simple thing, but such an accomplishment for me. So different than the way I might have reacted even a few years ago.
Such a change.