I’m still very ill. I think I’m getting worse. Even with a bunch of medications. It’s what the psychiatrists say, “the depression is punching through the medication.”
Just right now my mother said I need to find a job and like a seemingly empty room filled with odourless gas a spark was lit and all that emptiness was filled with a fiery explosion. Fuck! Not how I wanted to start my morning. It took me nearly an hour to extinguish the flames.
My mother is an ignorant person. Highly ignorant. She refuses to wipe away her ignorance with knowledge and information. She won’t talk to her doctor to learn about depression and PTSD. She believes “God” and prayer will take care of it for her and will magically make me better so I can return to my old career that was so considerate towards me by kicking me out when I was suffering in the middle of a major depressive episode.
See, depression is invisible and it is difficult to prove. There’s no tests or markers, just a doctor’s opinion and a checklist with boxes to tick and the patient’s responsiveness to treatment.
I had a major depressive episode in college that ended with my being suspended for a year. My psychiatrist insisted that I was able to work after he told me, as I walked in his office, “You don’t look so good.” Then he just dropped me as his patient with no reason or warning that very day.
My new doctor thinks I can seek employment, but that was a few months ago when the treatments seemed to be doing a fine job. I was excited that maybe this is it and I was already hunting on the job boards. But fast forward to today and I’m a depressed mess. There is no way I would be fit to do any work in the condition that I’m in.
I don’t know when my depression will rear its ugly head, sneaking over my shoulder ready to fuck up my day, week, month, shit maybe my year! It just shows up. This unpredictability would make it hard for an employer to rely on my being there to work, reliably. How do I tell an employer who is looking to hire that my schedule may or may not have me missing days, weeks, or months. How? They won’t hire me! They don’t want unpredictability and unreliability!
I had this crazy thought that if instead of mental illness I had cancer then I’d be treated very differently. Both are diseases. One is invisible. One is visible. The prognosis for either can be the same. There is a possibility of relapse in both. One can die of cancer. One can die of depression.
No one tells a cancer patient to suck it up, to get over it, or that they’re doing it to get attention! And I’ve never heard any of my friends, and I’ve surely never told a cancer patient, or my best friend who died from cancer that they needed to get a job!
Then why is that people who are severely mentally ill are different? Sometimes illness can be quite debilitating depending on the illness. When my depression kicks in I have no motivation to live, to maintain hygiene, to eat or drink, nothing! A person with anxiety may be functional, in the comfort of his home, but may face crippling debilitation if he is forced to go outside.
Suicide isn’t enough of a symptom to warrant an otherwise alternative path for employment. I know for a fact that when I was working in the medical laboratory and I wanted to kill myself, my mind wasn’t on the patients I was caring for (ever heard of “no care healthcare”?) I know that if I were thrust into a stressful situation, such as, being called in for a “code blue” (cardiac arrest) there could be a probability I could cave in under all the pressure to save a person’s life. And what would happen to me if the team lost that patient? I know that, in the past, when we lost a patient I felt a tremendous amount of grief and guilt because I thought maybe I didn’t work hard enough or fast enough.
What do I do when my career was stressful and that is the only thing I’m qualified to do? What is the alternative? I’m still sick as fuck. If I return to my profession and I end up let go, fired, suspended, or whatever, then what? In my profession if I fuck up I could get sued! How is that contributing to my mental wellbeing? Fired? Talk about added stress to anyone’s mental health and a complete annihilation of self-esteem over a fucking invisible disease!
No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to listen. They say they do, but really they don’t. Because if they do, they can’t let you go for “insubordination” or “unprofessional conduct”. They’ll have to accommodate you and integrate you somehow. And that’s not what they want. Then they’ll offer a severance and other services as well as make you sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to cover their asses, completely ignoring the fact that their employee is very sick. Also, forget about references and reference letters.
But if instead the above scenario had the employee with cancer, none of that shit would happen! The employers would take a more compassionate direction and do everything they can to make things easier for their employee. I’ve never in my life heard of an employer relieve an employee for having cancer. That would be preposterous and illegal (in Canada)! Not sure how it works in other parts of the world.
Stigma and ignorance can be just as debilitating. A person like me suffering greatly doesn’t have the energy to smack that shit out of someone’s head. We suffer in silence because if it gets out and it lands in the ears of someone ignorant, well, the fallout can be just as devastating as the spark.
Mental illness called any other name…