Friday, June 16, 2006

Why Don't You Work?

I am terrified of this question. I am starting a volunteer position this week at a very busy live theatre in the city I live in and I am so scared I am going to run into someone I used to work with. I am anxious they will judge me and think I am just "faking it" to get time off work. So My pdoc suggested I try to think of the questions that scare me and come up with responses.

I decided to come up with two types of responses. The first response to each question is based on my being very private about my mental illness. The second response is an honest, very open answer based on my experience with depression. As I wrote the "private" responses I started to think that in being secretive I was allowing myself to feel stigmatized by my illness. I would not be afraid to say "I have MS, that's why I can't work" I am not going to be afraid to tell the truth about being mentally ill.

Here's my list:
Why did you leave work?
- I became ill and was unable to work. or...
- I have an illness called Major Depressive Disorder. In me severe depression and anxiety make me feel very unwell. This made it exceedingly difficult for me to work in a high paced, high stress environment where the expectations and environment aggravated my illness.

You don't look sick.
- There are lots of illnesses where people look fine, but are unable to work. They are called "invisible disabilities" or...
- People with Major Depression often have okay days/moments. In particular people with atypical depression find our mood lifts when we are in situations we enjoy.

What did you become ill with? Are you okay?
- I would prefer not to discuss my illness. I am working towards recovering my health. or...
- I have a mental illness called Major Depressive Disorder. I have had difficulty with depression my whole life. This episode happens to be really bad and long-lived.

What happened at work?
- Nothing happened at work, I simply became unable to work due to an illness. or...
- Work became extremely stressful and demanding. I tried numerous therapies, I tried cutting down my hours, but ended up working more than full-time anyways, I had competing demands from several different businesses, I moved locations to a place where I knew no one. With all these factors and my depression I simply became more ill and decided that leaving work was the healthiest thing for me to do.

Why aren't you getting better?
- I am slowly becoming healthier. I have good days and bad days. or...
- Contrary to popular belief antidepressants do not always work for all people. I am working with a doctor to find a medication and therapy that will help me.

If you can work here, why can't you work at the your old workplace?
- I am a volunteer and can call in and say I am unable to commit to my shift. Also, my commitment here is for 3-5 hrs a week. At this point in time I am unable to work a work week at the bank.

What have you been up to?
- I have been exploring ways to create meaning in my life. I am volunteering and taking some art courses. I am spending more time with my family.

Why can't you work?
- My illness is unpredictable. It would not be fair to my employer to commit when I am unable to predict my ability to work on a regular basis.
What do you do for a living?
- I have the means to take care of I try to do the things that make me feel good.

Why aren't you working? Why don't you work?
- I worked from the time I was 15 and at 40 I feel it is time to reexplore my options and discover a career that speaks to me or...
- I have an illness that prevents my working right now.

What do you do?
- I garden, and draw, meet with friends, walk my dog, visit my family, spend time with my husband, go to the theatre, to the VSO, recitals, art galleries...all sorts of things

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