Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Lesson to Challenge Negative Thinking

My regular readers will know the angst I feel about not working. I struggle to understand my pdoc's claim that "I am working". I think he means working towards getting better. Not sure.

My definition of working is much more narrow. To me "working" is employment. Today I am going with a friend for an orientation at an employment agency that helps people with mental illness find work. I am freaking out right now. My last experience of this was when I met the lovely women who said I was "bizarre" (well at least my questionnaire answers were).

I am stressed because I don't think I am ready for work, but I want to have a job. I am stressed because I feel okay and then I feel awful. Somehow, someway I NEED to get working. I feel so guilty when I see there are people much more ill than me working. I feel like I am not trying hard enough.

Anyways, the stress is being brought on by the prospect of looking for work and how the orientation might lead to that. I will write when I come back and let you know if the stress subsides; if I can challenge the fear and do it anyways.


Lola Snow said...

Just out of curiousity, but what do you think would happen if you did ever just change that thought. and just accepted that right now you are ill. What is it that comes into your head? Are you clinging on to the "I must work" clause for reasons that you haven't quite worked out. Do you think if you let go that you might not never work again? I wonder what is the worst that could happen if you let go and decided to just be Aqua, and not Aqua that works full time in a job that makes her ill?

Lola x

Bossy Boots said...

Working on getting better is a full time job. I fortunately work as a caregiver for a very nice gentleman who is a quadriplegic. He understands mental illness and that even though I am employed full time occasionally I need time off to deal with issues with my mental health. I am very very lucky to be in this situation, I have lost or quit so many jobs because of my illness. It does not make less of person to not work. It doesn't matter how smart, how talented, or how ambitious we are. When you are disabled whether it be a "traditional illness" or a "mental illness" it may not always be possible to work. And this may be the best for you and the people you have to work with. There is no shame in being sick. After years of making apologises I realized it is not my fault I am sick anymore than it is my bosses fault he can't walk.
Keep your head up because if you don't take of yourself no one else will. You are more important than a paycheck.

themuseasylum said...

Hi, I just came across your blog, and I totally empathize with the most recent post.

While I agree with what Lola and BB said (at least in my head), I also have the same struggle as you do. I have chronic depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I've been on disability since 2000, and I've spent almost the entire time feeling like I'm not cutting it because I'm not working.

I come from a family where a key piece of a person's value comes from being productive in employment. I have tried to go back to work part time, and it was a mistake. So, while I know in my head that I need to just look after myself and leave the question of work until some undetermined time in the future, I still agonize over the fact that I am not working in a paying job.

(I do quite a lot of volunteer work, but that "doesn't count".)

My psychiatrist has told me that I should not go back to work for at least a year, and at that time, we'll talk about it. He has no problem asserting that I should be working on getting myself well, and that I shouldn't even be thinking about a job for at least a year.

Still, I feel like I'm not being "productive"... I know I have to change my definitions to value the very hard work I'm doing, but it's tremendously difficult.

It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this issue. I'm going to re-read Lola and BB's comments, because they are so right. But I wanted to tell you that I get what you're going through.


Aqua said...

Thank you so much for your comments. All your comments made me cry, because each felt so compassionate. I came from a family similar to "themuseasylum". Paid Employment was a sign of moral goodness or something like that.

I can see that others who are unable to work, for whatever reason are beautiful and whole, and that "moral" has nothing to do with whether you are employed or not.

I cannot accept that I am a good person without working. I keep thinking I am using resources others need, or I am not so sick that I cannot work, or that I'm lazy, or evil for not working my fair share. I don't know if I can ever get past those judgements about my non-working self.

jcat said...

Hey A,

I know how you agonise over the 'job' bit, although I do agree with Dr X that you are doing a lot of real work at the moment. So all I want to say is 'good luck', and I hope the interview goes well for you.

Lola Snow said...

You are a good person. A strong person. And a person of high morals. If you weren't then you wouldn't be tearing yourself up for not working, but if you do stop tearing yourself up, you won't magically over night become a layabout, I promise you. Honestly. It's the same league as me being convinced that if I stop weighing myself, I will get bigger. You have to fake it till you make it. Everytime your head tells you that you are lazy, get a big old huff on and tell it NO! You will not be driven crazy by a negative thought, how dare that negative thought try to make you ill? Banish it, and send it to it's room for bad behaviour!


Lola x

themuseasylum said...

Aqua, I swear that your words could be coming out of my mouth. Or out of my fingers, or whatever. I have those feelings about myself and work, too.

If I'm not working, I'm not being a "good" person. It does have that morality attached. And I can't seem to get rid of those feelings, even though I, too, look at others and see them as wonderful, and do not judge them for being employed or not. When I'm looking at other people, the value of that person has absolutely nothing to do with whether they are in a paid position or not. But I don't seem to be able to flip that lens back on myself.

I also ruminate a lot about not being sick enough, about taking resources that could go to someone who is worse off than I am, about being "bad" or "evil" because I am not working in paid employment, about being lazy...

I'm sorry for leaving such long comments; I just empathize so much with what you've written, and you are the first person I've come across who seems to have the same issue as I do.

Lindsay (didn't realize my name wouldn't show up on my first post!)