Those who don’t suffer from any mental illness may not know this struggle, but if you have social anxiety you might relate to what its been like for me. I have been “out of commission” for almost 14 years now. I mean, I have attempted to go back to work here and there during that 14-year-span doing part-time work – but if I am honest with you here, part-time jobs are absolute shit! I mean the ONLY perk about it is just the “PART-TIME” part, meaning it’s just a few hours a week. But in my experience, not only are you robbed of ANY kind of benefits, (time off, medical, etc), but with the crappy pay you get ($10-$12 on average), they make you WORK YOUR ASS OFF for EVERY DOLLAR of that horrible salary. Why? Because they can and they know you’re probably really desperate, that’s my guess. Trust me, I know this is #Truth because I have had a good slew of part-time jobs since I have been on disability.
Yes, I am on disability. Now the first thing most people think when they hear this is: “You’re just lazy, mental illness isn’t really a disability.” Yeah, okay jerk-off YOU TRY and walk ONE DAMN DAY in my shoes living with this bipolar crap, I guarantee you will be singing a different tune. BUT, as much as I want to lash out at people for thinking this way, (like I just did), there is some actual truth behind the whole, “just being lazy” argument. I will admit that I have been lazy, well really lazy, since I have been on disability. But I will also admit, that there were times where I was completely crippled in which I couldn’t even get out of bed, and times I was manic as hell and ended up in the psych ward, but I am getting off subject.
I have to say, I am REALLY scared to go back to work full-time. I have come to the conclusion that part-time work isn’t for me, (based on the reasons I mentioned above), and I KNOW that even if I find a really good Part-Time Job, the government WILL take away my disability because I am working and doing well. Crazy right? A lot of us who are on the “system” are encouraged to go back to work – to find meaning in our lives, pride in something, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and to socialize with other people. Those are ALL wonderful and positive things. But what they DON’T tell you is that if you go out there and do really well for yourself, they have their fingers quick on the trigger to YANK your benefits away from you. Oh, I am not paranoid, I KNOW this crap is true because they tried to do it to me several times when I was working part-time.
I am FULLY aware that they are trying to weed out the folks that are trying to play the system, take advantage and get away with shit, trust me, I get it. But what bothers me is that ALL the people who aren’t trying to “play” the system end up getting lumped into one big group and are all penalized and “watched like a hawk” the same way. It isn’t fair, and honestly it is totally discouraging and absolutely FRIGHTENING to take the chance and go out there and work to make a better life for yourself, knowing the only income you depend on could be taken away from you in a heartbeat.
Look, I don’t want to be on disability for the rest of my life, I truly don’t. But I can’t help but be petrified to go out there and work again. Since part-time work isn’t an option, I have to take the leap and go full-time. I decided to be smart about this though, so I am looking for Government or State jobs because they won’t discriminate against me for having a disability and the pensions are also fantastic. In fact, I learned that most Government and State jobs have an actual quota of hiring disabled people that they have to fulfill each year. That is really good news for a person like me, you know?
I took a Civil Service test in January, and it was REALLY hard. You have to pay a $40 fee to take the exam (its mandatory, so even if you fail, oh well too bad), and even with that, people STILL walked out on the exam without finishing. It was no joke, and I think the reason it was so hard was because it had a lot of “Reading Comprehension” components in it that most people don’t know how to deal with anymore. The fact of the matter is that we, as a society, have lost the ability to FOCUS on something we are reading these days. Everything we do is in constant motion – click here, there, open this page, thousands of browsers open, clicking, clicking, with our eyes darting at different things on a screen. Since we have been CONDITIONED this way, I am not at all surprised that a multiple-choice type question which involves you reading a paragraph EXTRA carefully and discerning which is the right answer is a daunting task. Oh, and they make it so EVERY choice could be a possible right answer that fits the question, they ain’t playin’ around, let me tell you! UGH! But I pushed through and finished the exam in 3 1/2 hours. “Headache” isn’t a strong enough word to describe what I felt afterwards, trust me.
Anyway, it takes six months to get any kind of answer or even see how you did in comparison of the others that took the test. Depending on your score, you are put on a list and they call the person with the highest score in for an interview, and if that doesn’t work out, they move on to the next person and so on. It’s a rigorous, and meticulous system, but I have to say, if you DO GET a Civil Service job, man, your ass is set for life!!
So, even though I am deathly afraid of going back out there and working again, knowing full well that once I give up my disability it will be SO HARD to get it back, I am hopeful that I am doing the right thing here by going after the right kind of job for me. The Government does have a program called “Ticket to Work” in which you can work up to 10 months while on disability with no financial constraints, (the rule is you are not allowed to work while on disability and make more than $1000 a month), but with this program you can make whatever and your disability payments won’t be in jeopardy. It’s a GREAT idea, especially if you decide you want to try working full-time again and you’re a bit fearful about it. The problem is that once you USE UP the 10 months, you NEVER get another chance or get it back. EVER. Jesus Christ man. I used up my “Ticket to Work” 10 month allowance 6 years ago, and even though its been 6 damn years, I CAN’T get another chance at the “Ticket to Work” Program. Geez, can they make this shit any harder for you to better yourself and rejoin the working population?
Anyway, that’s where I stand today. I am going for it you know, giving it all I got, as much as I can give. It doesn’t help that the statistics say that people with bipolar disorder have a reduced life span of around 9 years. So, if I was hoping in at LEAST making it to 80 years old by the time I die, my crazy butt will be dead by age 71. Thanks bipolar disorder for another wonderful gift you have given me.