How I Manage My Career and Schizophrenia

If you had informed me 19 years ago that I would eventually find a job that brings me satisfaction and fulfillment, I would have been skeptical. At that time, I had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had been unemployed for over a year. My symptoms were severe, and I genuinely believed that I would never be able to hold a job again. However, I am happy to announce that I have been successfully employed since 2012. Being in a stable mental health state has greatly helped me manage my career alongside my schizophrenia. It has taken time and effort, but I work diligently every day to maintain both aspects of my life.

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Maintaining a routine and achieving a healthy work-life balance is crucial for my personal and professional well-being. On a personal level, I prioritize taking my prescribed medications, attending therapy sessions, practicing good hygiene, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet. These habits play a significant role in my mental health recovery. If I neglect any of these elements, I won't be able to function effectively in any area of my life.

My occupation is incredibly rewarding, and I take pride in the work that I do. Currently, I am employed by a community mental health and counseling provider in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Within this organization, I work as a trainer for the community outreach and education department, a position I have held for the past six years. Our goal is to promote mental health literacy and combat the stigma surrounding mental illness by offering mental health first aid and QPR suicide prevention training to the community free of charge.

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Fortunately, I have a supportive supervisor, as well as understanding colleagues, all of whom are aware of my diagnosis. This creates a safe environment for me to be open about my struggles with symptoms. I can freely communicate my experiences to my team, allowing them to support me in completing my work responsibilities.

My workdays consist of a combination of office-based marketing and paperwork tasks, as well as community-based training facilitation. This variety prevents me from becoming bored with my job. Should I experience pronounced auditory hallucinations, I take short breaks throughout the day to refocus and calm myself. Listening to soft music through earbuds helps me to stay focused when doing paperwork. Additionally, I ensure that I get sufficient sleep before training sessions. My team collaboratively plans out our training presentations in advance to avoid overwhelming any individual team member.

My supervisor, who is also a licensed therapist, is a valuable asset in my working life. She possess the necessary skills to help me process and address any delusional, negative, or racing thoughts I may experience. She is able to assist me with reality testing when I struggle to do so independently.

Once my workday is over, I make a conscious effort to leave my work behind and decompress. This is an ongoing challenge for me, but it is crucial to prevent becoming overwhelmed, which in turn intensifies my symptoms. When I arrive home, I take time to relax and engage in activities unrelated to work. This may involve watching television, meditating, or journaling about my day.

Over the past six years, I have gradually established a work-life balance that suits me. While my personal and professional lives are separate, they are interconnected. If one area of my life is imbalanced, it will inevitably impact the other, potentially causing an increase in symptoms. Therefore, it is essential that I navigate this delicate balance for my overall well-being.

Both aspects of my life, personal and professional, are equally important and fulfilling for distinct reasons. My personal life maintains my health and stability, while my work life provides me with purpose and boosts my self-esteem. When I am in a good place personally, I find that I am more productive in my professional pursuits. This balance did not come easily or quickly; it required time and continuous effort to achieve and maintain. If you are considering returning to work while living with schizophrenia, do not limit yourself. Remember that, just like mental health recovery, creating a work-life balance routine takes work and time. Having a diagnosis of schizophrenia does not necessarily mean you cannot pursue a fulfilling career. Do not allow your diagnosis to hinder the pursuit of your dreams.