Schizophrenia Didn’t Stop Me From Having a Career I Love
Having a purpose in life is crucial for mental well-being, especially for those living with a mental illness. Unfortunately, many of us with mental illness face the underestimation of our abilities, and as a result, our dreams are often discouraged. However, it is important to recognize that we are capable of so much and can be valuable assets to the workforce.
Holding Down A Job With Schizophrenia
When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, I never thought I would have a fulfilling job that gave me a sense of purpose in the future. At that point in my recovery process, I was only dreaming of returning to college to obtain a bachelor's degree. To enhance my chances of employment, I heeded the advice of volunteering and participating in extracurricular activities while in college. These experiences allowed me to develop social skills and enhance my resume. I also sought assistance from my local library and the student academic center to create a strong resume. To alleviate the stress of interviews, I discussed this with my therapist and engaged in role-playing interviews with a job coach to prepare for potential interview questions.
Throughout this process, I maintained the belief in myself and diversified my job applications, avoiding putting all my hopes in one opportunity. I applied to multiple jobs and sent my resume to various organizations where I believed I would be a good fit. After a lengthy interview process, I secured my first job out of college as a peer support specialist for a mental health provider. Although most jobs do not require disclosing one's mental health condition, it was part of my job description to do so, as I would be sharing my experience of living with schizophrenia to assist others in their recovery process. I stayed in this role for nearly two years, gaining valuable experience before eventually applying for my current position at another organization.
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Finding a job can be time-consuming, but it is essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance, particularly for individuals with a mental health diagnosis. Effective time management is crucial for maintaining wellness. Just as I manage my daily routine at home, I also create a daily work routine. I rely on a day planner, as well as my phone and Google calendar, to keep track of my schedule. I prioritize arriving at work ten minutes early and strive to leave at the same time each evening, leaving work at the office. If I begin feeling overwhelmed, I proactively inform both my boss and therapist, seeking support if necessary to stay on track. Additionally, I familiarize myself with the human resources team at my job and research the employee handbook to understand how to request accommodations if needed. It is essential to know what resources are available and how your employer can assist in your mental and physical well-being. While it may be intimidating to ask for accommodations, remember that you have rights as an employee and can utilize these services. Simply writing a letter to your boss stating your disability and requesting accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) can initiate the process. Specify problematic job tasks, suggest accommodation ideas, and attach any necessary medical documentation. Some companies even have their own accommodation request forms that you can request.
After eight years of being back in the workforce, I am grateful to have a fulfilling job that adds purpose to my life. Currently, I work as a community outreach and education trainer for a wonderful organization. My role involves facilitating Mental Health First Aid, QPR Suicide Prevention Training, and various other mental health programs for our community. Every day, I continue to learn and thrive both individually and as part of a team.
Living with mental illness should not hinder one from seeking employment. Your incredible abilities make you an invaluable asset in the workforce. Never underestimate yourself, and have the courage to pursue your passion and find a job that adds purpose to your life.