Working at a Professional Job

In the 1990s I worked in corporate and legal offices. That’s why I don’t think a person should feel like their goal should be to get an office job. How can a person thrive in a 5′ x 7′ beige box with no color light and sound?

In July 2000 I fled my last office job to work in a public library. This new job was in a “pink ghetto” with low pay (even with a Master’s degree). I had the ability to wear hot pink Converse on the job. And no one raised an eyebrow.

Like I’ve said before the corporate world isn’t often appreciative of workers that think outside the narrow boxes we’re supposed to fit in

What if employees with disabilities like mental illness were routinely hired, sponsored (not just mentored), promoted, and so on. The GDP would skyrocket.

I was denied a promotion because I spoke out against harassment on one of my jobs. Management turned a blind eye to what was going on. Fearing I would be retaliated against I didn’t go to HR. That was a big mistake. The first route should’ve been to go to HR.

My disability was a matter of record at that job among people who found out. Was there a connection between this and the fact that I wasn’t promoted?

For those of us with mental health issues that work in a professional office job I still don’t think random full-on disclosure of your medical condition is the way to go on the job. This was my approach that I talked about in Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers.

In a coming blog entry for Resources to Recover website I’m going to offer three cons and three pros of disclosure.

In the next blog entry here I will talk about different types of “disclosure” on the job.

The One Day One Job Approach

Five months ago, I read The Pretty One by Keah Brown. Her first-person account of living with cerebral palsy. How because she couldn’t walk fast crossing the street drivers in cars honked their horns at her.

One part of the memoir stood out to me. Kean Brown exposed the insanity of how able-bodied people rush-rush-rush places every day filling their lives with nonstop activities.

This week I decided to conserve my energy for doing only the things essential to maintaining my well-being.

This daily living habit I term the “one day one job” approach.

Even when I’m not at my job I consider the tasks I need to do “jobs.”

My one job might be posting this blog entry. Or doing the workout routine.

I’ve learned this life lesson about not taking on herculean tasks that derail my focus and energy.

It’s precisely because living with a disability gives us challenges that we are uniquely qualified to “opt out” of the busywork insanity.

Without feeling shame or regret for not living up to these impossible demands that the majority of Americans make on themselves.

I say let people who have a vested interest in living under the cover of what’s “normal” burn themselves out running around without stopping every day.

Easily 12 years ago I read a book by Leo Babauta. In it he talked about limiting the focus of your life to your “5 Commitments.”

My 5 passions are art music fashion books and exercise.

One other tactic I adopted is to KISS–Keep It Simple Sweetheart.

In 2003 I wrote in an online article: “If it doesn’t fit, I won’t commit.”

We have all the time we need to get done everything we need to do.

Taking the time to do what’s integral to our health and happiness. Discarding the things that numb us or distract us or divert our attention from our 5 commitments.

This is something to think about:

Daring to let go of the busywork.

Risking “missing out” when attending those events would not add benefit to our life.

Taking joy in being present and centered on the things we choose to do.

Purpose Powered Productivity

It can sound woo-woo if that is the term to continue to link who you are with what you do.

In terms of how acting false to get ahead will backfire. However, I stand by my assertion that acting true to yourself is the only way to live.

The Bullet Journal ethic is rooted in “purpose powered productivity.” That is in there being a reason that you’re doing what you’re doing.

The type of disability a person has shouldn’t limit them to only one type of job. Though if this disability makes them more suited for a specific job that job shouldn’t be ruled out.

It’s radical to propose what I do when I’m talking about the livelihoods of individuals living with mental illnesses.

What I propose is eliminating “busywork” from our lives. Finding our life’s purpose and doing what we can to fulfill this purpose.

And who says this purpose should only be linked to our disability?

For some of us it will be. My life’s purpose is to advance my vision of recovery for everyone. From whatever illness a person has. In whatever guise recovery comes to them in.

A simple mission with two tenets.

Why I propose that peers living with mental health issues find our purpose is because we are no different from people who don’t have a disability.

No one wants to feel like their life has no meaning. Like they are adrift going in circles or going nowhere.

Countless motivational books are written about “how to fulfill your potential.”

In a coming blog entry, I will talk about how to find a purpose for getting out of bed in the morning.

In the winding down of the COVID outbreak all of us could be faced with this choice: how to spend our time when tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to arrive?

Living for today has a new resonance.

I for one wouldn’t want to spend my last day on earth cleaning my apartment.

Disability Visibility

This book I checked out of the library. The Amazon.com book description testified that the first-person accounts were told “with love and hope.”

A lot of the stories in this collection feature events that dehumanized the disabled person.

The word is Crip to talk about this movement of disability justice. Other people can use the word Crip because I won’t.

Elsewhere in an internet article a person living with a disability compared the pros and cons of viewing your first-person experience through a lens of Positivity or Negativity.

In this Forbes.com essay the author signaled that the distinction between the two views often comes down to your socioeconomic standing in society.

If you live in poverty and have a disability this could alter your frame of reference. Dealing with daily struggles you might focus on the negative parts of your life.

If you are better-off and your finances don’t limit you it might be easier to have a sunny-side up view of your disability.

What do I think? I’ve been in a frenzy of reading Disability and Social Justice first-person accounts. The next book that’s coming my way is Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice.

The drawback to the Positivity crew’s stance according to the Forbes article is that it can be seen as being critical of disabled individuals who don’t make it the way others do who have disabilities.

My own compassion is rare. My literary agent told me once: “It’s remarkable. You pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps. Yet you have compassion for people who are unable to do that.”

The bootstrap myth is just that–a myth. “It Takes a Village” to live with a disability every day. Those of us who struggle deserve to be given help and compassion. On our terms. Not the terms of the do-gooder who decides they want to help us or thinks that we need their help.

At my job whenever I see someone come in a wheelchair I don’t ever ask: “Do you need help?” The distinction is that I ask them: “Would you like help?” This signals that I understand they are not so disabled that they can’t do things on their own if that is their choice.

As regards focusing on the Positive instead of dwelling on the Negative I’m guilty of this. Not telling anyone how hard my life is. Not expecting outsiders to understand what it’s like to have a disability.

I’m an Optimist. That is my nature. I’ve had to be an optimist, or I wouldn’t have survived what I went through.

In my life I soak up like a sponge what has come to be called “inspiration porn.”

Give me joy and cheer and hope.

The reality is that not all disabilities are equal in severity. This doesn’t matter. Whatever your disability is it’s plenty hard enough for you.

So–I wouldn’t be quick to minimize or discount what a person goes through when they are in remission or have a less chronic illness.

In the coming blog entry I want to start to talk about a topic I’ve become inflamed about: worker’s rights. I’m going to use this blog to expand in detail on what I wrote about in the Working Assets book.

It’s a fine line: who to trust to tell the personal information about your disability.

A book like Disability Visibility is necessary to bring to light the distinctive perspectives personalities and experiences of those of us who have a disability.