It will come as no shock to anyone with a mental illness, or any chronic illness or disability I suspect, to hear that if you are on sick leave, or unable to work due to your illness, people are generally determined to tell you, repeatedly, that work is important & will help you. Sometimes those comments are well-meaning but ignorant, sometimes they are fully intended to express that they see you as a drain on society.
Either way we tend to hear about how good work is, and how it improves self esteem, keeps us busy, and allows us to support ourselves, on a very regular basis. There is rarely, if ever, an understanding that maybe we actually can’t work. Sure, if you can work & manage to find an employer who doesn’t think hiring someone with a health issue is too much of a risk, maybe work is for you. That is not the case for everyone though, and some people can’t work, and that should be OK. They should still be supported & respected & treated like human beings.
But let’s say that we do feel able to get a job, we want to become a ‘productive member of society,’ and we find employment. Great!
Only it’s not always great, because now we often hear complaints about how we work, or when we work, or how we don’t work enough. Complaints about how we don’t work like ‘normal’ people. Maybe we need extra breaks, or work on a different schedule, or need a few adjustments to our work-space, or whatever. We need these things because we are trying to manage our illness while getting work done. We need them to try to avoid our health deteriorating to a point where we can’t work. We need to respect our limits & our needs so that we can continue to be a ‘productive member of society.’
Go normal, or go home
People, and society as a whole, don’t appear to believe in adjusting their behaviour, or anything else, to make life even slightly easier for anyone who doesn’t fit their mould. Instead, they require that we attempt to become ‘normal,’ or at least ‘just get on with it’ their way, so that we can exist in their world without making them uncomfortable. The alternative is to not exist in their world at all. People want us to live, work, and love, but in their way and on their terms.
It feels, to me, more and more like it’s a no-win situation for many people. We will never be ‘normal’ enough for people. If we manage to do something, they will be annoyed that we can’t do something else. If we say we can’t do that today, we hear how “everybody else has to just do their job” and about how unfair it is that we get to “pick & choose” or get “special treatment.”
Newsflash: being chronically ill or disabled, mentally or physically, is not just a ‘great excuse’ to get out of work.
My work reality
If I could explain the level of frustration I feel at not being able to function to the level of other people, at not being able to consistently function at any level, at having to make allowances for my illness every day just so I can work at all, I would. But I can’t because there aren’t words.
There aren’t words to express how I get so angry at myself over a small mistake because I was more dissociated than I realised.
There aren’t words to express how frustrated I get watching/reading successful entrepreneurs sharing their organisation strategies, and having them utterly fail when I implement them because I’m not neurotypical.
There aren’t words to express how sad I feel seeing others do all these things that are considered ‘normal,’ and knowing if I did the same I would crash & burn.
There aren’t words to express how utterly useless & pathetic I feel when there are three things on my to-do list and I break down and cry just looking at it, or when an email comes in and I can’t open it for fear of all the awful things I believe it will say, without any reason to believe those things.
And also, I cannot explain how heavily the expectations of others weigh on me, and how hyper-aware I am that I always fall spectacularly short.
“I’m so busy”
Josie, possibly better known as @porridgebrain, summed up part of the problem, the glorification of busyness, recently. Busyness is something that seems to be highly valued, and not just in work.
It’s also hugely ableist. We make the busy, worth-drenched performance of a very active life out to be the natural default, the ‘right’ way. https://t.co/kHuLpr7NB8
— Josie George (@porridgebrain) August 28, 2017
When we view rest as a treat what we’re saying is “You’re supposed to earn it.” It’s seen as a REWARD for busyness, not a complement to it.
— Josie George (@porridgebrain) August 28, 2017
It’s OK to do it your way
It’s hard to not be dragged into that way of thinking. It’s hard to stay strong and reject that narrative. It’s hard to convince yourself that your way is just as good, and it’s hard to keep on going when you’re being told it’s not enough.
It is enough though. You are enough. Your way works for you, and they are not you. There is no shame in taking your time, in pacing yourself, in doing things differently, or in needing to do those things. There is no right way, only the right way for you, and I want to thank people like Josie for reminding me of those things every so often.
So this is just a quiet voice to say that if your own particular hardships made you stop, that’s ok. You’re not any less for that.
— Josie George (@porridgebrain) September 5, 2017
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