Workin' For A Livin'

I haven't worked in almost ten years. I am not a lazy person, however. My husband supports us on his income. I wish I could work but I am unable to. It's been hard for us financially and we finally had to file bankruptcy last year. We lost our house in 2003 due to both of us being unemployed for over a year. The second mortgage company wanted to sue us so we had to file bankruptcy. I also had alot of medical bills. It was really hard to recover from that. We got help from my mother-in-law and the church we used to go to a few times. My husband has been working steadily since 2004. He is a hard worker and good at what he does. He now works at a hotel as a maintenance person.

When I was first diaganosed with Bipolar Disorder I was given a chance to go on disability. I opted for joining a vocational program that would get me in to a job instead. My sister who also had Bipolar Disorder was not able to work and was on disability most of her life. The thought of going on disability was repulsive to me. I wanted to please my father and get to the point where I could take care of myself. I looked down on my sister for not being able to work. I just didn't want to be that helpless. I thought that my sister could have worked a part-time job or volunteered if she wanted to. I judged her and thought she was being lazy. I had no idea the kind of struggle she had to try to stay out of the hospital. I had no clue.

I mostly worked customer service jobs for ten years. I had a job in High School at The Spaghetti Factory as a hostess and busser. In college I worked in food service. My first phone job was doing surveys over the phone. I breifly had a job at Stapleton Airport as a cocktail waitress. Mostly I have done customer service,though. I enjoyed doing customer service. Sometimes it would get stressful dealing with angry customers but that didn't happen too often. I had to quit my last job when I couldn't work a part-time schedule. My boss was nice and tried to accomodate my illness but I couldn't do it so I quit. I was sure I could get on disability. After all I had been paying in to it for ten years. Little did I know.....

After the first time I was denied disability in 2001 I tried to work from home. I got a job doing customer service from home. I couldn't work a 15 hour a week schedule. It was really hard and exhausting for me. I had to quit. I knew then that I couldn't work anymore. I also tried cleaning a friend's house for a while but I couldn't be consistent so I stopped doing that after a while.I decided to try to go back to school. I went for a year. It was hard but I completed two semesters at college. Then my husband got laid off. I applied for disability again and got denied again. We lived on unemployment for more than a year. We couldn't keep up the payments on the house. We foreclosed on the house. My husband found a job driving buses and worked for a few months. We were able to rent an apartment from a friend at church. My husband got fired and got another job driving airport shuttles. A few months later he was fired from that job and got a job repairing appliances. We could no longer afford to live where we were so we moved to a cheaper place in September 2005. We have been in the same place since then.

During the year my husband was unemployed I could not get medication for my illness. I didn't have health insurance and I couldn't afford medication. I was off medications for about six months when I had a major manic episode that lasted for three weeks. This was in July of 2004. I was in the hospital for two weeks. This was while my husband was working as a bus driver. After I got out of the hospital I was put on Lithium and Haldol. I was so severely depressed that I barely remember the next three years. I just remember trying to make through the day without killing myself or ending up in the hospital again.

In 2007 we left the church we had been going to for twenty years. We both had a crisis of faith and stopped believing in God. I think struggling so much financialy and losing our house was very hard on the both of us. We both lost our faith and our hope in God. My husband's dream of being an electrician was gone and my dream of finishing college was gone. We felt tired spirtually and didn't feel like following a God who didn't seem to care about us. I gave up on my faith and in time became an atheist.

I wish I could tell my sister how proud of her I am. She struggled with a severe mental illness. She tried really hard to take her medication and stay out of the hospital. Sometimes she would get manic and refuse to take her medication. It was hard to stay out of the hospital for her. She really could not work a job. I now understand what she went through. It's hard for me to take my medication because I don't sleep at the same time each night. Sometimes I forget and have to remind myself to take my medication the next day. I often miss doses. This is scary because if my blood levels get low enough I could have a manic episode.

I tried really hard to keep a job when I was single and when I was newly married. I didn't want to become a burden to anyone. I lived in my father's house (he was never there, he lived with his girlfriend/second wife) for two years and I felt so guilty. I felt like a burden to my father even though he rarely gave me money. I lived on food stamps and from the part time job I had through the vocational program I was in. I was doing this all for my father and I don't think he even noticed my efforts. He died worried about me and was convinced that I couldn't take care of myself even though that's what I'd been doing along.

I wish people could walk a day in a mentally ill person's shoes. It's really frustrating to get people to understand the kind of suffering severe depressions and manias cause. When I am severely depressed (which is most of the time) I can barely function. It's like walking through fog that never clears. I can't concentrate. I can't move very fast. I have to take things slowly. Getting out of bed and dressed can take a long time to do. It's like there are thousands of tiny weights on my limbs and I can hardly move. When I am manic I am full of energy and anxiety. I am very paranoid and hyper-sensitive. I have so many thoughts and ideas swirling in my head that I can't pinpoint them or even write them down. I get so angry when people think mania is fun. It's a nightmare. Having delusions and fantasies that are so real that you lose track of reality is not fun. Hypo-mania which is mania without the delusions isn't a picnic either. Anxiety levels go through the roof and you feel like you have to keep going or you'll die. Spending money you don't have and realizing later while you are coming down that you don't have rent because you spent it on clothes is a terrifying feeling.Being obnoxious and irritable hurts the people around you. I had to keep a full-time job with an illness like this. It was so hard to get to work some days. Then when I got there I wasn't happy enough for the people around me. I constantly felt like I couldn't do anything right. On my hypo-manic days I was super productive and my supervisor couldn't understand why I couldn't be consistent. I had enough middle-of-the-road days that I could keep my job. I rarely called in sick. I tried really hard to make it to work on time every day. It was a monumental challenge most days.