I’m sure you don’t care how my neighbor’s gall bladder is faring. You don’t know her after all. I don’t know her very well myself. Yet, after seeing her in the lobby and asking her the standard “How are you doing?” greeting, I was treated to a briefing on her last doctor’s appointment, and the fact that said gall bladder needed removing. Arrggghhhh!!! I’ve got to start charging by the hour, no, by the minute. I’d make a fortune just by walking downstairs to check the mail!
Oh…I’m ready to go
Away from this place
This mad human race
Life…it’s not what it seems
No use having dreams
Of a time or a place
Where I can escape
It’s too late
I am living dead
Dizzy thoughts in my head
Of what could have been
If I…if I had been happy
Just a little bit happy
Now and then
Here and there
Amongst the despair
I sit here writing
These words full of angst
Like some love sick
Even though I’m full grown
Dreaming of a world never known
Society seems to have made it clear that it has no place for me, at least in the work world. This is the important part, the part that seems to determine a person’s value and worth. I’m on disability, Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security program, since I’m unwell enough to work outside the home full time. I would love to be able to work part time. To do so, to transition from disability to employment, I have to go through an agency called the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. I’ve tried to get help from them before. They don’t consider me to be the worst of the disabled, since I’m of above average intelligence. This actually works against me, since it’s assumed that if my intelligence is not the problem, and my body functions normally (walking, talking, seeing, hearing etc,) that I should not be having the trouble that I’m having. As if I’m somehow lazy. At least this is the impression that I get from them, and my own family at times.
I’ve been through the Bureau’s program twice, the first time resulting in a job that I did well at, but quit after five months, after being unable to work through a dispute with my boss. The second time, I only got so far as a supervised position with a job counselor on site, where they were able to conclude that I should not try to do any further work, since I was “unable to handle stress very well” (their words.) Well I know I can’t handle stress very well, that’s the point! That’s why I came to them in the first place.
I was good at school, and yet it took me 10 years to get a 4 year college degree. I had trouble navigating the social aspect of things- attending class, living in the dorms, working with my professors. That’s the sort of thing that continues to elude me today. I think that I could perform the basic work requirements of many different jobs, but I don’t get along very well socially, most of the time. Some of the time I do well enough that those working to help me are unable to see where my social deficits are. I think that one of my problems is in dealing with conflict-if I’m having trouble with my work duties, I seem to be unable to sort it out with supervisors. If I encounter a difficult co-worker, it sends me into a panic. These sorts of things start my heart beating wildly, turn my adrenaline switch on, and open the floodgates of my cortisol levels.
And that’s why I’m sitting here writing, since I don’t seem to be able to do anything else for the moment. I have been seeing my case manager, a psychiatric social worker, for the past two years, with the goal being that she would help me look for a job. Either that, or connect me with services designed to help the disabled get back to work. However, our communication has broken down to the point where even my therapist thinks that I should ask for a new caseworker. I am in the position now of having to start fresh, navigating employment services on my own. I’m completely terrified.
Apparently, it’s o.k. for someone to show up at the front door of a stranger and tell them how depressed and lonely they are. That’s what one of my neighbors did to me last week. I’m depressed and lonely myself, but I’m not about to lead with that statement when trying to make a new friend. I guess that tactic worked for my neighbor though, because I’ve seen him leaving the apartments of several other neighbors, having apparently been invited in to visit. So I guess he’s not lonely anymore.
I’m left feeling both relieved and confused. Relieved, because I don’t have to take on the problems of someone I barely know, when I’m still trying to cope with my own. I’m confused, however, as to why my neighbor’s approaching others in such a needy manner worked for him. Why does he now appear to have a more active social life than myself? Do other people enjoy listening to someone they barely known moan about how much their life sucks, when that person should be telling a professional?
And yes, I realize how ironic that sounds, since that is exactly what I’m doing with this blog. I see a therapist weekly though, and she actually recommended that I start blogging, agreeing with me that it was fine to do so anonymously, so that possible future employers don’t find out how screwed up I am from searching my name online.
18 years worth of damage. That’s how long I’ve been in therapy and/or on psychiatric medication. I’ve only just, as of September this past year, found a therapist that I can begin to work with. One who seems not only competent, but somewhat helpful. So how long will it take her to undo the damage that past mental health care workers have inflicted? One year? Five? How long do I have to wait for recovery? With recovery meaning that I am able work part time or in a fulfilling volunteer position, with a satisfying social life. Is it worth hanging on for that possibility, knowing that it might never happen at all?
I am told that saying things like “I’ll never get better,” or “I’ll never feel content with my life” are self-defeating, that they are something my therapist calls “future-telling.” I cannot see into the future, so I cannot say with a certainty that I will always feel this gloomy, or so she says. What if, however, I can infer a pattern for my life based upon past evidence of its trajectory? According to this evidence, I might as well walk outside right now and into oncoming traffic.
It’s hard to watch all my friends and family moving on and having lives. Getting married, working, having children, etc. I feel stuck, and sometimes I feel as if I am moving backwards. I am 35. Single. Jobless. I may have friends and family, but I very rarely get to see them in person. My social life takes place almost entirely online. This doesn’t help me practice my people skills enough to get help with my ever present social anxiety. Which would help me find and keep a job.
If I hear my therapist tell me one more time that I can do anything, that I can have any job I want, that maybe I should go back to school (since that’s the last time I was even the slightest bit happy and engaged in life), I will scream! I’m $14,000 in debt from my first attempt at college. I can’t afford to do this again! I’m 35, but I feel 53. Or older.
I feel abandoned by society, as if it has no use for me anymore. As if to others, I am not worth anything at all. Not worth their time, their money, their kindness, or their respect. I see people talking about treating the disabled with dignity, and fundraising for various causes relating to Autism and mental illness, yet these same friends and family ignore me. Me. I have Autism, I have a mental illness; charity could start here! I am very poor at reading social cues, so just invite me out and pretend you are interested in spending time with me. I probably won’t know that you are lying, and that you can’t wait to get home!
Most of the time, I don’t think that I’m the one whose social skills need fixing. I know enough to know that friendships have a give and take, that it’s not all about one person. I know that conversation itself is an art form, one that some excel at more than others. So why is it that many of my conversations with others seem to involve listening to them talk, and not seeing them attempt to give back? I think that sometimes, people just want to talk at me, and not with me. Show an interest in me people; don’t just tell me your life story, your whole familial and medical background, without bothering to ask anything about me in return!