Friday, January 17, 2014

When It Seems Like Work Isn't Working

I've always been an advocate of, if at all possible, staying off of disability insurance and working.  In fact, I believe that true wellness is not possible without the productivity and relative independence that come from work.  I've written about the benefits and the challenges of those of us with mental illness finding and keeping a job.  But one thing confronts many who have a gap in their resume due to a prolonged illness.


I worked in high level sales management before bipolar disorder tore my life apart and made continued employment impossible, at least for a time.  But as I recovered and was able to return to work, it became clear that the level of employment I held before disability was going to be very hard, if even possible, to re-enter.  The hole in my resume was large and difficult to explain, and the stress of another high level position threatened to re-ignite the mania and mixed episodes that had landed me in the hospital several times.  But I was confident that I could work.  So I took jobs at a much lower level, and for much less income, than my experience demanded.  And it paid off.  Working has been as important to my successfully managing mental illness as the mindfulness and meditation I write about on this blog.

Returning to work with a recognized disability is fraught with challenges.  A good job is very hard to find.  Sometimes any job is hard to find.  The possibility of failing and losing benefits keeps many from even trying.  The tedium of many jobs available, especially when one was previously very challenged by work, may seem not even worth it.  But I'm sure that it is.  And I've found a post that convincingly makes the case that even a job you hate can yield tremendous benefits.  In fact, the author, Steve Errey, explains very well how staying in a job you despise can become a tremendous exercise in mindfulness and self-exploration.  Once again, even in a bad situation, work trumps the choice of not working.

Read Errey's article here.


  1. Good afternoon George. Thank you for the thoughtful post. Errey's section "to stop struggling and start engaging" is very impactful but also challenging to execute. One of the reasons not to stay in a job you hate is that certain coping mechanisms won't be restricted to the time you are at your job. So, if the way you deal with hating your job is by zoning out in boring meetings, guess what? When you come home, you'll probably find yourself inadvertantly practicing the "zone-out" when your children and spouse need your love and attention! So the process Errey descibes of "stop struggling and start engaging" is critical.