Sunday, September 23, 2012

Patti's Response

(More wisdom from my new friend Patti Dempster. This was in response to my post, “The Safety Net,” where I talked about the possibility of going on disability, and the difficulty of facing the prospect of numerous government agencies, paperwork, and not working. Once again, thanks Patti – you’re response has led me to look at my situation in an entirely new light.)

The depressive voice is great at framing things in the bleakest of lights. As things went for me I am living that reality you painted and it isn't as bad as I had imagined it to be. It took me a long time and many, many set-backs to accept that I was not going to have my life back as I knew it. I racked up debt maintaining a lifestyle I could no longer afford. I compromised my recovery pushing myself to work when I should have been focusing on getting well and nothing else.

I had to go on BC SA last year for a couple of months while I waited on my CPP Disability application. Those were very, very hard times. The stress nearly did me in completely. I was fortunate to get it on the first go around. One small glitch with the Dr. who contradicted himself was cleared up pretty quickly. It’s not much money but enough to cover housing and food. Just that was a huge burden off my back.

One major learning I have gained is to think differently about work. Think outside the box. Don't think in terms of 'returning to work' but think in terms of working differently. Talk to your employer and see how much room there is for accommodation. Make friends with the bipolar. Partner with it instead of trying to defeat it. There will always be some elements of it, some special challenges related to it that you can't ignore. With bipolar there is a vulnerability to external stresses that will always be around. A fragility to your nature that the bipolar has expounded. A high maintenance component.

This is true no matter where you are on the spectrum of recovery. You cannot risk relapse at any time along the way. Change your benchmarks for success. Abandon the old paradigms. We don't all fit the same mold. Be willing to invent new molds and challenge others to allow you to operate and maximize your contributions in different ways than the norm. You may never be able to fit comfortably into the norms. That's okay. It doesn't need to compromise your capacity to work, to give back, to be part of something you love. Customize your environment. Press your employer and co-workers to accommodate and respect your unique health related challenges. Your special gifts come at a price but not such a high price it can't be worked around.

One more thought. I don’t know if I will find my way back to working for money in any significant way again. As modest as the amount is that I collect each month from CPP Disability, it does take the burden of homelessness off the table. Of that I am extremely grateful. Not being consumed with that worry has given me the opportunity to really think about the value of work.

I think it was Melody who mentioned the need to work as a way of feeling of some value. But do we need to have a paying job to attain that same sense of value; to be productive; to feel we are giving something back to the world we live in? Can we achieve those goals, fulfill those needs without being paid? I think we can, and if we are not in a position to get a paying job then we find other ways. We volunteer in whatever capacities we can. We look to our left and to our right and we help others. We use our time wisely and productively while we stay the course of improving our health and well-being. Again it is about respecting the illness; Accommodating the special requirements for recovery. We don’t fight the illness, we partner with the illness and we learn how to live as one.

These are the lessons of balance and harmony. This is what it means to ‘walk in beauty’. Don’t be looking back at what were your benchmarks for success. Look forward at what is possible and create new, more meaningful and more achievable goals and pathways to new success.


Dana said...

Thank you. These are wise words for all of us. I find the world very stressful and am always trying to shift the frame to emphasize ways of being in the world that are more inclusive and sustainable. We, individually and as a society, need to change direction, and this post speaks to that necessary paradigm shift.

Dana said...

Oh, and this!