Monday, September 17, 2012

The Cost

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, a 1998 survey shows that mental illness cost the Canadian health care system 7.9 billion dollars.

That doesn’t include an additional 6.3 billion in lost wages and money spent on private treatment, for a total of 14.2 billion dollars.

For my employer, the cost has been enormous. The past two years, for example, I have used up my entire bank of sick days. Those are days that I am being paid my full salary, but providing no work to the library. So, I would like to say a big thanks to the City of Vancouver, the Library and my union. I am so grateful to have those benefits.

Presently, I am on leave without pay as I have run out of sick days. This doesn’t cost my employer, but does cost everyone else in the country - I am collecting Employment Insurance from the government, but it’s just a fraction of what I would normally be paid. If I cannot return to work before those benefits run out after sixteen weeks, I will get nothing for three months until my union’s long-term disability plan kicks in, which again covers only a portion of my salary. (Fingers crossed my doctors green-light me to return soon!).

I dropped out of second year university because of overwhelming depression. I switched majors, moved to a new college, and started over – managing to finish a degree, and then by doing the bulk of my course work in summer and fall, getting a master’s degree in librarianship.

At work I have won two job competitions for promotions, and within a year took demotions. I would start with enthusiasm and full of ideas (hypomanic, I now realize), and then when I cycled into depression (it would happen at least once a year – not within a month as it does now), I would feel I was no longer able to do the work. Out of guilt and shame, I would ask to step down.

Last year I earned another promotion, but again my illness is interfering. Knowing more about it, though, I am determined to get back to work in a better state and stay in my job.

I get great ideas for work when I am hypomanic. I begin implementation, then become depressed and either have to pull out of the project or take time off. In the end, other people finish what I started and I am forgotten. I am glad that the work is seen through, but it still makes me sad.

My anxiety disorders make it hard for me to network. I have learned to adapt, so that I can attend meetings and participate – but it is really hard for me to be present, and especially hard for me to “schmooze” with people before and after. This affects my ability to learn new things and to be considered for opportunities.

Remember the guy I mentioned in my post titled “What It’s Like to Hear Voices?” He sweeps the sidewalks. He is doing the work that he is able. He is likely living on government disability – a meager amount of money each month. He may or may not have a place to live. I hope that he has supportive group housing.

I feel so fortunate that I am not on the street; that I have a wonderful family; that I am a good parent, even on my worst days; and that I can hold down a job, in spite of my disease.

I guess this is why I like PCs more than Macs. I may have bugs and crash a lot, but in spite of that I eventually get the job done.

1 comment:

Dana said...

D'Arcy, you are such a strong, thoughtful person. You make such compassionate connections about the world. Thank you for sharing all these stories with us. All my love to you, Teresa and all the kids. xoxo