Yes, I have mental illness. And yes, I work.
But I have been ruminating on quitting my job yet again.
For the past three years of working in the public school (a very demanding environment, if you will), quitting has been on the top of my list lately. I could not find any fulfillment any more on what I am doing. Moreover, I would feel tired and exasperated at the many required tasks the job has to offer—the myriad of responsibilities that I had to keep myself attuned to all the time. In the public school, a teacher is not only someone who teaches, but also someone who has to do clerical work every once in a while. Not that I hate it, but I find myself slow in accomplishing tasks. I also forget. I also feel exhausted in thinking about what to do next.
In short, small-scale tasks outrightly tax me.
Through all those years in the workforce—those years of having been diagnosed accordingly as well—I have always found myself some difficulty of maintaining work. It is either I lose focus or enthusiasm, with the former as to what I ought to make out of doing my responsibilities while the latter being more of how the job appeals to me as time goes by. I grapple with the mysteries of why I find it laborious to cling onto my work, when I know how I persevere whenever something challenging comes my way. But all these are just at the periphery; subconsciously, there are more glaring reasons why holding a job longer than three years would usually turn out less feasible for me. Is it because of preference? Or attitude? Or capability? First, I don’t apply to jobs that I don’t prefer (except for the current one in which I just had to accept because of dire need). Second, attitude is negligible in my supposed inability to stay longer since I could work with just almost everybody. I also have a high tolerance for bad behaviour, except in certain circumstances especially if things get toxic (thank my teacher-training for that). And third, I am capable of handling responsibilities. Nonetheless, with this third point, I want to be more specific.
I am CAPABLE if I am NOT ILL.
Indeed, that is the caveat. Being capable for me is totally relative to my illness because there are moments whereby just doing something at all is gargantuan for me to perform. In short, my illness limits me that is why I would always quit. But please, don’t judge me for this.
The Illness and the Work
Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder II and anxiety as offshoots of my temporal lobe epileptic attacks, I can be totally debilitated by certain tasks that require overworking the mind. In teaching basic education students, for example, I have to take care of a plethora of demands that both students and the admin do require (and all those have I mentioned previously in this write-up). As a consequence, I end up thinking a lot; and since I am such a slow worker and not much of a multi-tasker, I could not keep up with deadlines just because my mind gets tired easily. Now this tiredness is not so much like that of physical exhaustion wherein the body would feel pain and all that. For the mind, it is all about having brain fog: characteristically as though something is hindering brain processes from actually working. There’s forgetfulness (even of what words to say or write), some manifestations of disorganised thoughts, confusion on what to say or do. I constantly experience this, sometimes to the point that I would forget on how to express my thoughts in a certain way. Hence I could not organise my own ideas at all, my speech losing all hints of spontaneity. It is as if I could not literally think, like that organ up there in my head is merely a blob of mass without anything inside it. I could not even understand what I read—I would end up going back and forth with my reading material in high hopes of comprehending what it is all about. Now all these capabilities are necessary for teaching, and how to teach. Bereft of all these—all because of bipolar, depression, and anxiety—I am left in the dark, grappling with my own sense of self. I easily become incapable. I drown in my own shadows. Consequentially, I would feel belittled by my own illness because who else could actually battle brain fog head on? As one experiences this, it is as if that person loses his or her own identity about how hard working he or she could be. And that is what precisely happens to me in most circumstances, hence hampering my ability to work eventually belittling my own attempts at surviving what I am and what I do. There are times that I would tell myself even: that I hereby declare myself useless. Then I drown further into a depressive state. I do not know if I am even that adept into working at any job AT ALL.
Finding What Suits Me
However, a person with disability always needs funds in order to sustain himself or herself. I always have to accept the fact that I need to work even if it could be hard on me at some times. Anyway, there are forms and means of managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression such that I may be productive.
This is crucial, though—I need a job that would help me prioritise my own mental health above all else.
Now I asked myself: is this job I am in correlative to such a thrust I have made for myself?
Not that I would like to complain, but facing the reality that teaching is one of the hardest jobs anyone could actually take, there is this thin line between being patronising and realistic when it comes to complementing mental health with certain careers (teaching included). I am not saying that in teaching, one cannot take mental health into consideration but that it depends on persons trying to figure out a kind of work that best suits their personality, temperament, and condition. It is not relatively easy for a bipolar person to be taking care of at least 150 students per day without considering other things. In this way, the mind gets tired; and when it does, all hell breaks loose. Exhaustion can be trigger to rampaging moods, and being in that state is not good for mental well-being. Well, yes, there is what you call management of time and activities. I do get that. But what makes me iffy about staying in a career that wearies one’s mind is the fact that it can make you set aside hobbies or crafts that could well make you feel delighted about life. Too much stress comes from a tiresome system or environment; and even if you could manage it for some time, there is always a circumstance where you’d get to know that it is not right anymore. That it’s time to leave.
Of course, I would not entirely leave teaching per se as a career. I love it as I do love certain aspects of my being. What I want to put forth is that I might perhaps leave a particular teaching environment and move on to something that makes more room for my stability. I know there are those out there that suits my condition. All is not lost.
The question in all of these points to how a certain kind of work complements one’s mental health condition. As a person of disability, I personally do not like to compromise my mental well-being just for the sake of staying in a kind of job that pulls my sanity down. Or maybe because I am someone who desires to find enjoyment in the littlest things I encounter, whether it be some pretty visuals, hand lettering, or more grandiose ones like hunting for employment opportunities. In short, I just don’t like to settle for anything less than being at peace with myself. After all, the most important things in life are those that do not foster temporal satisfaction like money or a career. What matters is on how such things can be correlative to how placid one’s life can be while having money or a career.
Let’s not complicate our life, shall we?