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This article was written exclusively for PsyWeb.com by Sophie. She discusses how she has struggled to find a job due to her problems with mental illness and how she has not let her diagnosis keep her down.
With mental illness having such stigma and it being a taboo topic, I’ve found it difficult to secure a job -- until recently.
I had been on the job search for about a year, and at each interview I was asked, ‘’Do you suffer with mental illness?’’ to which I had always replied, ‘’Yes.’’ Better to be honest, right?
I found myself going to endless interviews with no outcomes. My resume was up-to date and looking professional, and the jobs I was applying for did not require a lot of qualifications. (Due to leaving college because of my mental health, I was never able to gain many qualifications.)
My self-harm was a main setback for myself. I mean, who would want someone working for them with scars and cuts up their arm? I decided to give up on the job search.
Suffering with mental illness and not being able to secure a job made me feel as though everything would always be like this -- that I wouldn’t ever be able to get a job. I started to believe that potential employers could tell I had mental illness without even seeing or speaking to me, which made me feel as though no one would ever want someone like me working for them.
There were days I’d wish that I never had a mental illness, that I was normal so that I could secure a job and be successful. I didn’t want to have to hide that I was suffering. Mental illness had always gotten in the way of day-to-day life -- and in a working environment? What chance did I have at being able to concentrate on day-to-day tasks?
But I had to work around my mental illness and be stronger than what was dragging me down. I needed to fight.
I recently had an interview to work at a bakery. This time I said nothing about my self-harm or mental health. Two days later, I had a phone call offering me the job. It really seemed as though if I mentioned my mental health, they’d have given the job to someone else.
They know about my mental health now -- more or less because they saw my arm, and I just thought to be honest. It doesn’t make anything easier with them knowing, though. If I wear a long-sleeved top or cardigan, they automatically think I’ve self-harmed again.
I appreciate them a lot. They’ve not reacted as badly as I thought they would. Even if I still find it difficult when I get comments like ‘’your arms are ugly,’’ I try and push that away and focus on serving the customers.
By no means has landing a job stopped the urges to cut. They’re still there, and they’re still strong. I just know that my coworkers understand.
I do believe getting jobs would be easier without having mental illness, and I’d do anything I could to not have a mental illness. But it’s with me, and it’s a part of me, and I will always have to live with the fact that I won’t always be accepted for who I am because of the stigma surrounding it.
I will say, though, to anyone giving up hope on the job search, you can and will find a job that you will be happy with!
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