The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building by giving new mental health a chance to have their work seen by a wider audience and connect with other members of the blogging community.
This post is by Christopher G. Bremicker from livingwellwhilementallyill.com
Mental Illness and Work
“Work is your salvation,” my first psychiatrist told me early in my treatment for schizophrenia. I took his advice. I have had a job every day of the fifty years I have been sick. I enjoy good mental health today.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. counseled to treat every job like it is your last. Your performance sets your course for life. It affects keeping the job, raises, and getting future jobs.
I have had forty-six jobs since high school. Most were minimum wage. They were jobs that most people considered menial, a word my first psychiatrist hated. Those were the good jobs, a psychologist at the veterans’ hospital said.
Currently, I am a cashier at Walgreens. This job gives me more than money, but it does not give me much of that. It gets me out of the house, out of my head, and gives me a chance to be of service. I am part of a team, something bigger than myself. I love my job.
I am mentally ill, and my customers and coworkers can’t tell. I help people who have never experienced mental illness. I make decisions many people can’t make.
As for the stigma of mental illness, I wrote and published a book on my life and gave it to my coworkers. My boss admired my courage in doing so. I got raises anyway, big ones.
My job gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning. It gives me dignity, self-esteem, and a social life. I am a contributing member of society.
I am not a person who ever had a career. Max Ehrmann’s poem, The Desiderata, hangs on my wall at home. It advises me to take an interest in my job. “However humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”
As for Social Security Disability, the federal government allows a recipient to work up to a certain limit while still drawing a check. The limit is liberal. With SSD and a job, I live nicely. Now, I am semiretired and work two days a week.
I always tried to find jobs I liked. It made a difference when I was on my way to work, on the job, and trying to recover. Liking my job carried me through hard times.
I live in a hi-rise, one admission to which is a psychiatric diagnosis. Few of our residents have jobs. Some have been told by their doctors never to work again. Some have been given the option of working but chose not to. None of them volunteer for anything, as far as I know. They gossip and bicker.
I have lived in the hi-rise for twenty-seven years. I love it here. There are times the rampant mental illness makes me feel out of place. However, I don’t get lonely. Whenever I feel I am too healthy to live here, I remind myself I was once in everyone else’s shoes.
I worked myself out of being mentally ill. I mowed grass on a golf course, shelved books at a library, pushed wheelchairs at an airport, manned a front desk at the YMCA, received donations at the Goodwill, and now sell diapers at Walgreens. Work saved my life.
Christopher G. Bremicker was a Special Forces medic stationed at Ft. Bragg NC from 1968 to 1970. He has a BA in English and a Master’s in Business Administration, both from the University of Minnesota. He is a newspaperman, downhill skier, grouse hunter, and handball player. He is a sales associate at Walgreen’s in St. Paul MN. His hometown is Cable WI.
Thanks so much Chris for participating in the emerging blogger series!
You can find the rest of the posts in the series, as well as the criteria for participating, on the Community Features page.