Monday, November 23, 2015

On Mental Illness, Jobs, and a Personal Status Quo

I was thinking about the way jobs and careers. I confess my thoughts are a bit jumbled, so this blog may come out as such.  The reason this particular topic have been on my mind is because of a conversation I recently had with one of my roommates. I was telling him about a job interview that I recently had, and he asked me if I had ever thought about a career.

I was taken aback by that question. Why assume the line of work I am doing is not what I want as a career? My back ground is in psychology, and for a while all I knew was that I wanted to work with youth, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. I tried different things before deciding that an educational setting, working with special ed or troubled youth, is where I wanted to be. People often make assumptions, and in my case people assume because I hold a graduate degree I can become a therapist overnight.  In order to be license eligible one has to take Clinical Psychology, and I did not. In order for me to do so I would have to get a whole entire new degree (no, I cannot just take the "missing classes"). The Government allots students a certain amount of money for each type of degree. I've used up all but a few thousand of mine, and in order to get student loans I would have to go to school for the next level degree. For me that is a PhD, and something I simply don't want to do. Therefor my other options are private loan (no eligible to loan forgiveness), scholarships (often don't pay for full schooling), or pay out of pocket (lol).

Right now I work as a paraprofessional (re: teacher's assistant). My experience is working with kids on IEP's. This is what I want to do, and this is what I want as my career. For some people, however, they cannot grasp this. Why not go for my PhD (well for one, it's a job in an of itself)? Why not work to be a teacher? Simply put, I don't want to. It's not because I don't believe in myself or I'm giving up. I simply am happy where I am at, and do not want to take on the added burden and stress of trying to figure out how to pay for school. I am and have always been a beta personality. Someone who is much happier following and assisting, and leading only when I have to (e.g. if a teacher is absent) than being an actual leader. And you know what? That's okay. It doesn't mean I am selling myself short, or saying I am not good enough. People can't accept that though, they can't accept that someone is happy where they are and they choose not to advance.

People with BPD often experience shifts in goals, including career goals. It is not uncommon for a "Borderline" to change career paths, quit jobs, or even sabotage and get fired. I am certainly guilty of the latter two, but here's where I take pride. When I was 16 years old I decided I wanted to major in Psychology and work with youth. Along the way there were many bumps in the road, and I worked many jobs not with youth or even in Human Services. That dream never left me though. Even if I was working an office job or a retail job, I knew deep down I was meant to work with kids. I never changed my mind about that.

I am reminded of the debate over minimum wage, and how many people are angry that "burger flippers" want $15 an hour. For many people living with mental illness getting and keeping a job is difficult. Least of all because of the stigma over mental illness that still holds strong in Psychology. Therefor, for many people struggling, a job at McDonald's is an achievement. Basically judging someone on their job is unfair because you do not know that person's story. You don't know what i took to get them there, what (or who) they are working for, and to turn around and say they don't deserve a living wage is basically saying you are better than them.  Not everyone can be doctors, lawyers, CEO's; and you know what? Not everyone wants to be. Maybe people are happy working fast food; serving others their meals, cooking food. But because we assume people have to be at the top and always advancing to be happy, we look at these people as if they gave up on their lives.

When I've been unemployed (which has been a lot), many people would say to me, "just get a job anywhere!" or "Go work at a fast food joint!" Friends from older generations would give me, "when I was your age I couldn't afford to be picky. I worked 3 jobs and waited tables!" Yet, today we look down at the people with these jobs. We tell unemployed people to go wait tables or work at Dunkin' Donuts, but then we get angry when they want a living wage.

I am happy. I am happy being a follower, I am happy with my degree, I am happy not putting myself in more financial debt, and I am happy that I never gave up on my dream. Perhaps when it's fiscally responsible I will take some extra courses, but for now I am happy where I am. The fact I finished school, got my degree, and am aiming to work somewhere in the human services field is a big achievement for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. So when people feel I am giving up on myself, not trying to "move up", it's quite the opposite.

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