At the beginning of the year I made a decision. Unless dire circumstances warrant it, I'm not going to work until I graduate from college. I started school in August of 2008 and became a social media consultant for a celebrity chef the same month. I worked 25-35 hours a week building and maintaining their online presence, traveling, going to school full-time, and being a mother....While I slowed down on the traveling once I became pregnant with Alex, I still maintained everything else; still working, still going to school full-time, still mothering....and also heavily involved in my church with various ministry obligations. I maintained this lifestyle while battling depression and the beginning of my BP. I was trying to do and be all and was slowing killing myself in the process. I wasn't taking the time to take care of me. I couldn't-I was too busy taking care of everyone else, trying to keep everything intact. Well I couldn't. Things started falling apart, especially in mentally & emotionally. In June after graduation, I decided not to consult anymore, eliminate my ministry responsibilities and just focus on finishing school and being a mama. When I was diagnosed with BP in July, my priorities shifted drastically with me placing my mental health first and foremost. Since that time I only have 3 main priorities
- My mental health
With therapy and medication struggles I'm barely managing to make it through handling those three things alone, I can't imagine adding a job to the mix. I seriously don't think I would make it. My psych suggested back in October that I seriously consider applying for disability. Just until I was able to get my illness under control and manageable. At first I balked at the idea because well....you know what, looking back, I don't know why I balked. All of my reasons for not wanting to be "dependent" were pretty irrational now that I think about it. They were all wrapped up in that pesky, unhealthy set of expectations I talked about a couple of weeks ago, you know the ones that needed deconstructing? They were expectations and standards that said because I am a single parent I should be working 1-2 jobs while putting myself through school to provide for my kids. They were expectations that said I'm a mom, I can do and be all-all the time. They were expectations that said if I'm not working to provide for my family, I'm slacking in my duties. But after a few therapy sessions and lots of reflecting I was able to break those expectations down and really look at myself, my limitations, and my goals realistically
- I served my country for 4 years which means I am afforded the opportunity to go to school for free and given a housing allowance that covers a good portion of my expenses...
- I'm a mother 24/7 and that is a full-time job in and of itself....
- I'm living with an illness and a level of anxiety that my psych and I are still working to bring under control. They both impact my ability to function in a healthy manner on a daily basis.
When I look at those three items on my plate I see that it's full and adding a job to it right now will only make it worse. I don't want to work right now because I would like to focus on school and because working would take time away from the boys, time that I don't want to give up...not right now. I also can't work because I'm still trying to focus on recovering, on finding the right medication and therapy that will (hopefully) help me manage my symptoms if not be episode free altogether.
I took the time to be honest about and recognize my limitations....doing so made room for my expectations of myself to shift. I want to work-but only after I'm healthy enough, and not until I have my degree in Social Work. So until then I have to do what is necessary to make sure I have enough to provide for us month to month. ...and I have to make sure that there is something in place to take care of the boys should I have an episode that leads to hospitalization or extended treatment.
So at the beginning of the year I took my psych's advice and applied for an increase in my veterans disability rating (I'm currently at 30% for depression, anxiety, and PTSD) as well as disability through the state. of PA. I also applied for other social service benefits which should help me significantly. I also renewed my academic accommodations, ensuring help with my schoolwork and extended absences should I need it.
Admitting that I need this kind of help wasn't easy....but I feel much better knowing that it will help me take care of myself and my children.
Don't be afraid to admit that you need or accept help. It's there for a reason. We just have to humble ourselves enough to use it.