Thursday, April 28, 2016

Who Gets To Be The “Good Schizophrenic”?

Check out Who Gets To Be The “Good Schizophrenic”? by Esmé Weijun Wang over on Buzzfeed. I saw this make the rounds a while ago but I've only today had the time to read it properly. 

It’s kind of nice that I read this today, since I've been really pre-occupied with work stress. Wang talks about being able to work a 9 to 5 as a benchmark for being a functional mentally ill person. Things at work for me are sketchy. They don’t have enough work for me, so I keep losing hours. But I’m also exhausted and I just don’t know what to do.
2013 was also the year that I surrendered my last benchmark of sanity, otherwise known as my full-time job at a fast-paced start-up company. For years, holding down an office job had been what I believed sincerely, and perhaps a bit desperately, separated me from others of my ilk, but I stepped away from my 9-to-5 because my job, despite its accommodations and allowances, exacerbated my illness.
It’s so difficult to identify what is a “bad day” and what is a job that isn't right for me. There’s also the stress of needing to work. I need an income. I am not on disability, and from what I understand I wouldn't qualify. For years I was trying to get an official diagnosis, but nothing has really changed, and I still feel like there are parts of me that transition and evolve. I have periods of heightened anxiety. Periods of deep depression. Periods I feel manic. Periods I feel despondent and sub-human. There are days I cannot focus. I can’t actively listen. I have trouble focusing my eyes. It’s just a shit show sometimes.
In Blue Nights, Joan Didion remarks, “I have not yet seen that case in which a ‘diagnosis’ led to a ‘cure,’ or in fact to any outcome other than a confirmed, and therefore an enforced, debility.” Living under the shadow of a new “code” bore no curative function, but it did imply that to be high-functioning would be difficult, and it warned me that to live beyond that code would be a tricky gambit. A therapist had already told me in my mid-twenties that I was her only client who was able to hold down a full-time job. Having a job, among psychiatric researchers, is considered one of the major characteristics of being a high-functioning person.
I don’t consider myself high-functioning. I'm functioning. But I'm exhausted and it takes all of my energy.

Read Wang's piece. Schizophrenia doesn't get much representation, and when it does it's usually used to put other mental illness struggles "into perspective." 

The more representation there is of living with and working with mental illnesses, the more there will be an understanding of flexible work-lives, different strengths, and ideally there will be a societal conversation regarding working conditions and ways of supporting the mentally ill and listening to what they need to work and support themselves. Ourselves.

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