In 1990 I obtained my first full-time job as an administrative assistant to the director of an insurance firm. It was the first job I held after I got out of the hospital in October 1987. I was 25 years old then.
Today most professionals type their own correspondence so a secretary job is on its way out as a viable long-term career.
I want to devote a number of blog entries to this first job I held to segue into information about the second nonfiction book I hope to publish within two years.
My experience at that first job is illustrative of what not to do when you’re a mental health peer first starting out.
I don’t recommend telling your supervisor that you have a diagnosis of SZ or BP or whatever you have that you’ve been given.
My first job was in a corporate office. I would say in retrospect from my own office jobs: consider a corporate position only if you have the temperament to handle the pressure.
I told my first boss what my diagnosis was. I might have been in tears when I told her.
Listen–I’m a woman and this is my blog–so I’m going to reveal something that no one else will have the guts to tell you:
Getting your period and having SZ at the same time is a recipe for ongoing hell.
I’m 52 now and boy am I glad all that is over. Getting your period can worsen your SZ symptoms. So if you’re caught in a crying jag and otherwise experiencing the worst at that time of the month:
I urge you to weigh carefully taking any traditional job where you’re entitled to only 3 sick days per year. That’s the scenario in most office jobs.
At my first job in the office, I would have to go home sick as soon as this monthly shit hit the fan. I’m telling you this as a female mental health peer because you’re not alone in what happens.
I have one purpose in telling readers this: because of this type of scenario I urge you NOT to disclose your diagnosis to your supervisor or coworkers.
In the 1990s, I found out that I could take BuSpar–a non-addictive mild anti-anxiety pill–thought to help with the PMS. Ask your female doctor if this could help you. I can’t diagnosis any condition or prescribe or recommend any drug.
Yet I write about my experience in the early 1990s as an administrative assistant to make the case for not disclosing your diagnosis at any kind of office job.
In my memoir Left of the Dial I employed a sense of humor in detailing the functions of my administrative assistant job.
It was hell, hell, hell, and then some more hell.
I took the job so that I could kiss the SSI checks goodbye and afford to live in my own apartment apart from “the system.”
With so much of the moods a young person could have and the severity of symptoms at that stage of recovery I understand how hard it can be to just exist in recovery doing the best you can at that age.
In my second nonfiction book I’ll talk about this in more detail.
I’ll end here and in the coming blog entries give you a preview of the information contained in the second book.
No one else is going to tell you these things yet someone has to.
Up next I’ll talk about one of the most awful words in the dictionary: commute.
The commute you have to and from work can also be hell when you’re just starting out.
I have ideas about how to manage that too.