When you are diagnosed with a mental illness, the definition of who you are and what you are capable of is often squashed into a stereotype-shaped box. Without asking about the unique ways your illness affects you, many job applications are immediately put onto the toss pile because you admitted you occasionally had anxiety or suffered from depression. If you throw in a word like bipolar or schizophrenia, then you can be sure that your chances of employment are minimised even further.
If you wish to travel internationally you need a letter from your doctor declaring that you are fit to do so and that the medication in your luggage is prescribed. I once wanted to teach English in Taiwan but couldn’t even make the first round because of my diagnosis. I understand that there are risks involved when you have a mental illness. Of course there are. Just like there are risks involved when you have diabetes or epilepsy. However, these illnesses don’t exclude you from the same opportunities, even though they pose just as much risk in certain working environments, such as a classroom.
Fortunately, I have never really given a shit about taboos and stereotypes. Even before I found out about my own diagnosis, I would (and still do) get to know people on an individual level, entirely separate from the identity slapped on their file by others. Just because someone is in prison, doesn’t mean he is “of bad blood,” he may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A highly successful CEO of a massive corporate (and a lovely family man) could be a far more dangerous sociopath. What you see isn’t always what you get. And that works both ways. I may be naïve to always give people the benefit of the doubt. But I guess it’s because I hope it’s what they will do for me.
Then again, this hasn’t always worked in my favour. My innocent faith in someone that others walked away from blew up in my face more than once. And allowing the ones I love to expect more from me than I could possibly give…well…that didn’t end fantastically either.
I’m a smart girl and those pesky IQ tests you do in school lifted my parents hopes far higher than my little feet would ever take me. With that level of intelligence, we were told, I could be anything I wanted. A doctor. An engineer. A fucking astronaut. [Read more…]