Vocational Rehabilitation

The vocational rehabilitation office is in this building.
Today I had my first appointment with my vocational rehabilitation counselor, in the morning, before I had to go to work. At the beginning of my counseling session, I gave her my resume, my psychiatrist's name, number, and address, the dates of my last hospitalization for bipolar disorder, as well as my driver's license and Social Security card to copy. She said that I got into the vocational rehabilitation system so quickly because I am receiving Social Security Disability, and am five months into my trial work period, which only lasts for nine months. Then she signed me up for the Ticket to Work program, which waives my Social Security medical review while I am working with her agency.

Next, she asked me about my recent work experience. Currently, I am working part-time as the Director of Administration for a small chain of restaurants. I would like to work full-time, as I love my job, but the company is not growing as quickly as was expected, so it may be a long time before I will be able to work full-time. I have interviewed for two other positions this summer. I didn't get the first job I applied for, and I am waiting to hear on the second job. The second job would be a six-month contract job, in which I would write a training manual for a chemical company--possibly very interesting, but not a full-time job.

I briefly went over my resume, which includes my entire work history, with the counselor. She advised me to only list my last three positions:  Director of Administration, Business Consultant, and Teacher, and then describe them in detail. When I told her that I want to disclose my disability so that I can ask for some accommodations at work, she said that I don't need to tell potential employers about my diagnosis. Instead, after the job offer, I should say that I will have some ongoing medical appointments, and let the employer know that I will have to miss an hour or two a few times a month. If they retract their offer for that reason, they will be breaking the law. They could come up with another reason not to hire me, but that is the risk I will have to take. Then she promised to get some information about the Americans with Disabilities Act together for me, by our next meeting, so I will be better informed of my rights as a worker with a disability.

Trying to squeeze in appointments with my psychiatrist and therapist on holidays, as I did in the past, is stressful, and really doesn't help me to manage my bipolar disorder very well. I have finally concluded that I need to be able to go to my psychiatrist and therapist as needed, and I shouldn't worry about asking to miss work in order to take care of myself. When I reflect on my life, I think that part of the reason it has been difficult for me to maintain my mental health, at times, is that I always tried to hide the fact that I have health issues. There were many years that I wasn't keeping regular appointments, because I was afraid of asking for too much time off from work, when I think the appointments really would have helped to prevent disabling breakdowns.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience as a survivor of bipolar disorder. You are part of the network of individuals that daily gives me motivation as I struggle with the illness. It is important for me to make my struggle as public as our society will allow. I have been encouraging others with the illness to wear the comedy/tragedy mask in some form (e.g., jewelry, etc.) as a symbol of solidarity and our first step out of the closet. Take care of yourself.

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  2. It is very important for us to share our stories. It helps us to fight the stigma attached to mental illness, and also allows us to help each other. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I agree that hiding our illness makes it much harder for us to take the time we need to manage it successfully. It's great you are claiming your right to care for yourself.

    I am working on the Links page of my blog and added you there: http://www.bipolarspirit.com/p/links.html

    I hope that is ok. If not just let me know.

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  4. Thanks! Both of the people who commented on this post are bloggers, and I plan to read both of your blogs!

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  5. Anonymous8/05/2011

    thank you so much for sharing this! It hits home for me!

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  6. Anonymous8/05/2011

    I am so glad you are "blogging!" You have so much to share and are doing a wonderful job of doing so. I have long admired your honesty, thoughtfulness and courage. Keep writing!!!

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  7. Thank you! I am definitely going to keep it up!

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  8. Anonymous10/19/2011

    Ah! Fitting in the doctor and therapist appointments. I am moving to a new city and entering an accelerated BSN program. It has been very difficult to find treaters who can accomodate my wild schedule. But I did convince two to take me on! If my schedule at school became impossible for me to see my pdoc or therapist, I would slow down the program. My health and sanity is worth more to me than another degree!

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  9. Good luck. It is very important to put your health first. Really, anybody should do that, but if you are dealing with a chronic condition it is a must.

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