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How One Woman Is Learning To Accept Being Unable To Work Because Of Mental Illness

Brooke Gould is a 27-year-old woman who feels judged every single day. When people hear that she’s unemployed, the first thought that comes to mind is that she’s lazy and simply doesn’t want to work. On the contrary, she wants to work more than anything but it’s her mind that won’t allow her to. Gould shared her story on The Mighty, a digital health community, opening up about how she’s learning to accept her mental illness and what it means for her future in the workforce.

Gould was 22 when her life changed forever. She was diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar 2, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. Since her diagnosis, Gould’s struggled with the reality of needing to support herself but finding it nearly impossible to pull herself out of bed each morning. Gould has since gone on employment disability and says she’s learning to say that without feeling any shame.

‘I do ‘want’ to work,’ she wrote in her post, ‘but what you can’t see is a woman who takes two hours just to wake up and feel even the slightest fraction of a possibility of facing the day.’

She isn’t alone. In a series examining mental health in the workplace, The Globe and Mail reported that within a week at least 500,000 Canadians called in sick to work due to a mental health issue. Gould understands this better than anyone as she says the very thought of having to get out of bed, shower, get dressed and make her way to work is equivalent to running a marathon.

While employees with mental health issues are entitled to leave options, it’s not always that simple in the mind of someone who’s struggling. ‘If I cannot even rely on myself to wake up in the morning and be able to brush my teeth, I surely am not going to have someone employ me and then let them down as well,‘ Gould wrote.

Gould says she admires the people in her life who can get up every morning, regardless of what kind of day or night they’ve had; the people who don’t have anywhere to be, yet still find the motivation to get out of bed and start their day. ‘I look at these people and cannot understand how they don’t realize just how well off they are to be able to do such menial tasks and not become exhausted and ready to hop back into bed,’ she wrote.

According to Gould, looking for advice from those productive people has proved to be pretty useless. Gould says their advice always consists of a single word she finds extremely frustrating: routine. Although intended to be helpful, she says the word just comes off as patronizing. ‘Sorry, but it just does not work that way, and I hope you never have to experience this blackness and finally understand why it is not that simple,’ she wrote in her post.

Having to go on employment disability wasn’t something she wanted to do, but rather something she had to do in order to support herself. ‘I know in my heart I am not yet a capable employee, and I have to accept that and be OK with it,’ Gould wrote. ‘I would rather the occasional feelings of shame of disability payments than the guilt of taking a job from a perfectly capable employee somewhere.’

But it’s possible to get back out there, Brittany King, the founder of the nonprofit organization Foundation for the Future, told Glamour in an interview. King says when she graduated from college she was changing jobs every 6 to 12 months. ‘I just thought I kept getting bad jobs,’ she admitted. ‘I would sit for hours and not do anything. What I did produce was sloppy. I frequently got called into meetings to discuss my poor habits. I hated it.’ It wasn’t until she found the root of her problem that she was finally able to end the cycle. After seeing a psychiatrist, King says she discovered she’d been going through bouts of depression. ‘My undiagnosed depression kept me in a haze,’ she said. She went on to learn how to manage her mental illness and eventually became a successful career coach. ‘With the fog cleared from my life, I can help others find work they love,’ said King.

While King’s success story could be on the horizon for Gould, right now she’s just accepting where she is in her journey. ‘I am learning to feel somewhat ‘OK’ with saying, ‘I’m actually on disability, and not working currently. Though I do hope to someday achieve that goal of returning to the workforce.” She hopes that by recognizing her struggles and being okay with them, she will finally feel a sense of peace.

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