When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia back in 2000, I was determined that in no way it would affect my plans for my life. At the time I was in my second year of college studying pre-med courses. I had done reasonably well in my first year of college even with an undiagnosed mental illness. I figured that I would fight through this with very little problem. Man, I was wrong. After failing Organic Chemistry and having to drop a Calculus class, I was faced with some serious decisions to make. I was also facing a mental illness that was getting worse with each passing day. After half of a spring semester in 2001 of struggling to even make it to classes, let alone do well, I found myself in danger of flunking out entirely. This was a serious blow to my ego and self confidence as I always prided myself on my grades and academic accomplishments. At mid term, I made the painful decision to drop all of my classes and take a few months off.
After approximately six weeks on the mend, I started working again. In spite of my problems I never lost sight of the goal of graduating from college. I knew that because of my failures in my science classes I would be forced to change directions. It was gut wrenching for my dream of going into medical research to die. I decided that I would study primarily business management for two reasons 1) I believed that it would make me employable once I left college even though I had no true business or sales experience or even ability. 2) Even though I loved both history and english, I thought that I could study those on my own and I really had little desire to teach once I left college. As a result I ended up earning a degree in a job field I really had no aptitude for. Sure I learned some interesting things that helped me later in life once I had to live on a very limited budget. But I never did use my degree in any kind of career.
One of the odd, and sad, things about my mental illness is that I retained almost all of my intelligence and problem solving skills while I completely lost my ability to manage stress, understand ‘office politics’, and relate to people as would be needed in a workplace environment. Most people meeting me for the first time would never suspect I was mentally ill and can’t understand why I have had such problems in the workplace. Because I don’t look like the stereotypical mentally il person, at least as the public understands mental illness, I used to get a great deal of ‘you’re not working hard enough’ or ‘you’re too lazy’ or ‘you just don’t play the game right’ and on and on. Sadly, in America, we are often defined by what we do to make money. I don’t know what it’s like in other nations. But defining someone by their paid work, or lack thereof, is a really lousy way to measure some one up for their intrinsic worth.
While I enjoyed my time working for the county courthouse as a custodian for the four years I did it, I was ready for something else. After a few false starts, I think I found what I really enjoy doing in blogging and my other writings. Sure they don’t pay the bills, and likely never will. But it does give me a sense that I’m doing something positive for the small corner of the universe I’m in.