Illnesses Like Schizophrenia, Bipolar, and Schizoaffective Disorder and Employment

Hello to all. Just wanted to let everyone know that I have a stock of my most popular book sitting, which is the story of my recovery from mental illness. Anyone interested in a copy please send an email to and once I get your details, I will sign and mail a copy for $26 Canadian (within Canada) or $22 US (within US, both with postage and tax included) Please support my efforts to decrease stigma and increase awareness of mental illness. Class sets available, and if you are in the media, evaluation copies can also be provided.


On to the meat of today’s blog:

So, I thought a good thing to talk about today would be jobs and employment and money. It is interesting to work on a blog that goes to so many parts of the world when often all I really know is Canada with some experience in the USA. In Canada, in my province, when a person is diagnosed with a severe mental illness and has no means of support, they go into a program called AISH which stands for Assured Income For the Severely Handicapped. Most people who are on it, at lease for the first few years as I definitely was, have no other income. I have found though, that once a person has found medications that work well for them, and have made connections in the community, there is often a fair number of jobs they can take on. One of my best jobs was working for the Union that handles labour for concerts as a stagehand and it was a great steppingstone to take me to where I could spend more time writing and teaching writing. It certainly wasn’t easy though, and if AISH didn’t have a policy where they allowed you to work part-time and still get not only the monetary supports, but the essential medications and health insurance they provide the disabled, I wouldn’t have been able to take on this job.

I remember my first day as a stagehand, it seemed impossible, and I didn’t even know if I would make it through the first day. I had a hard time dealing with not just how difficult the job was, but also with people I worked with who made things even more difficult. There was one woman who wasn’t a supervisor or a shop steward or anything who yelled at me for taking a donut from the coffee area one morning. I went to put it back and apologized and she said I had touched it now, I couldn’t put it back, I would have to throw it in the garbage. There were a lot of people like that in the union. I liked most of the people though, and I enjoyed being a part of concerts and such, but after seven years at it I had enough. I didn’t have any savings, but I had job opportunities that would help pay my bills. One of the main things that kept me going was that I had published my memoir, “Through the Withering Storm” and was having some success in selling it as well as a part-time job with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.

So, I started slow. I tried really hard to minimize my expenses, I even sold my car so I could focus on writing and teaching/facilitating and presenting mental health information for the Schizophrenia Society and any other place I could.

Really though, sometimes things come down to just having a place to go and something to do. I think maybe before even that though, a person should try and get connected to others within their community. I met a lot of people volunteering to write for our local community newspaper, and I also got a lot of great connections and experience doing so. One of the things I think a lot of people with mental illnesses perhaps don’t realize is that most of your recovery from an illness takes place out of the hospital, and just about all of it will depend on you.

Almost 20 years ago, I was in the hospital for an extended stay and I slowly recovered first by going for long walks outside with my dad every day, then becoming involved in my community by attending local events and making friends with the people I lived in the same group home with, then I got a part-time job. The job was the hardest part, and I think I might have been better off waiting more time before taking one on. I did okay with the work, but I kept having people tell me what to do and then still after that report me to my supervisor regardless of the fact that I knew what I should have been doing from working as a security guard for over 15 years. It became very difficult to go into work each day knowing that I was going to face people who had appointed themselves the status as my employer. Of course, as mentioned, the stagehand job was similar and there were many times I just wanted to walk away from the abuse in the middle of my shift and never come back. I have to say what got me through all those times that I didn’t even want to go into work was not just compliance to my treatment and medication, but also to having faith in a creator and learning how to clear my mind through meditation.

Work is still very difficult for me. I have problems with concentration and memory. But I believe that if a person keeps trying and keeps seeking new ways to adapt, anything is possible. I have started making a lot of notes and keeping a calendar so I don’t forget things. I also have put up a bulletin board above my computer so I can print up and post important papers to remind myself of them. Lastly, something I hope could benefit those that read this blog is that I don’t like to let the day go by without accomplishing something towards my goals. Having goals is a very powerful way of accomplishing things, but also committing to working towards them each and every day can take a person a long way towards huge achievements. It could be as small as writing a blog or as large as completing editing of a whole manuscript. I just have to work and reach out in some way, and I find if I push myself to do just a little that before I know it I will be comfortable taking on a lot. Thanks dear readers!

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