Getting back on the horse: Job hunting with a mental illness

Getting back on the horse: Job hunting with a mental illness

Job hunting is a hard task that we all must accomplish at multiple points in our lives. It can be stressful, irritating and become massive a monster feeding our insecurities. It’s simply not that easy and often has us screaming into the air about out our predicament.

But magnify that by a million and you’ll get a clear idea of what it’s like for someone who lives with a mental illness attempting to find work and rebuild their life from the bottom up.

It’s hard. Extremely hard.

 There are moments where hopelessness takes control and it seems like the world is about to end or that there’s no reason to keep going. You feel helpless, fear creeping in and desperation taking root. It’s as if the world is conspiring against you and there’s no point in making any effort in your life.

There are days that you can’t function like a normal person and have no motivation to do anything. That’s okay. There will be moments where hiding from the world is the only option, while you put yourself together and that’s okay too. There’s no shame in any of this.

You know that you’re intelligent, hard working, knowledgeable, skilled and experienced, but there’s a sense of dread that you’ll never get back on that workhorse which you once proudly rode through life. This is something that has to be fought every day, by taking one step at a time, such as prepping your resume, connecting with recruiters, researching different techniques to get yourself out there. It’s tough, but it can be done.

Trust me. I am writing this from experience and I’m still going through it. No one is alone in this.
I am a nearly 34-year-old woman living with mental illness. I am also a woman who’s working harder than the average joe to just to survive, to find my peace and be successful in my life. Admittedly, it’s hard, but at the same time, there’s a little part of me that keeps screaming to keep going and to make sure my dreams success become a reality.

There have been times when I’ve cried in a recruiters’ office out of frustration, I have cried at home and isolated myself from friends and family because I felt as if I as a failure. I felt that I had failed myself, considering everything that I have to offer employers and the world. I was tired of fighting my mental illness and trying to prove to employers that I’m amazing.

Since moving to Toronto a few years ago for better career opportunities, I have done nothing but contract work and temporary work. It’s not ideal, but a lot of it has put a great deal of experience in my pocket, yet at the same time, some employers question some of the gaps in my resume. It’s exasperating. I have been as open and honest about the gaps being largely a result of not being able to put everything on my resume (I keep what’s relevant).

However, what I can’t tell them is some of my gaps are a direct result of mental illness and my having to be forced into addressing it through various means, such as therapy. There have been moments that I wanted to scream that my mental health has been a full-time priority and I want to prove my value to a company doing a job that utilizes all of my skills and experiences.

It sucks and employers can be so condescending, unforgiving and judgemental about those gaps. I know this by first-hand experience. I have had at least two employers grill me or reject me over my resume gap/trajectory. It didn’t matter how I explained it with valid reasons and showing how much I would be an asset, they still looked down their nose at me, despite my being more qualified than the other candidate. In other cases, employers simply loved me and knew I could be successful in the role that I was interviewing for. Ultimately, they just didn’t want to hire me for whatever their “real” reasons were.
The constant rejection that I’ve received from positions that I am more than skilled and experienced for has taken a toll on my mental health. It’s been hard because there are days I just want to stand in the streets yelling at the top of my lungs screaming that I’m amazing and that I am good enough, because I am.

Unfortunately, the result is that I backslide into the abyss of my mental health problems. My Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic and Anxiety disorders kick in and eat at my brain (figuratively, of course) and my mind goes into overdrive. I start believing that I’m not good enough, that no one will give me a chance and that I’ll never succeed and finally live my life happily. There have been moments that I felt that nothing was worth it and that I just didn’t want to live any longer, but I force myself to keep going because I knew better.

But here’s the truth.

My thoughts are lies. Everything that the constantly chattering mind tells me when I’m struggling is untrue and has no place in my life. I am not worthless and I’m not disliked. Despite the fact I’m not where I had hoped to be in life, it doesn’t mean I won't get there. I just have to keep trying, keep going until someone says: “ you know, we like you and would love for you to contribute to the success of our team.”

I’m going to get that sooner rather than later. I promise.

I know that job hunting isn’t easy, especially when mental illness is involved and starts twisting reality. I have been climbing out from the bottom for so long, but I just have to keep trying and working hard. The truth is, it’s not impossible. Everything is possible…Trust me on this, especially since I’m certainly not the eternal optimist presently. One must keep pushing and showing ones’ worth to the world.

Employers shouldn’t judge a person on gaps or the career path because from what I have seen, it’s fairly common these days. We are all expected to be flexible and change direction at the drop of a hat, especially us millennials (even more so us older millennials).

Here’s the thing that keeps my head above water and hopeful about my career prospects, especially on the days that I’m scared to touch my computer; I have a lot of skills and experience to offer. No amount of mental illness will stop me, as long as I don’t let it because I am stronger than the thoughts that run through my head. I am focussed on making my life better. I know I’m worth the effort and that I can prove that I am valuable to this world.

So here are a few things I want to share if you are struggling with mental illness and seeking employment:

  • You are worth every effort that you make and deserve nothing but the best
  • Keep working on your well-being and seeking out your happiness, even if it’s in the smallest things
  • Don’t let rejections from employers deter, keep going forward
  • Rejections don’t define you
  • Don’t listen to the negative thoughts in your head; they are lies
  • Reach out to someone if you’re really struggling and get the guidance/support
  • Be strong, because you are strong
  • Keep getting back on that horse; it’s waiting for you to reign it in
  • You aren’t your mental illness, so don’t let it define you
  • It’s okay to have days where you don’t do anything and just want to curl up on the couch

Here’s the thing, it’s going to be hard and it might be scary at times, but with the right support around you nothing is impossible. Believe me, it’s the reason why I keep going. I have the right support, I’m getting the right help and the fact that I am a stubborn mule, supports the fact that I won’t give up, even at my lowest points.

So whatever you do, don’t give up.

Published by Amy Koda

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