As is true with many of us who can manage to work only part-time while dealing with bipolar disorder, I was always one paycheck away from financial disaster.
Then the checks stopped coming.
When my main source of work dried up, that financial disaster loomed closer. I knew that it was time to try to go back to regular work. Full-time. Outside in the world, if need be, rather than in my home office, in my jammies.
Looking for work was a job in itself (https://wp.me/p4e9wS-zY). It turns out I’m overqualified for many things and underqualified for others, sometimes both at once.
And the specter of bipolar reared its fearsome head. Even if I found full-time work, could I do it? Especially out there where it’s all people-y? It’s been years since I’ve worked in such an environment and my last few years at it did not go well, as I was beginning to slide into a major, long-lasting bipolar depressive episode.
Looking for work at home was not much better. Even telephone jobs (customer service or order handling, please, not sales) required some experience and my Girl Scout cookie days were back when we still thought it was safe to go door-to-door. When I responded to work-from-home jobs, many of them turned out to be Uber or Lyft, which is hardly the same as work-at-home, if you ask me.
I found a couple of small gigs to tide me over. Then I found one that was really promising.
They warned me during the phone interview that I was vastly overqualified. I told them that this kind of job was exactly what I needed at this point in my life and please to keep me in mind if any of the other candidates washed out.
The job was with a transcription service, proofing scripts of meetings and reports that other people had typed up from audio files. But there wasn’t much of it, and it didn’t pay very well.
Then they asked me if I would move up to typing. And whether I would do it full-time.
Those were separate questions. I’m not a fast or good typist. I never took typing in high school (though I discovered that I needed it once I got into college). All these years I’ve been faking it, looking at the keyboard and using at most six or seven fingers to type with. But I said I’d try and I did. I’ve been sweating over these typing jobs and they take me lots longer than they do for other, ten-fingered, trained typists, but I’ve been hitting my deadlines.
Full-time was another issue. I said I’d try, with the understanding that I’d go back to part-time if I couldn’t handle it. It’s certainly been a challenge, forcing myself to spend six or more hours at the keyboard five days a week (and then using my days off to write blogs and work on my novel). It’s exhausting. But at least I’m still in my jammies and ready to go to bed afterward.
And I’ve learned a few things. One is “Never volunteer.” Often the company has extra work with even tighter deadlines that pay more per minute and are up for grabs. I made the mistake of grabbing a couple. It nearly did me in, combined with my regular work. (I did get an Amazon gift card for working on the Fourth of July.) Full-time work is hard enough. Full-time plus is a meat-grinder, or I should say a me-grinder.
So now for the big question – did I disclose my bipolar disorder?
I did not. As long as could do the work, it didn’t seem relevant. Work-at-home is not the sort of gig where they make accommodations or modifications for those with disabilities. And if I can keep up my stability and relative mental health, and get time off for doctor’s appointments, my mental status shouldn’t be relevant.
But I’m thinking I may have to cut back to four days a week. Five days is running me ragged. And then in December, when I retire, I can give it up altogether or work only a couple of days a week.
I will have a fixed income, which has both good and bad points, but at least it will lift from me the crushing anxiety of “Will we make the mortgage this month?” (I never was able to get disability.)
So, for now at least, and for the next few months, I will be working full- or almost full-time, if only my bipolar disorder will let me.
Wish me luck.
(Full disclosure: That photo is not an actual representation of my writing space. Mine is littered with legal pads, stuffed animals, Kleenex, and water bottles.)