Tuesday, June 30, 2009

-ability

I have been a nervous wreck all week preparing for my interview for Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at West Chester University, which was today. When all is said and done, I think the interview went fine and I made a good impression. I was not prepared, however, for the anxiety that came afterwards when my thoughts of "what if I don't get the job?" turned to "what if I DO!?" I spent the rest of the afternoon with Debbie walking around West Chester (which is a beautiful town--think State College, Manayunk, and Doylestown all rolled together) and stopping in Borders and getting caught up reading Get It Done When You're Depressed by Julie Fast (author of Loving Someone with Bi Polar Disorder).

It seems there are two kinds of depression--the depression that causes lethargy, and the depression that causes anxiety. I have always been prone to the first, but have been struggling with the second lately--which is new for me. Given that I have been going through a large number of changes and life stressors in the past year (moving, changing jobs, interviewing for jobs, finishing school, getting hit by a car, new relationship, introduction to new family, entertaining the thought of marriage, etc.) I think it is only natural to be experiencing some anxiety, so I am cutting myself some slack and, as Tim says, "being kind to myself." Nevertheless, I feel the familiar cognitive distortions, overgeneralizations, emotional reasoning, etc., that hints at depression underlying a lot of this anxiety.

The job at West Chester is everything I've been hoping to find. And what are my thoughts now that it's here? "I can't do it. They'll realize I'm a fraud. Who am I to direct other people? I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not outgoing enough." Etc. Clinically speaking, I know this is depression talking. 99 good things about myself and all I can see is the 1 flaw, a flaw that may or may not even have any bearing on my ability to carry out the work this job entails.

But it still looms large. A diagnosis can feel like a branding sometimes. Just google my name and the article in The Philadelphia Weekly on The Urban Hermitage Project comes up, which mentions that I am bi-polar. It is kind of like having an STD. Then again, Debbie googled my name before we started dating, and saw the article, and still wanted to go out with me (if not more so, for curiosity's sake). Taking this into account in the prospective job search, I think about what my friend Tim told me, "if someone found out you were bi polar and wouldn't hire you for that reason, is that a place you would really want to be working for anyway?" He has a point, and I need to remind myself of this.

Bi polar disorder can be (and is) considered a disability, but it is a disability I have learned to live with--and not only live with, but to thrive with (or in spite of); it is as much an ability as a dis-ability. I may have a different set of limitations, but that doesn't make me any different or less capable than the next person for fulfilling the demands that a job may entail.

I am proud of all I have accomplished in spite of my illness. I recently obtained my master's degree after five grueling years of part-time schooling in addition to working full-time. I have written articles and been published in various periodicals and websites. I rode my bicycle across the country. I have kept my faith. Having to battle to keep depression and mania at bay will continue to be an ongoing struggle for me--in the workplace and in every other place in my life--but it is my own struggle, and I own it, and will continue to accomplish what I can in spite of it.

I often thank Debbie for "taking a chance on me." If she didn't, we wouldn't be where we are. I hope I can extend the same kind of thanks to WCU in the next couple weeks. If they will take a chance on me, I am pretty confident I can say I would return the favor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's quite likely that you will already know about Stephen Fry's marvelous documentary on bipolar disorder. But just in case you have not yet watched it, it's available in numbered segments on YouTube, beginning here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nXgZlvjkAo