The Steps I Took to Get Back to WorkBy Glenn SlabyPutting Myself Out There Led to Personal Growth
As a husband and father with a BS in accounting and an MBA in management, losing the capacity to support your loved ones and the ability to use skills developed over years of work was devastating. It’s as if a piece of one’s soul has been taken away.
Mental illness manifested itself beyond the control of doctors, prescription medications and my willpower. Working as an accountant, before and after my diagnosis, the aggressiveness and specific attitude needed to succeed was not part of my makeup, even though there were accomplishments. Subsequently, unemployment exacerbated my symptoms and brought on hospitalizations. I lost the ability to be a constructive individual. Many fields of employment were available, but I was too focused on the business world, which can be cruel and lack any sense of loyalty.
During my fifth hospital stay, back in 2004, one doctor re-examined my condition. I had been misdiagnosed, on the wrong medications and combinations for the last twelve years. I was lucky. It could’ve been a lot worse. There were many missteps, including thoughts and actions of self-harm, and testing faith, which changed fate. My stable foundation—family, friends, home life, church—withstood the agonizing struggles.
Many things are not taught in the classroom, but through therapy, aptitude tests, IPRT (Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment), DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), etc., I learned the significance of really knowing myself. The skills learned should’ve been taught to most of my managers. Meet others who work in your fields of interest. Never forget the expertise of good therapy.
My priorities, through goal- and skill-identification, led to a better understanding of possible jobs. Goals with the right limits, different for each individual, led to important aspects of a better life, including greater job satisfaction, bringing independence, growth and self-confidence. Many factors will make an employment experience the right one at the right time in one’s life, but no job will have all the right pieces. Compromise. Feeling good at the end of the day or week as if you really accomplished something means you may have a second home. A nice paycheck from a miserable job can be damaging.
There are worlds where creative, imaginative skills can apply. Hobbies may lead to new adventures. I found placement in those new spheres. My primary goals led to jobs where getting out of bed and to work was not a hardship or detrimental to my mental, physical or spiritual health.
What Management Can Do
There are many employee responsibilities, but employers must understand their obligations. W. Edwards Deming, who helped transform/restore the destroyed Japanese industries after World War II, offered 14 key principles to management for improving the effectiveness of an organization. Failure harms the company, the individual and their family. Paraphrasing those principles related to employees:
Drive out fear;
Institute leadership: supervisors must aim toward quality, help people do a better job;
Create constancy of purpose toward improvement;
Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality—it should be built into the production process;
Remove barriers between departments and people—employees must work as a team;
Eliminate slogans, quotas, and targets because they create adversarial relationships. Most errors are due to the production process lying beyond employees’ influence;
Remove barriers robbing employees of pride of workmanship; and
Institute job training programs of continuous education and self-improvement.
Starting off Small
With the correct diagnosis, I began taking small steps toward normalcy. The fog encompassing my mind and spirit was slowly dissipating even though other hidden mental health issues would surface. I have a great interest in books and all those wonderful words, so I decided to walk into the local library and ask for a volunteer position seeking a small haven, a relief from constant painful thoughts. Surprisingly, it did not seem like a humbling, embarrassing step, but a new beginning with new co-workers being welcoming, patient and friendly.
One day, two managers approached me and spoke some words I haven’t heard in years: would I like to become a paid, part-time employee. Words couldn’t describe the joy of being valued, wanted and useful. I stayed a number of years, coinciding with my current job, again part-time, working with fellow consumers at the hospital where I receive mental health services.
Moving forward as a consumer and returning to work was more enhancing to my well-being than any medications or therapies, which are still needed. Getting there, however, is a long and arduous process. Faith helped greatly. Now, I focus on my health and see where the future takes me. Writing, perhaps? Nothing lasts forever and, with difficulty, I try to be satisfied with the present. Changes can mean nothing, or everything, lead to greater opportunities, enjoyment, or a new job. Have spiritual faith and patience.