What It’s like to have a Hidden Disability

I just watched an internet segment on ABC meteorologist Ginger Zee’s struggle with depression and decision to be open about it to help others with her new memoir Natural Disaster. It reminds me how many of us are hiding in our careers because of a hidden disability or disease. The stigma that prevents us from reaching out and getting help and the fear of losing our jobs if we do.

I lost my career in journalism many years ago because of my bipolar disorder. The day I got fired and the events that escalated into another manic episode landing me in a fifth hospitalization. Had I not been afraid to tell my editors what was really going on with me things might have been different. Had I known what was going on and not been in denial. Had my editors had training in mental health education and resources perhaps I might have had a different ending.

After ten years or so since this job, I have held little work, nothing that suits my strengths of helping people and writing their stories to show a different kind of hope in this world. The closest I have come is with this blog. While I make no money blogging, I do it for love and to share stories of hope, survival, and courage.

After that fateful day, the day I got fired, I eventually went back and received two Master’s degrees one in writing and one in library science. I knew writing would always be merely a hobby so I tried to get a job in a library. I met resistence when after completing an internship at a public library I was asked by my supervisor what was wrong with me. This question came out of nowhere. I tearfully confided my struggles with mental health issues and bipolar disorder. Since then, my applications to libraries across my state have been declined. I thought working in a library would provide the salary and benefits desperately needed by my husband and I. Right now, I get Medicaid for which I am extremely grateful, but due to a state budget crisis my benefits might end.

No one understands that the anxiety I go through when I go on job interviews. No one understands the pain I go through when I don’t get the job. I want to work. I want to do meaningful work using my skills and gifts. It’s just no one understands what its like being discriminated against because of my hidden disability.

I am not lazy or stupid like the Republicans say. I am able-bodied and can and want to work. It is just this world doesn’t want to hire people like me. I wish there was a job that involved research and writing and digital literacy that I am eligible for but a deep internet search has revealed nothing at all, at least not in the state of Connecticut.

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