Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Will the stigma matter?

I'm trying something new for the first time in 6 years - I'm applying for acceptance into something besides disability or medicaid or some kind of mental health program.  I'm applying for a volunteer position.  It might as well be as nerve-wracking as applying for a job, because, by doctors' orders, I can't work anymore. I just can't handle the stress.  At the same time, I get very little socialization outside my family.  So, my therapist has become adamant that I get involved in some kind of social organization.  I'm too high-functioning for the groups they have at my mental health clinic, but I also don't have any local friends. So, yes, I'm sitting here blogging again.

And that, according to my therapist, is a good thing, but she thinks my psychosis is being exacerbated by a degree of isolation.  In other words, I'm having command hallucinations because I'm too much inside my own head. You just plain need social interaction to stay emotionally well-balanced.  So, today I applied to be a volunteer at a local animal shelter.  I love animals - they're great therapy - and I'd immediately have a love of animals in common with the staff and other volunteers.

So, what's this stigma I'm worried about?  Well, partially it's THE stigma of mental illness, especially schizophrenia.  On the application I actually used the more accurate but less common diagnosis of "schizoaffective disorder" because I didn't want to write down bipolar disorder AND schizophrenia.  *shiver*  But I also have an internal distrust of my own abilities (my own stigma) because I lost several jobs due to my illness.

Tonight, I'm asking myself two things - will they take one look at my application and get freaked out (even though I have a lot of experience and related skills) and can I handle it?  My therapist says just try it out and if it doesn't work out then I just quit.  But will I even get a chance with my illness and a lack of regular availability?  And I don't want to have to quit. I'd really like to be involved in a community of like-minded individuals. But my psychosis does make interactions more complicated for me.

In any case, it's a big step.  There's a giant 6 year gap in my resume (if that even matters anymore). It gives me great "paws" for thought.  Sorry, had to go for the pun.  I'm so nervous.  Maybe I'm worried about nothing, but it doesn't feel like nothing. It feels like a whole lot of something new and potentially awesome and potentially scary.  So, we'll see what transpires.  I do feel brave for even turning in the application and I know that at this point, I should be really proud of that.

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