How do I aspire to overcome significant barriers to employment?
January 15, 2015 4:59 PM   Subscribe

I have Type 1 bipolar, which in practice means I've had 3 episodes of mania (between 2002 and 2005, 9 months total in hospital) then relative stability but regular low moods and trouble with motivation. I haven't worked since 2005 (previous questions here always had me feeling about 12 months away but I never got closer, partly because I chose to stay in a relationship and be a carer in a situation where I couldn't then get out to do training or voluntary work). I will soon be able to access more help but getting back to work seems a mountain to climb when I am so used to being long-term unemployed and getting into that rut where even doing the laundry or taking out the trash can feel like an effort.

I see quoted unemployed rates for bipolar people of 45-65% (though perhaps some are unmedicated? I have been meds-compliant since 2005 which gives me a little optimism versus that rate). So I will have quite a task on my hands and feel little self-confidence and find it hard to motivate myself. In theory I am very motivated as I would love to stay in an apartment in an area I felt safe (there was a stabbing less than a mile from me yesterday in an area with lots of social housing, if I stayed on benefits and was allocated housing in a similar area I think I would always be anxious). However the theoretical motivation seems to wilt from my low self-esteem and fear of failure. How can I motivate myself to aspire to do all the work needed to be in employment again and to beat these difficult unemployment rate odds?

Just to clarify, my long-term relationship has broken down but I remain in the same apartment until social work appoint carers (my ex has chronic fatigue syndrome as well as panic and anxiety disorder and social work are needed basically as my ex cannot work and could not afford private carers, she must wait for the ones paid for by, I think, local government). Then I will need to either move into private accommodation, where I could not stay indefinitely without finding a job, or be housed in social housing where I would be secure and not get thrown out so long as I kept paying rent but where I worry I would be fearful about leaving the house at nights and so get very socially isolated.
posted by AuroraSky to Work & Money (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Okay, if it helps, most people who are job hunting have low confidence and low self esteem, and the jobhunting process tends to annihilate any sense of self worth they had left, because it's a process of repeated rejection.

It's not confidence that will get you a job, it's persistence.

Also, if I have to do something I'm not motivated to do (and who wants to look for a job, ugh! that might result in my getting a job, and then I'll have to go to work! It's a no-win situation!) I set a timer for 20 minutes, work till it goes off, then take a 10 minute break. Rinse and repeat.

If you have contact with social services I suggest asking them for advice about finding work - there might be sources of advice available to you that you wouldn't otherwise know about.
posted by tel3path at 5:10 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As soon as you're off the hook for your current carer role, can you then start by volunteering somewhere on a regular (at least weekly) basis? That will get you back into the rhythm of going to "work" on a schedule and "working" on various productive tasks. Ideally, the experience you gain there and contacts you make can later be used as a reference when seeking paid employment.

Since you've got a lot of inertia to overcome to get started, I would start by volunteering for something that you know you'd really look forward to and jump out of bed to go do. Like, if you love animals, maybe you could volunteer as a dog walker or cat socializer at a local shelter. Then later once you're in the habit of adhering to a schedule and leaving the houses regularly to do stuff you might try adding volunteer work that helps build relative work experience.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:16 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: YES. JACQUELINE'S IDEA IS THE BEST. It's easier to force yourself to do things you like!!! And it's great for people getting back into work.
posted by tel3path at 5:53 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can show up on time, work while you're on the clock, and follow instructions you're ahead of a lot of people. My boss went through innumerable temps this way...

When you're ready to start working again, temping might actually be good. Work for a few days at a time and build up to longer stints. It also lets you scope out which places are a good/bad fit for you. I've had gigs from a couple days to a couple months, and two solid job offers over the years.... Which eliminates "looking for work" (which is yes awful).
posted by jrobin276 at 6:50 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have Bipolar 1 as well, and I am employed in my chosen career field. The thing that makes getting up and fighting the depression worth it is that my work brings me joy and satisfaction. I would feel worse without it. So the advice to volunteer is good. Find something that really gives you satisfaction. Your local library may have some project just waiting for the right volunteer to come along.
Good luck.
posted by Biblio at 7:31 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a few suggestions:

-Contact "Home Group" and see what services they offer near you. They support people with mental health issues (in addition to lots of other support needs) and basically a project worker would meet with you and work with you to set goals and then work with you to meet those goals. This would give you access to lots more resources. There are other organizations of this type but this is the one I know of. Here is the link to service finder:

-work towards getting a drivers license, if you don't already have one. One thing that really annoyed me about the UK when I lived there was how difficult it was for people on benefits/low income to obtain a drivers license due to the cost of lessons... I felt that it made social mobility very difficult since without a license you are restricted to jobs in a very small area. With a drivers license you would be able to work in one town and live in another, work in various locations, you could even work as a carer- which can pay very well! If I were in your shoes I would do just about anything to get a license!

-Finally, you will (unless things have changed in the last 3 years) have a big mental hurdle to climb when it comes to blending work and benefits... because of how your benefits are impacted by your income, it can be a while before you see any tangible benefit to working. But I really can say, in my experience, people who work (even a tiny bit) have a reason to get up in the morning and increased self esteem.

I think you are doing sooooo great!
posted by catspajammies at 11:14 PM on January 15, 2015

Best answer: Having read a couple of your previous questions, I'm glad your situation is going to improve soon and I'm really crossing my fingers for you!

I don't have much concrete advice to offer you since I'm not sure what things are like in your area, but I want to nth the idea of volunteering somewhere that you're excited about. When I was unemployed, anxious and depressed, volunteering at a local toy library was what helped me most to get back on my feet. It helped that most of the other volunteers were lovely older ladies who kind of helped to resocialise me.

You already know this, I guess, but the other important thing is to find a balance between not being too hard on yourself (pushing too hard to get everything done, not letting yourself have a break on hard days) and letting yourself slide along (an afternoon break slips into several days not doing anything, the laundry piles up until it's horrible to think about starting it). I wish I had a simple answer to this. I do think having a routine helps with everything else, even if it's just three mornings a week. Do you know anyone else looking for a job etc. in your area, or if not, maybe you'll meet somebody once you start volunteering? Maybe you could set up a time to get together once a week for coffee and mutual support on applications.
posted by daisyk at 11:59 PM on January 15, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all for the info and especially for the support. I did have a driving license in the past and know I'd be eligible again having had such a long period of stability so I will pursue that. I will be getting some support from a non-profit when I start living solo so one of the things I will be asking them is whether voluntary work, temp work or a blend of both is the best way to start. In the initial phase I am not worried about money at all I just want some current work experience and the all-important reference. I need to think about what things I really like to do I sort of fell into office work in my younger days but maybe I should look afresh.
posted by AuroraSky at 8:00 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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