Since my health often fluctuates, I find it difficult to hold down a stable job, or be part of an educational program that requires attendance. At some times, I feel so capable, ready to take on the world, energetic and happy. However, these amazing times only last for so long before my body fatigues and gives up on me. When I reach this crashing state, I usually am so ill I can barely leave the house, thus making it impossible to maintain any work or school commitments.
I have always seen myself as a reliable person, but my fluctuations in health have made me an unreliable student and employee. I find myself jumping from job to job, and missing many days at school. This is something I struggle with because I have always felt that reliability was a part of my identity. I feel that all the ups and downs have resulted in me becoming an unreliable person, and it makes me feel conflicted and upset that I am not living up to my responsibilities.
For example, today I had to quit my retail job – a job I loved going to. I really enjoyed putting together outfits for customers, or helping them find a particular item in the store. My perfectionistic love for organization and order made folding and hanging clothes genuinely enjoyable. Plus, my coworkers were all friendly and amazing people who were fun to work with. There were times of stress, and things like the occasional difficult customer, but overall, the job was great.
I was kind of heartbroken when I called the managers and told them I had to quit because of health reasons. I felt so upset that I was letting all my coworkers down in the prime of holiday season – the busiest time of the retail year. I hated that I had to be unreliable, not giving two-weeks notice, but quitting when I was supposed to be at a shift later that day. Thankfully they were really understanding, but that feeling of conflict still lingered within me.
This is when I realized, I need to shift my definition of what it means to be reliable by focusing on how I can be reliable within my unreliability. A good example is communicating my needs with employers, and teachers at school. I have always shied away from revealing my disorders to people in a position of authority because there is always the fear of getting fired or kicked out of a program. There is still a lot of stigma about mental illness, and when people hear balance disorder, they come to their own conclusions about what that entails. However, we all face difficulties in life, health-related or not, and by honing the way I communicate my disorders to these higher ups, perhaps I can tap into that commonality of imperfection within all human beings, thus eliciting greater understanding.
Finally, I must not forget the importance of being reliable towards myself. Sticking to my routine, healthy diet, yoga, exercise, and meditation is of utmost importance, and is usually neglected when I am attempting to be reliable for work or school. Although I may not be the most reliable student or employee, I need to learn to commit to myself and my health before committing to these external roles.