When Your Personality Disorder Means You're Unable To Work

Since I was a teenager I had never not worked - after my diagnosis, I decided I wouldn’t be able to work a ‘normal’ job until I had the right skills
Inti St Clair via Getty Images

If you had asked me a month ago about working with mental health illnesses, I would have told you a different story. I have always managed to work through my condition of anxiety and depression with occasional absent time from work. As we move towards World Mental Health Day on 10 October, celebrated and supported by Prince William, its important to realise that conditions vary and therefore so does the support and ability of those to work.

Having worked since I was 15, working my way through school and college as a waitress in restaurants and pubs and then moving into administration roles, I have never not worked. I worked throughout the pregnancies of both my children, and went back to work full-time after one and part-time after the second. I love working, because I love learning. Having never really been aware of why I changed jobs and departments so frequently, usually for a promotion or pay rise, I just thought that was how everyone was, always after the next project. My enthusiasm only lasted so long before winding down and fearing that those I worked with disliked me, and often felt everyone wanted me to leave.

In January this year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), which, amongst many other symptoms, includes mood swings, fear of dislike and abandonment and changing jobs and relationships frequently. With the diagnosis under my belt, I thought I would fit into work with no problems now, but the same events followed and it wasn’t until I met with my psychiatrist, that he explained until I was given help with tools to use, I would struggle to change my behaviours and patterns of thinking. I would have several good days, and then for no reason, doubts would creep in and my anxiety would wreck havoc with my inner thoughts, leaving my unable to leave the house.

Last week I decided that for me personally, I wouldn’t be able to work a ‘normal’ job until I had the right skills in place. I am currently on a waiting list for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which will help to teach me better ways to cope with my feelings and emotions. Lots of people can be supported through work with a mental health illness, some of us, like me, will need to learn skills and form new habits in order to begin to live a life which is more balanced. According to the Mind website: “DBT also helps you to change unhelpful behaviours, but it differs from CBT in that it also focuses on accepting who you are at the same time. DBT places particular importance on the relationship between you and your therapist, and this relationship is used to actively motivate you to change.”

So for now, I like so many others, must find different kinds of work. Work that is fluid, with ups and downs, in control of my own diary and time, something where I am not letting others down, but still motivated each day to achieve something. Ultimately I want to help others and work in environment that I am safe in. Here’s hoping that when the DBT starts I too can show how we can find adaptable roles so we can be utilised and exceed in society today.