Op-ed: Daily life with mental illness

Jocelyn Sandusky, Reporter

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It is 6:30 p.m., 30 minutes before I have to start getting ready for work, and I am sitting on my bathroom floor, crying hysterically. I am desperately trying to do my deep breathing techniques to calm my anxiety but it seems impossible because it feels like my throat is closing shut. I cannot breathe and I am starting to hyperventilate. My heart begins to race and I am feeling increasingly weak. It feels like the room is closing in on me and I want to vomit.

I am not panicking because the sky is falling or the world is coming to an end. I am experiencing a panic attack because I am moments away from beginning my shift at a fast-food restaurant.

I know that may sound silly or ridiculous to some people because minimum wage jobs are easy and do not require a sophisticated set of skills. After all, entry-level jobs are so basic that even a kid in high school can do it.

But as someone who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder, even the simplest and easiest tasks can be struggle for me to accomplish. I know that I am not curing cancer or building rocket ships but working a fast pace job where I have to make everyone happy and get a long list of chores done sometimes feels impossible. 

That might make a moron in the eyes of some people, but the reality is my mental health conditions impair my ability to do my job at a level that others might expect from me. No matter how hard I try to suppress my symptoms, my job performance is always affected.

For example, when I get a long line of hungry people at 11 p.m., while I am working by myself, I cannot help but feel like everyone is staring me down and judging my every move. If I make one mistake, I get anxious and my hands begin shake. Then, my anxiety continues to build because I start to imagine all of the negative things that they could be saying about me because I cannot even make a simple sandwich.

I put so much pressure on myself to recover the time I lose because I do not want to let my co-workers or manager down, but it only exacerbates my symptoms.

I just do not want anyone, including the people I work with, to think they know anything about my intelligence level based on where I work or how quickly I can clean or craft food.

When customers treat me in a demeaning way and talk to me like I am an idiot, I feel pressured to prove them wrong. It bothers me when they shake their heads or laugh at me because I am not doing exactly what they need or want. I especially hate it when they talk to me like I am a child when I misunderstand what they want.

People think that there is nothing to my job but at the end of the day, they need me. People purchase fast food because they do not have time to make the food themselves. Some customers think that they are doing me a favor by contributing to my paycheck but at the end of the day, I am helping them by providing a service that they cannot or do not want to do.

Even if people, like my father, tell me that I am not allowed to be stressed out by my job because all I do is make sandwiches for a living, I know that my feelings are valid and experiencing them does not make me dumb or incapable. I just happen to experience the symptoms that are expected to come with the disorders I have been diagnosed with.

I just want to be appreciated for hard work that I do, and have people acknowledge that I do my best under the circumstances that I am given.

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