Working Full-Time Again

I've been working full-time for the past 16 months. I work for a Behavioral Health Service Organization. I started out working part-time as an Adult Peer Support Specialist (APSS) leading therapeutic groups such as Healthy Cooking and Eating, Lifeskills, Movement For Life, and Coping with Hearing Voices for individuals like myself who live with mental illness. Now I'm working full-time as a program coordinator in my organization. I schedule and provide continuing education for Adult Peer Support Specialists and their supervisors in my state. I also collaborate with other APSSs to write a monthly educational newsletter and to hold webinars and conference calls to disseminate educational materials about providing peer services.

It has been challenging to work full-time again. I struggle with my work-life balance like I always have when working full-time. I go to a weekly therapy session on Tuesdays after work and take a group singing class on Thursday nights. The weekends are for spending time with friends and family, cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and going to the gym. I like to rest after work on Mondays and Wednesdays. I try to fit in walks on most weekdays at lunch. If I socialize during the work week, it has to be early because I have to be home by 8:30 p.m. to take my medication. Taking it that early is the only way I can wake up for work at 6:45 a.m. I usually fall asleep between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. My medication, 200 mg. Lamictal and 100 mg. Seroquel, takes a while to kick in, but once it does, I sleep very soundly most of the time. When I have trouble sleeping it's usually because I'm worrying about something or I haven't gotten enough activity during the day. So, I try not to worry too much and I strive to get enough exercise each day.

I've developed a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) that really helps me to stay on track with my self-care, and I've managed to stay out of the hospital since June of 2015. I've taken great measures to lower my stress levels and take better care of myself. When I was on disability, I worked with my psychiatrist to fine-tune my medication and I worked hard to change my lifestyle. Most of the time I was on disability, I was hoping to return to working full-time again. People asked me why I got up so early even though my schedule didn't demand it, and I always told them I wanted to get back to full-time work someday so I didn't want to be in the habit of sleeping late every day. I do wake up a little earlier now that I'm working full-time. Most of the time I was on disability, I woke up at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. That allowed me to take my medication as late at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. Sometimes I miss staying up later and having more time to socialize, but being able to earn a living and save for my retirement years is worth it.

I don't earn as much money in my current job as I did as an elementary school special education teacher, which was my job before I went on disability, but it is much less stressful and I have really good benefits compared to most of my past jobs. So far, I haven't had any mental health crises since I've been off of disability, although I have had to have my medication adjusted a few times. I have a lot of vacation time, so I plan breaks several times a year. Because I work under a yearly contract from the state, I make a yearly plan of work activities, so I always know what is coming up next. That makes it easy to decide when I will need to take vacation breaks. All of my vacations have been either weekend getaways or staycations. Since I can't afford long vacations, I splurge and do nice things at home every once in a while like going to plays, concerts, and museums.

It has been really therapeutic to work in the mental health field and to get to know Adult Peer Support Specialists, therapists, nurses, and others working in the behavioral health system. I am happy that I can use my recovery experience to help others. It is a satisfying way to earn a living. Working in a therapeutic environment where everyone is striving for good mental and physical health continues to be helpful to my recovery.

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