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How to manage anxiety with a four-letter word

March 17, 2012

John Lennon said, "Work is life, you know, and without it there's nothing but fear and insecurity." Employment, whether it's competitve or supported is an essential ingredient to recovery from a psychiatric disability.  I am referring to more than a job, but a career, a vocation, a 'calling' if you will. In leading and overseeing the development of peer support groups I have alot of interesting conversations. Once we get past the 'label game' (my name is Steve and I have bipolar) and psych medications 101 (Depakote turned me into the Goodyear Blimp), and the discussion about how long it takes to get Medicaid or disability benefits....then slowly, but surely a good facilitator will help peers zero in on what's really important in our lives as people. A  consumer quoted in a job development booklet published by the Canadian Mental Health Association puts the needs of all human beings into one simple sentence; "Real recovery means to have a home, a job and a friend."

I am quite passionate about the importance of work and economic stability in behavioral health. Being laid off from a job that I enjoyed for 10 years back in 1996 and that I fully intended to retire from was emotionally crushing. I had panic attacks, chronic anxiety and hit the 'manic button' to find a way to take care of my family financially and start over.  The job loss was the main trigger that took me from mild bouts of depression to full-blown mood swings.  And there are lots of other people out there (especially in this Great Recession) who are experiencing the same thing. 

Work is a wonderful four letter word. It gives purpose and meaning to life.  It is fundamental to creating a reason to get up in the morning and to whatever degree possible, tell your symptoms to take a hike. I'll have lots more to say on this topic in future posts. In the meantime let's find the best psychiatric rehabilitation pratices and incorprate them as major programs in every recovery-based program in the country. A fullfilling career is within reach of every peer who wants to invest the time, energy and mindset changes required for success.

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