Today I am sharing with you something I’ve struggled with the last few years, an ongoing struggle of personal identity: how to answer the question “So, what do you do?”. This used to be an easy answer. Cut and dry.
“I’m a waitress.”
“I’m a student.”
“I’m a substitute teacher.”
“I’m an art teacher.”
Now my life has taken a different path and it’s not so cut and dry anymore. Someone asked me this question over the weekend and I actually found myself replying, “I don’t.” (Can you tell it was a rough week?)
I look just fine for the most part so it’s easy for people to assume I would have a paying job or career. People like labels and titles. I don’t think they have malicious intent and I honestly think they are just trying to get to know me a little better. But it can be really hard to explain, especially with limited time, what I actually do if I don’t have a paying job and why.
I don’t know how I can tell someone I work very hard to take care of my mental health every day. I just haven’t been able to vocalize that well, perhaps because of my own stigma. Would they want to know exactly what that means? I don’t feel like I owe them a huge explanation. I don’t know how to tell someone I can’t work because of chronic physical AND mental conditions. What will they think of me? Will they compare me to so-and-so who has this too? Will they suggest treatments for me? Will they pity me? Will they think less of me because I don’t work? Will they judge me?
The truth is I do a lot and it is extremely difficult. You could say I have many job titles. Everything from homemaker and artist to manager and accountant. I do all this while managing my various symptoms from multiple conditions. This involves a lot of self-care and following prescribed treatments and therapies. I won’t go into all the reasons my physical and mental conditions limit me (that list is very long), but I will say everything is a balancing act that takes constant work. Some days I feel I just can’t even stay on the teeter totter. My thoughts alone are exhausting. That’s when faith in God and a good support system comes in handy.
I will be working on summoning more courage and just being honest with people when they ask me this question. Maybe I should even practice a few standard responses that I could have ready to go. I will take each situation as it comes, considering the person, setting, and the time available. It could be a great opportunity to be a mental health and invisible disabilities advocate. But I will remember that I can’t control their responses, only how their responses affect me.
I shouldn’t feel ashamed for what I’m going through. Invisible disabilities are real, and a person’s worth isn’t measured by what their job title is. God says I am acceptable and valuable. Jesus paid the highest price for me. I am loved by God and He knows the plans He has for me. I am just trying to live well, one day at a time. I am a child of God. That title is most important to me now.
Do you struggle with this same question? Have you found ways to respond that you are comfortable with? How do you handle unexpected responses and questions? I would love to hear your comments.
John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.