I applied for a job recently. It was a research position on a project at a prestigious academic institute which I should but won’t mention (although it’s not local). I had a good chance of getting the job and I felt that I would have contributed a lot to the project.
I went for interview and the inevitable question was asked: “There seems to be a long pause in your work record. Can you elaborate on that?” I answered, “I had some health issues which have now been resolved.” He said, ‘Just be frank.’
So, I scuppered my chances of ever getting the job by telling him I had a mental health issue. Perhaps I should not have revealed who I was and my experiences through life but I felt uncomfortable not revealing my ‘flaws’. I am open and honest which I feel is a strength, not a weakness.
I don’t regret or indeed am not fazed or embarrassed by my history of mental illness. I believe that I have a lot to offer.
It is one thing telling people who are ‘in the same boat’ as me – a situation in which I feel comfortable. It is another to open yourself up, as you inevitably will, to a scrutiny which demands you defend your life, health and existence.
I am not worried by others’ acceptance of my history. I am not defined by my experiences of mental illness; rather, I have grown from them.
I will leave you with a quote (by me):
‘It is often the case that the most capable and conscientious candidate is not necessarily the one with an unblemished life healthwise.’
I wish I had the strength to fight for mental health rights. We shall see. Watch this space.