Finding and Keeping a Job

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    In my last blog I observed that when measuring someone's level of functionality society tends to do so on an absolute scale (90-100% is an A, 80-89% is a B).  I also expressed the opinion that those of us with schizophrenia might be better served by measuring our individual levels functionality in relation to our capacity for functionality.  This is because our capacity for functionality is, to a significant degree, a function of where we are in our journey of recovery.  In other words, the measurement of our level of functionality should be done in relative terms.  And finally, I ended the blog with the question of "what happens when these two methods of measuring functionality intersect?"

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    Why have I suggested that these two very different methods should be used in the first place?  On the surface, the idea seems ridiculous.  However, I have good reasons for doing so.  I think the two different methods should be used because the objectives of measuring one's level functionality for those of us with schizophrenia and the objectives of society for measuring anyone's level of functionality are often quite different.


    When society measures an individual's level of functionality, it is usually for purposes of determining if the individual is contributing, or can contribute, toward the success of a specific endeavor or in a specific position of responsibility, i.e. can he or she do the work required?


    For society, more often than not, this necessitates evaluations that test a person's functionality against an absolute standard.  As I said in my last blog, I'm not interested in taking a plane flight with a pilot and copilot that flunked out of flight school or that have not been certified to fly the plane they are piloting and on which I am riding.


    As implied in the above comment, although society often needs to measure functionality in absolute terms, the actual standards of functionality used by society can vary widely.  An airline pilot may be certified as required to fly a Boeing 767, but this doesn't mean that he or she would necessarily be functional as an aircraft maintenance officer or a flight attendant.  In society, a person's functionality is usually measured for purposes of determining their suitability for something very specific. These absolute standards for measuring functionality can be affected by many things, such as education, physical dexterity or similar types of experience, to name just a few.


    In the execution of our journey of recovery, we look for improvements in our functionality from day to day as measured not against the accomplishments of others or according to some absolute standard, but in comparison with our own performance the day before.  In my opinion, our capacity for functionality is largely determined by the effectiveness of the medications we take.  Have these medications compensated for the altered brain chemistry characteristic of our illness?


    I also believe that ability of those of us with schizophrenia to realize the full measure of our capacity for functionality, to be the best that we can be, is dependent on the therapy we receive.


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    In summary, efficacious medications provide us with the opportunity to reach increased levels of functionality; behavioral therapy provides the motivation, and teaches us how, to go about doing so.  The combination of the two is an integral part of our journey of recovery and can lead to personal fulfillment and a better quality of life.


    Now we turn to the question asked at the end of my last blog and again at the beginning of this blog: "what happens when these two methods of measuring functionality intersect?"


    First, in what circumstances do our two ways of measuring functionality intersect?  The answer is, of course, pretty much across the breadth and depth of the human experience and endeavor, such as in love and romance, in social status, in economic success, to mention just a few.


    Of all these areas of intersection, one area that is most important and of continuing interest to those of us with schizophrenia is employment.  Put simply, how can we obtain and maintain a decent job?


    My next series of blogs will deal with the issues related to preparing for and executing a successful job search and, depending on where you are in your journey of recovery, how to get and keep a job that you love.  You may find it surprising that in almost all jobs, even those in the non-profit organizations, economics plays a critical role.  You will also find many of the coping skills we've discussed in my previous blogs come into play.


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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.



Published On: July 13, 2008