There was a time I didn’t believe I could work. I was in school at the time. I wasn’t on medication and I started having a rise in symptoms of depression. It was so bad I had suicidal thoughts. I didn’t have support from my family. Although I had a long work history, I was so down I didn’t think I could work again. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t do anything.

I saw a flyer about Working Wonders supported employment and how they help find jobs. This gave me hope to know there was a service that could work with a person’s ups and downs. I got on medication. My case manager told me I had to have a certain number of appointments before I could be referred to supported employment but I just decided to call the number on the flyer. I remember that call. The person that answered said I sounded really good on the phone, like it was a skill. I was praised for being me and I could tell it wasn’t fake. This was surprising because most people, when they think about a disability like mental illness, don’t want to work with someone like that; they would be worried.

Before supported employment I tried a different employment service. I wasn’t getting anywhere, not knowing what to search for. When I joined supported employment I filled out a personality sheet to help find my strengths. Being around the employment team, instead of isolating, really helped me to overcome my fear. We practiced interviewing and I got help with applications. Once I set my mind on moving forward, I put my all into it. It took a long time but we just kept searching and I didn’t give up. There were lots of other things that added up to make a big difference. Like getting appropriate clothes – Vocational Rehabilitation paid for them and Working Wonders helped me to order them through a special catalog on the Internet.

I was homeless at first, couch surfing. I felt I was in the way. My employment specialist suggested the Kools program to my case manager to help me with housing. I got an apartment of my own. Once I landed a job, I couldn’t afford to pay for transportation to and from work. The IPS specialists transported me regularly, making working possible. I continued to fight depression and it was hard to find the energy to work. My employment specialist made a giant calendar – for four months I marked my accomplishments. Communicating with co-workers was hard because I had been so isolated that I was socially awkward. I didn’t talk much, I just did my job. Over time, I learned to be more open. I did this by consistently showing up for my work schedule and eventually becoming myself again.

Once I made it through all of these barriers, I learned that the store I worked was going to close their business. My employment specialist helped me identify a new job in a new area of interest, care giving. She developed a relationship with the hiring manager and went weekly to advocate for me.   I got hired and worked my retail job and care giving job at the same time for 6 months. It was overwhelming again, affecting my mood. I continued to be supported with new job clothes, positive reinforcement and ongoing transportation.

Now, life is awesome. I have had a job for two years providing care giving to a client I really enjoy. I actually look forward to going to work. I have a new goal to be a dental assistant. I am saving money for this now. I remember when my goal was just to get out of bed. Other people can see the change. Someone that knows me said recently, “You look so much happier.”

I realize I have come a long way! My self-esteem is higher and I feel like I have accomplished something pretty cool. I’m pretty shocked – I am more the person I was meant to be. I realize that although there is nothing wrong with having less it is great to do nice things for myself. I really wanted a flat screen TV and I was able to tell myself I deserve it. And recently I bought an elliptical. Working allows me to get things I need and want and not feel guilty.