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Disability Experiences: Writings and Perspectives

One Manís Journey Towards Self Discovery and Employment

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July 31, 2009

My experience with disability started with a diagnosis of paranoia and depression. I was put on medication early but I still had a hard time navigating the system. I had many doctors and many medications that I went through. Finally I bottomed out. Out of work, and extremely high in debt, I ended up in bankruptcy.

Thank God for my family, in particular one of my sisters, whom, with much emotion and resolve, found a local relief agency, which helped me get back on my feet.

The relief agency found me free shelter that was supervised 24 hours a day. It provided food, shelter, bed, and time for me to recuperate. A relief agency social worker would also check on my progress and take me to medication checks.

Finally, after a summer in the supervised shelter, I progressed to the point of moving into a more independent apartment. This living arrangement was still supervised, but provided more freedom. All this while, I was still going to the relief agency office to get medication checks, adjustments, and sometimes new medications all together.

Finally, after several months I was able to get my own apartment and a county social worker to help me navigate the benefits maze I was in.

After showing an interest in and proving it probable for me to work, I was referred to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. At the DVR, I was matched with a job coach, which allowed me to participate in a program that would help me find a job.

The first agency I worked with offered temporary, short-term work experiences. The program, as it was set up, was a good one, but I thought it was geared more for someone who was just entering the work force for the first time. By having several short jobs it helped those who needed references and work experience and allowed the person to show she/he was ready for work.

Although I had worked in the past, my resume showed many short-term jobs. This program wouldnít have made this worse, but I thought I should go straight to finding a permanent job. This led me to go to another agency for my job search.

There was really no good reason for me to leave but for my own foolish pride. The opportunities with the first agency are great. Looking back, I feel things would have worked out for me in finding a job with help from the first agency, and I do regret not following through to the end with the organization. On the other hand, I was able to work with another agency, meet new people, and progress with finding a job.

Out of something bad can come some good.

The second agency started to help me find a job according to what I was trying to accomplish, which was office work. I showed up weekly to a meeting with the counselor and showed her what I had done to find a job. I also went to the library several times a week to improve my typing skills.

The agency was overwhelmed with work at this time and the only job they could find for me was manual labor. While it was not what I was looking for, I took the job anyway. I was not happy with the job or the system. Even though the job was not what I wanted, I tried to work as hard as I could. I was even selected as employee of the month. I should have been more grateful that I had a job at all, considering how my job history looked on my resume; but I still wasnít happy. I ended up losing the job after missing too much work.

This second agency also pointed me in the direction of New Horizons Un-Limited (NHU). I am both grateful to the second agency for this, and for all the help and opportunities I have received from NHU.

During the time between the relief agency helping me and the manual labor job, I did do something right. I volunteered at the relief agency, trying to give back what I could, after all that they did in helping me with room, board, and medications. They set me up with the help I needed to accomplish in work and life what my abilities would allow. I will never be able to give back all the help I have received from the agencies, the jobs, and people who helped and still help me. All I can try to say, is thank you for all they did for me.

Now, for the present and the future. I feel that I have found something that I was meant to do. I am currently taking classes at a local community college to become a Paralegal. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is going to help me pay for this schooling. Currently I am working as an address canvasser for the US Census Bureau. I am between projects, but the supervisor said she would recommend me for the next phase. I have even applied to become an intern for the District Attorneyís Office.

What I am trying to get across, is donít stop trying, and accept help and advice from people who are trying to help. I didnít stop trying, and even though I was upset over nothing, and it could be said I had a chip on my shoulder, I am still climbing the ladder of life in spite of myself.

Let me be the example so that you donít make the same mistakes I made. Keep a positive attitude, even if things seem not to go your way. You may not have the perfect job, but it is something. You can build off of something, but you cannot build something more out of nothing.

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