Well, it has happened: Ben has been laid off from his job. When I picked him up yesterday, he had just emerged from the “meeting” some of us know all too well. We love you. We think you are awesome. We just have to lay off some people because of the season, and unfortunately you are one of them.
Oh, Ben put on a brave face. He immediately told me the “good news” that the layoff had nothing to do with him, that they will give him a great recommendation…but I could see it. He hasn’t genuinely smiled since he got the news yesterday.
And that hurts. For both of us.
This job had been Ben’s first since his 2003 hospitalizations – and for 18 months he has been proud to have an answer when someone asks, “and what do you do?” Even though he is also a college student, after a year and a half of also defining himself as a person with a job, it won’t feel like enough to be in school.
This unemployment blow is painful for anyone – I know, and maybe you do too. Still, even with the current economy, a number of us will feel fairly confident we will be hired again, somewhere, to do something.
But we don’t have to worry about whether we should disclose a history of mental illness, of several hospital stays in our past.
Ben’s current (soon-to-be-previous) employer had been great about that. Even after a relapse in 2011, Ben had been welcomed back to work – and relieved that the “secret” was out, and hadn’t made a difference. I blogged and spoke publicly about this wonderful employer – for, by accepting Ben’s diagnosis and respecting his strengths, they not only gave him back an important part of his self-esteem; they also got, for themselves, a reliable, trained, enthusiastic employee and team member who always showed up, on time, and worked hard.
Let’s hope (and, yeas, pray, why not?) that this particular history can repeat itself. Ben needs a new job. When he gets it, we’ll look back and see this had been a mere glitch.
But, right now, it feels like a huge weight. Uncertainty can do that – and stigma is suddenly springing anew after having spared us for a time. And we need to be patient, optimistic, and hopeful. Maybe Ben can land a job on his own – maybe he’ll need supported employment, a job coach, volunteer work. He – and we – will do everything we can.
I want to see the light come back into Ben’s eyes. Hire him – he’s worth it.