By: Ryan Coleman
I am a person who lives with Schizophrenia. It has been a difficult journey. I started having symptoms in my early twenties and maintaining employment and going to school have been a tremendous challenge for me. That all changed this year though.
After fourteen years of not working full-time, I took the plunge. I was recently hired as a Peer Support Worker with Fraser Health. I do Harm Reduction Outreach and it has been a dream job. I’m only two months in but everything has changed.
I’m not terrified of losing my disability cheque anymore. I can survive on my own. I’m not afraid of my retirement. If I can work, I can earn a pension. Many medications I take were not covered by the disability medical plan that I was a part of. However, now my employment benefits cover them. Working has provided me the kind of freedom that I hadn’t experienced in my life.
Peer support workers in general, do not give advice. I’m not going to, but I can say that achieving independence in my life reduced my stressed and that allowed me to take on other projects and achieve even more.
At the core of why I didn’t work for so long was an inner belief that I couldn’t. I didn’t believe that I had the capacity emotionally or physically to take on responsibilities. Turns out I was wrong.
When I started working, I realized that everyone I worked with turned out to be human too. We all have limitations and a limited capacity. Working together though, we were able to achieve more. It’s surprising how forgiving the work world can be of imperfection.
I thought I had to be a star performer just to get a job. But again, showing up and doing the work was all that was necessary. I look forward to my next journey, whatever that may be. I never thought I would be a ladder climber, but I have stepped on the first rung and want more.