Now, I think most would agree that there are few things in life as anxiety-provoking as job searching. The future is so uncertain... you never know who you will hear back from and circumstances can change at the drop of the hat. As my mom has pointed out, you have to "cast a wide net" and hope to catch something good.
So, I've turned into an aggressive job huntress, prowling the internet for the best available positions for my skill set. I have filled out many online job forms lately, reiterating my resume and personal information. This includes the "Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability" form.
Then it caught my eye: "Obsessive compulsive disorder".... listed right there with "Missing limbs," "Cancer," and "Intellectual disability."
Now, part of me thought, "This is really great news! Mental health problems are being recognized as real problems. They're listed right alongside physical ailments." I was surprised anxiety wasn't on there too... but at least it's a step in the right direction.
But a bigger part of me winced. The discomfort associated with the negative connotation of the term disability as it applied to me was very real.
I have to admit that even after seeing my diagnosis right there on the form, I still checked "No."
Let me be clear: I don't think that people with disabilities should be ashamed or feel like they have to hide. I'm not ashamed of my diagnosis (which might be obvious as I blab publicly on the internet). That being said, I couldn't deny my concern with showcasing it on a job form.
I want employers to see my strengths, "Laura's Greatest Hits," my highlight reel... not my biggest weakness. I certainly don't want to have my entire application viewed from the lens of one check in one "Yes" box.
I recognize that this is what those labeled as disabled have to struggle with every day. For over a year I've worked with students with a variety of learning differences (from Autism to dyslexia to different physical limitations) and I finally got a small taste of what it feels like to be considered "disabled." I think the experience will make me a more empathetic tutor. Honestly, in some ways it may even make me a better person.
Whether this incident is ultimately a tragedy or triumph... jury is definitely still out on this one.