A Rousing Speech Agitating for Humanity, Democracy, and Disability

December 4, 2009 at 6:48 am | Posted in Fighting Prejudice, Philosophical Problems, Work Life | Leave a comment

Yesterday at work I gave my presentation about communicating about disabilities. It went very well — there were a lot of good questions and comments, and it was a lively group with a most dynamic manager. I sat through the rest of their staff meeting and came away thinking, Damn, I’d like to work for that organization. Their management is that cool.

After the presentation, I started to think about the next one, which I mentioned long, long ago in this space. In February I will be talking to an all hands for my product line. The program manager asked me to address a specific question: All other things being equal, why should I hire someone who is disabled who will need accommodations? The question is blunt, but, I think, fair.

At my company we talk a lot about the business case for diversity, and the party line is that a diverse group is more creative and better able to solve problems. (I almost wrote, “to problem solve,” an icky corporate formulation. I have this terror that I will spontaneously speaking and writing in nothing but Corporatespeak, and that I won’t be able to stop.) To be honest, I don’t know if that’s really true. As I wrote before, I’m not sure that female engineers are any more likely to come up with a fresh approach to a knotty problem than men are. It seems to me that it would make more difference where and how they’d been educated and what sort of work experience they had. That seems to lead to the gloomy conclusion that, all other things being equal, you should shun someone who needs to take the occasional Mad Day.

That’s wrong, of course. As I wrote in my previous post on the subject, disabled people bring a lot of unique qualities to the table, including resilience and determination. There’s more to it, though. I’ve worked in this metrics-driven environment for so long now that I’m a little ashamed to suggest that perhaps intangibles count as much or more than that which can be measured. I believe that it’s true though.

Take two average departments, or sections as we call them at my company. Give Group One a dynamic manager who is cheerful, treats workers with trust and compassion, and willingly works alongside them when necessary. This manager acknowledges her employees’ expertise, and she actively encourages them to experiment, make mistakes, and thereby devise true process improvements.

Over Group Two, place a crappy manager — not an outstanding tyrant, but just a technocrat who works poorly with people. Manager Number Two does not trust her workers — she insists on checking their work, and is incensed at every typographical error. She doesn’t think to compliment them when they do well, but never fails to criticize them publicly for mistakes both small and large. When they come to her with questions she huffs and rolls her eyes; if they present her with a problem and ask for the resources to solve it, she flushes red with sheer irritation. If one employee slacks off, she berates all of them in staff meetings, thereby giving the hard workers the impression that she sees them as one undifferentiated mass.

In our little mental exercise, award Manager Number Two with every sort of technical expertise, and a solid background at the company. Make manager Number One a relative rookie who is new to the industry. I still predict that Group One will always outperform Group Two. They’ll suffer less turnover, take fewer sick days, and enjoy higher productivity. Group Two will surf the internet every time their manager’s back is turned, and they’ll use up every sick day they have and then some. They’re probably more likely to get legitimately sick, too. Certainly they will hate their jobs and view the company that promoted Manager Two with suspicion.

What does this all have to do with disabilities? After all, probably plenty of disabled people are lousy managers or slack employees. My point is this: The intangible and immeasurable always matter, and they will out in the end. When the metrics come down, Manager Two will blame her lazy employees and say that it’s impossible to get good help these days; Manager One wisely understands that a section is only as good as its section head, no matter how experienced or conscientious the individual employees may be. At the end of the day, even though all of its advantages are intangible, Section One will prosper and Section Two will decline.

Here’s the thing: We’re hired because they need people, not machines or trained pigeons, to do our jobs. They need us to apply our judgment, empathy, compassion, wisdom, and creativity — our humanity — to every aspect of our work. Of course, along with those excellent qualities come our shortcomings. We take sick days. We get repetitive stress disorders if we don’t take regular breaks. We get bored and our minds wander. And, yes, some of us may need to take the occasional inpatient Mad Break. You can accept this fact and accommodate your workers when they need it, or you can treat human qualities as individual weaknesses and watch your workers stream away to join the competition. In a competitive industry — and ours is very competitive — it really does pay to treat your employees like full human beings. That’s true whether or not you can quantify the benefits.

The business case, then, is not for diversity, but simply for humanity. We all make allowances for each other all the time. In the end, the product ships, the cathedral gets built, the mural gets painted, and we create a little more of that odd product we call civilization. We do it because of our weak humanity, not in spite of it.

You can build a civilization using slaves who you treat as disposable bits of machinery, or you can encourage everyone to take responsibility, throw themselves into their work, and take a bit more of what civilization has to offer: leisure, security, comfort, happiness. The former is a dictatorship; the latter is a radical democracy consisting of citizens, not slaves.

Hm. I like that. It’s a bit over-dramatic, perhaps, but I really do believe that it’s true.

OK, enough. I have to go to the grocery store to buy roses.

Love to all.

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Things Are Getting Worse, Not Better — What to Do? What to Do?

November 17, 2009 at 5:23 am | Posted in Cognitive Problems, Wellness, Work Life | 2 Comments

Over the last several days, I have been wrestling with a difficult issue: in three crucial ways, I am getting worse, not better.

Most people around me deny it, but I know damn well that my cognitive problems are getting more serious. I’ve gone from mild difficulties with word recall to forgetting that entire conversations ever occurred. This has led to several incidents at work ranging from embarrassing to near-catastrophic, and I am afraid — and I think this fear is realistic — that eventually I may not be able to work.

I’m also becoming more withdrawn socially, and this affects me in a couple of ways. First of all, during my depressed phases, I find it nearly impossible to carry out commitments I’ve made. For instance, if I sign up for a class, as I did at church, I know damn well that depression will prevent me from finishing it.

At the same time, because of my bouts of severe depression, I find it hard to maintain the social supports that I need. When I am truly down I simply withdraw. I can’t talk to people that I don’t know well or enter unfamiliar social situations. I don’t have a good social network now, and despite my best efforts, I don’t seem to be able to keep it together long enough to expand it.

All of this leads to a larger existential question which I will certainly not answer today, but which I’d like to pose to you, the readership: I think it’s fair to say that my adult life up until now has not been a happy one. I’ve been crushingly depressed, in and out of hospitals, and unable to maintain the sort of stable relationships that preserve sanity. Given that things are getting worse and not better, what kind of quality of life can I expect as I grow older? It’s unlikely that I will enjoy a fruitful retirement that includes a loving spouse, friends and hobbies, and travel. In fact, I’m facing the very real possibility that I may not be able to work to retirement age. If my life was unhappy at the height of my intellectual and social powers, what is it likely to be in the future? Tied to this is the question of what I have to offer potential friends or a hypothetical spouse.

As I said in my last post, both of those questions may be the wrong ones to ask if, as I suspect, the answer could lead to further depression. I don’t want to torture myself with unanswerable questions or insoluble problems. So I’d like to set the larger issues aside and start with a relatively concrete piece: my cognitive lapses.

First, what am I doing already to cope? Well, at work and at home I keep detailed lists of things to do, and this does help to prevent any given task from falling through the cracks. I’m also extremely organized. I do not count on memory to help me to locate files, for example — I just file them properly. These two strategies are not enough, however, since I tend to forget either that I’ve had a conversation regarding a particular issue — say, that I’ve asked the preparer about the status of a data deliverable — or I can’t remember what was said a day later.

So what else could I be doing? I could document every conversation that I have, or conduct all important conversations via email. However, the first is a little too obsessive even for me, and email is often not the most effective way to either get information out of people or get them to take action. So I’m not quite sure what to do.

When I don’t know what to do, I look for resources that will tell me. So:

1. If my shrink can’t help, maybe there’s a local therapist or psychiatrist who specializes in dealing with early memory loss. I can ask my therapist for a referral, and I can Google local resources.

2. I can also call the Employee Assistance Program at work, which is amazingly efficient when it comes to finding everything from cat-sitters to house cleaners. Granted, this is more serious than finding a good accountant. Nonetheless, it might be worth a try.

3. I also wonder if there are books that address these problems. I’ve never seen anything in a book on bipolar disorder, though the research shows that cognitive problems are inherent in the illness. People do have memory loss for other reasons, however: chemotherapy, normal aging, and the various forms of dementia being obvious examples. So it might be worth my while to search Amazon for books on coping with memory loss.

One thing is for sure: I can’t continue to pretend this isn’t happening. It’s a threat to my livelihood, and thus to the core of my identity; I need to confront it, and to try everything in my power to reverse or compensate for my cognitive deficits.

So here’s the plan: I will hit Google, the EAP hotline, and Amazon, and report on what I find. I will also continue to write about these three intertwined issues, as frightening as they are.

Work Life and Real Life

October 22, 2009 at 5:09 am | Posted in Work Life | 1 Comment

I was re-reading my post on what to do if you’re laid off, and it occurred to me that there’s another step I/you could take: developing a more balanced life so that the psychological and social shock of being laid off would be lessened. I did have a life there for awhile, though it wasn’t precisely balanced. Now that I’m getting involved at church, it probably would be easier to survive losing my job. But I have a long way to go.

If you can work, don’t let it become your life, folks. It will never love you back.

My Worst Worry: What if I Get Laid Off?

October 15, 2009 at 3:55 am | Posted in Finances, Resources, Work Life | Leave a comment

For me, there's something especially poignant about packing up the few little items that made your office seem like home.

For me, there's something especially poignant about packing up the few little items that made your office seem like home.

The times being what they are, I fear being laid off. In fact, you could say that I’ve developed a morbid anxiety about the subject. Two nights ago I spent an hour staring out into space worrying with my cuticles and fretting about whether, like about half of my friends, I will be let go. A part of me feels like this would truly be the end of my life. So much of my identity is wrapped up in my work that losing it would feel like losing everything. So what to do?

As usual, it’s list-making to the rescue. Here are strategies that anyone can apply:

1. My first concern would be paying my mortgage, but the same step holds true if you rent: get a roommate. I am lucky enough to have a two-bedroom condo, but during a bad recession (so bad that it might even be a depression) it’s not a bad idea to try even if you can only rent out the living room. I did that as an undergraduate, and it can work. Sure, it’s uncomfortable and it will affect your privacy, but it will also halve the amount you pay for housing. Before you start advertising, though, make sure that your landlord or homeowners’ association approves; otherwise you and your new roomie could end up in hot water.

2. Register for unemployment payments immediately. As I’ve said before in this space, unemployment is not a form of welfare — it’s insurance for which both you and your employer pay premiums. Many people are reluctant to collect, but it’s something to which you are entitled if you should be fired or laid off. It’s important to register right away, since there may be a waiting period. Also, you will be required to hunt for a job actively while collecting it, so dust off your resume and make a plan.

3. Contact all of your creditors, explain your situation, and see if you can get some sort of temporary relief from payments. It’s best to start this process early since, in my experience, qualifying can involve a lot of red tape.

4. Once money starts to run low, sell everything nonessential. Have a big yard sale and either prepay your bills or apply the money towards debt reduction.

5. If you are a homeowner and the situation is truly dire, you can rent out your place and move in with friends or family. This would dramatically lower your costs; of course, it would also represent a serious blow to your quality of life.

6. Register for whatever mental health plan your state offers as a part of Medicaid. If your state has a program through which you can be declared Seriously Mentally Ill, apply for it and be prepared to document your situation and past treatment thoroughly.

7. Start volunteering. Choose activities that play to strengths that you’d like to use in your next job, and spend at least a couple days a week doing them. For instance, if I were laid off tomorrow, I would offer to work on my church’s newsletter and website.

8. Sign up with temporary employment agencies and work at getting a permanent job that way. This has worked well for me in the past. I got my current, excellent job by temping and impressing my boss, and this isn’t the first time that’s happened. At the end of a recession, employers will often begin hiring by taking on temporary employees, seeing how they work out, and then making them permanent. Remember, though, that you should never have to pay a fee to any agency to find a job; the employer should be paying all fees.

9. Take classes online or at a community college on Excel, PowerPoint, and other commonly used software. Learning a new skill always pays off, sometimes in cold, hard cash, sometimes in your ability to find a job at all. I would take a class in web design, since most people who sell their writing skills are now expected to be able to maintain, if not create, company websites.

10. Most importantly, don’t blame yourself, and don’t dwell on anything that you might have done wrong in the months leading up to your layoff. Instead, make lists of the ways you succeeded at your last job. What skills did you pick up that you would like to use in your next job? You must have done well on some projects; list them. Remember, no job or relationship is a failure just because it comes to an end.

The moral is, I wouldn’t drop dead if I got laid off — I probably wouldn’t even starve or go homeless. The same goes for you if you’re working right now. Bipolar disorder makes it harder to find a job, and much more difficult to go without employer-provided insurance, but it’s still possible to survive these times.

And now for a change in topic: I’ve mentioned my programmable thermostat several times in this space. I’d just like to send a shout out to my dad for installing it when my feeble efforts ground to a halt. Next: programming that sucker. I’m sure I’ll be turning the air blue with curses.

Love to all.

Late Sunday Night Musings

October 12, 2009 at 2:44 am | Posted in My Fascinating Mood, Philosophical Problems, Work Life | Leave a comment

Last night I wrote the following, which I’ve edited slightly for clarity:

Tonight, being bipolar feels like a curse. I think of how I must seem to my coworkers, what with my occasional disappearances, hiding out in my office during the wee hours, having that black scribble cloud over my head for months at a time — and I just feel cursed.

Strangely, as I wrote that I realized — or, rather, brought to consciousness — the fact that I have always believed on some level that I’m not bipolar, that perhaps I could just return to my self, that I’m really just putting on airs to be interesting. I think, If only I could go off of all of my medication, I bet that underneath is a totally mormal woman with a husband and two kids who play soccer for a local league.

I wish I were more articulate, more honest about the disease. I feel totally unable to approach my supervisor and explain what happened last week when I took FMLA. Mental illness scares people, and rightfully so. To say, “I wasn’t in my right mind — I was having peculiar thoughts” understates the case, but is still pretty creepy.

Tonight I wish that I could set down the burden for awhile: that I could go for a day without a pastel rainbow of medication, a week without this penetrating sense of shame, a month without a mood swing that feels like it might destabilize this fragile life that I’ve built. I would treasure a year of being able to make plans and carry them out in a linear, sensible fashion. I get so tired of suffering with days when I struggle to get out of bed, or when my mind flutters brightly and can’t touch down.

Right now, I want to plead with God.

As I was writing this, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord” was going through my head, so I took down the complete works and read several poems aloud. He based “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord” on a psalm, and it is, for Hopkins, straightforward:

“Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, oh thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leaved how thick! laced they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build — but not I build; no, but strain
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one word that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Of course, being a Jesuit priest, Hopkins came considerably closer than I to spending life upon God’s cause. But last night I felt, as I sometimes do, that I am GMH, my beloved companion manic depressive comrade.

Love to all.

How the Family and Medical Leave Act Can Help You Out

October 9, 2009 at 2:56 am | Posted in Work Life | Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking of family and medical leave because, um, I’ve been taking it for the last two days. Many people know that, in the United States, FMLA allows workers at an employer with 50 or more employees to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave to deal with their own physical or mental illness or that of a family member. That last is defined pretty narrowly — cousins, aunts and uncles, and domestic partners are not included under Federal law, for example, though many states have more generous provisions.

What you may not know is that you can take FMLA on an intermittent basis to deal with your own serious, chronic illness. According to the woman who administers the program for my employer, the most common use is for people who suffer from incapacitating migraines. It’s available for mental illnesses, however, and that’s how I’m using it. The process for getting qualified was fairly simple: my psychiatrist and I filled out some straightforward forms; my request was reviewed, and pretty promptly granted.

The beauty of intermittent FMLA is that it helps out those of use who, through medication problems or just occasional nuttiness, need to stay home on days when we simply can’t deal. You can even use it to attend medical appointments as long as you coordinate with your supervisor in advance. What’s more, employers can’t discriminate against you for using it; if you must have FMLA and the nature of your current job simply won’t allow it, then your employer must find you another job with a equivalent pay within the organization.

There are two serious downsides: First, it’s unpaid, so too much of it can eat into your paycheck pretty seriously; second, an employer may require your to use all of your accrued sick leave and/or vacation leave before you can switch to FMLA. This can put you in a position where you can’t get time off for a bad case of the flu, should it strike. All told, though, intermittent FMLA offers a good option for those of us who work, but still have days so rotten that we can’t go in.

The U.S Department of Labor and good old Wikipedia both supply useful, specific information; the latter includes a brief guide to which states have more generous provisions than Federal law requires.

Love to all, and I hope this helps.

Note to Self: Eating Frogs May Relieve Nausea

September 17, 2009 at 2:20 am | Posted in Dealing with Depression, Productivity, Work Life | Leave a comment

Can eating this little guy cure nausea and malaise?

Can eating this little guy cure nausea and malaise?

As I’ve remarked before in this space, mornings are my best time. If I wake up feeling crappy, my mood tends to slide downward from there.

Imagine my distress, then, when I woke up yesterday feeling a firm two on a scale from zero to 10. Zero equals catatonic depression, while 10 is psychotic mania (I’ve never experienced over about a seven); five is calm, energetic normalcy. My stomach was churning with anxiety, terrible thoughts were erupting into my brain and blossoming there, and it took a Herculean effort and a few cups of coffee to get started with my morning tasks.

I actually considered staying home to see if lying in bed and staring at the wall would somehow prove therapeutic. I could easily guess why I felt such distress. I was procrastinating about answering two dreaded emails at work; I was also scheduled to give a big presentation, and I felt too miserable to go through with it.

So once I got to work I took action on two fronts. First, I completed the “Prescription for Procrastinators” exercise from David Burns’ Feeling Good Handbook, which I’ve mentioned before in this space. Then, as one writer on procrastination puts it, I promptly swallowed my morning frogs — i.e., I read and answered the damn emails.

Having done that, and thereby gaining a small but measurable mood lift, I printed out my presentation, shut myself in an empty team room, and did two back-to-back dry runs complete with gestures. My mood subsequently improved from a two to a four — a 20% increase through two activities that took less than 45 minutes.

So the moral of the story is, don’t kiss your frogs, swallow them.

But seriously, folks — though I know that procrastination depresses me significantly, I really didn’t expect such dramatic results. I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t started the day by slaying procrastination, I would have approached my presentation with significantly less energy. And after I gave a well-rehearsed, kick-ass presentation, I was briefly just below a six. Sure, the high faded, but the overall average mood of the day benefited remarkably from the simple act of frog-swallowing.

Book Review: Two Excellent Ebooks for Your Perusal

September 12, 2009 at 3:50 am | Posted in Book Reviews, Productivity, Work Life | Leave a comment

The Zen Habits system is this simple and elegant.

The Zen Habits system is this simple and elegant.

I like ebooks. They’re free to cheap, they often include great advice in an easily digested format, and the money you spend on them benefits the author directly. Today I’ll be reviewing an old favorite, Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done (cheap); from there, I’ll move on to a new find, Marelisa Fabrega’s 114 Ways to Celebrate Life (free). Neither is directly concerned with bipolar disorder, but both offer a direct boost to your wellness.

I’ve often pushed Babauta’s Zen Habits blog in this space. It’s had a huge positive effect on my wellness, and the author is endlessly creative in his posts. Zen to Done summarizes his advice for personal productivity, and it’s quite simply the best book I’ve read on the subject — and I’ve read just about everything out there, from Getting Things Done to old antiprocrastination classics. Babauta really does do what he promises: he distills and simplifies the best advice out there on how to organize and prioritize your life and meet your goals.

To begin with, ZTD introduces a 10-habit system. You can begin with any habit that addresses a need in your life, or you can take them in order. Babauta emphasizes that each habit takes time to establish, and that you should spend time establishing them one at a time rather than trying to adopt the whole system at once. This really helped me. In typical bipolar style, I tend to get all fired up about each system I read about, then to drop each one in turn as I find another, newer, more sparkly-seeming life-improvement system. I went ahead and began with the first habit, and have gradually working my way through. The results have been remarkable.

The first habit is “collect.” All this means is that, GTD style, you keep a notebook or PDA and write down every single idea you have — everything from plans for businesses to start to the humble fact that you need to buy sparkling water at Trader Joe’s. Everything goes into the hopper.

Once you’ve got the trick of collecting, it’s time to process, plan, do, and so forth. I won’t go into every step of the system. Suffice to say that if you follow it — and it is simple — you won’t just accomplish more, you’ll accomplish what’s important.

Babauta also includes his priceless advice on how to change habits. Unlike all those books out there that promise flat abs in nine days, or an ageless face in 10, Zen to Done doesn’t try to conceal the sad fact that change is difficult and takes persistence.

Probably the best habit I’ve adopted aside from collecting and processing — which in themselves will make a huge difference — is that of setting weekly priorities at work (I’m still learning to do this at home), and making those my primary focus until they’re, well, done. I choose between three and five projects that can realistically be finished within the week, I schedule prime time (in my case the wee hours before my coworkers show up), and I damn well do them. It’s amazing what a difference that alone makes in my sense of accomplishment at the end of the week.

I’ll return later to go over Fabrega’s book. Until then, love to all.

The Business Case for Hiring Bipolar Workers

July 30, 2009 at 4:42 am | Posted in Work Life | Leave a comment

The company I work for — a large, publicly-held engineering and manufacturing firm — places a huge emphasis on diversity. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve attended a “diversity event” where speakers informed me that hiring people of diverse backgrounds “isn’t just the right thing to do — it makes good business sense.” They then try to nail the argument shut by claiming that workers of different backgrounds bring different perspectives that result in more creative problem-solving, and thus a competitive advantage.

Perhaps not surprisingly, my coworkers and I aren’t totally convinced. After all, when it comes to solving an engineering problem, does it really matter if you’re black, or female, or a Southerner, or disabled? In fact, in my own diversity talk — a 15-minute primer on how to communicate about disabilities — I don’t even try to make a business case.

Recently, though, the head of my program posed a question for me to answer in a 15-minute speech: “Why should we care about diversity? Why hire disabled people when you can hire someone who won’t require accommodations?”

Good question. Naturally I feel like I’m good at my job and deserve to keep it, but it’s a real problem for a manager. Setting aside the fact that it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of ability, why hire a disabled (or, in my case, bipolar) candidate?

Below, find my draft of an answer.

I do believe that disabled people bring, not just a fresh perspective, but skills that their non-disabled counterparts may not have developed as fully.

1. Determination. Disabled people are tough and disciplined. They have to be. They’ve suffered the loss of a major life function — that’s the definition of disability — and gone on to lead rich, rewarding lives. This is an incredible accomplishment, one that takes, among other things, the ability to set goals and achieve them. Clearly this quality is transferable to their working lives.

2. Empathy. This may sound a little too warm and fuzzy, but we all know intuitively that high morale is crucial to the functioning of any business. Because they tend to be fair and humane, people with empathy make better bosses and coworkers. Disabled people often go through a profound grieving process when they become disabled, and this helps them to be more gentle and compassionate when others suffer a loss — the death of a parent, for example, or the slow loss of a parent to Alzheimer’s. This compassion can make all the difference when life gets in the way and people struggle at work.

3. Creativity and problem-solving skills. Some disabilities, like bipolar disorder, are thought to confer some benefits in the form of increased creativity. When you think about it, though, if you’re disabled, you face problems that require solving. My disabled friends at work have had to figure out everything from how to use a wheelchair to negotiate a world designed for people who walk, to contriving ways to ride a bicycle after having had a disabling stroke. It can take remarkable ingenuity to solve these very practical problems. Again, this skill comes in handy in the working world.

4. Needed technical talents. Twenty percent of the population will become disabled before age 65. Meanwhile, high-tech companies are scrambling to find and retain talented, experienced workers with specialty technical skills. They don’t have the luxury of rejecting any portion of that 20% just because they might require accommodations to perform essential job functions. After all, if your company doesn’t hire a gifted and disabled person, then the competition will. This necessity will only accelerate in the future, since once the stock market comes back, millions of skilled baby boomers will retire.

5. People with disabilities are still quite able. People who are not disabled tend to think that a disability such as blindness or being confined to a wheelchair condemns the sufferer to a life of relentless misery, loneliness, and complete incapacity. Secretly or openly, they believe that such a life is worth less, and is ultimately not worth living. In this article from The New York Times, the writer openly argues just that, based on a poll of people without disabilities. In fact, once you’re forced to cope serious limitations, you often begin to value your life and your many remaining abilities more than ever. You cultivate new skills; you savor what you can do rather than pining for what you can’t. And what we still can do often surprises others. People in wheelchairs and with other disabilities marry and have children, and I earned an advanced degree while in the throes of untreated bipolar disorder.

So that’s my initial stab at answering my program manager’s question. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments, or (if you’ve reached this site from my company) to email me.

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