How do I feel I have contributed to society?
Ponderings based on Daily Om prompt from ‘A Year of Writing to Uncover the Authentic Self”
It is a massive struggle when you have a disability to feel like you are contributing at all to society. Mostly because society wants you to be Productive in a Workplace. And if you can’t be, if you end up not being able to work anymore, then you definitely feel it- this sense you are worthless to society as a whole. Which is perpetuated by people and by the way people with disabilities are permitted to live (with barely enough money to sustain living let alone take care of their health issues). You soon realize your lack of worth to the world. You capitalist failure to meet expectations.
So ultimately you have to re-define productivity and self-worth and value.
I did contribute to society when I worked but it was killing me physically. But you feel this insane pressure by medical professionals and employers to Keep Being Productive no matter the amount of pain you endure. No matter if that pain, which is intolerable when you exceed your limits, becomes such a torment that you become severely depressed. Until this existence, such as it is, becomes unbearable. But- you are maintaining functionality, in the basic sense, and you are working which means everything Must be Fine. Until you demonstrate how fine it definitely is not. And then people pay attention. But they don’t care. They just loathe your lack of ability to be reliable and dependable as a employee. Not the pain you endure trying to do just that.
So in the traditional sense of contributing to society, it never worked out well for me. But as long as everyone else was happy and I had a façade of wellbeing to mask my pain no one cares about what you suffer. And they will judge you so much when you can’t function like you Should.
Such that when you become disabled and unable to work you have such self-loathing, shame, and guilt over not being able to work. If only I could just push through the pain better, for the sake of others. If only I could just push and push and push and completely ignore the depths of despair from the increased painload, for the sake of others.
You have to reconstruct your self-worth, values, and sense of self without work. And that takes a lot of time. I ran a blog for well over a decade on chronic illness. My psychologist at the time pointed out the value I was contributing to others. I knew there was value to it but I didn’t put any Weight on it. Because it didn’t earn me an income. Well, a bit of side cash, but not a sustainable income. When he pointed it out to me I did realize this contribution Meant something. And I was still defining my self-worth on society’s views of what productivity should be.
The things I do in the world help me feel fulfilled and help with my life satisfaction. To me, they are being productive. And perhaps they do contribute to society in various ways. But I am done defining my existence on what I do for a living.