I have a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Education in the Primary and Junior Division and an Early Childhood Educators Equivalency, which I did by fast-pacing the program. I finished the ECE program with three A-pluses, three A’s and one B.

Impressive, isn’t it?

At the time, I thought so myself. But now, not really.

That’s because I am more impressed that I have been employedYou only work twice a week? at DANI, a day program for young adults with disabilities, for almost 18 consecutive months. I work Mondays and Fridays in a paid capacity, but you’ll frequently see me here on Tuesdays through Thursdays, socializing with the staff and participants; talking to Kasper, our service dog; or volunteering at various events and functions.

You see, I have a disability, but you would not know it by just looking at me or by having a brief conversation with me.

Some of you may be thinking: That’s it? You have all these qualifications and only work twice a week? That’s not very much. What is it exactly that you do?

But little do you realize, this is a HUGE deal, for I have defeated the odds.

Let me explain. I have a serious mental-health illness. I have borderline personality disorder (also known as BPD) depression, anxiety and OCD.

Living with BPD is extremely difficult—not only for me, but for my family. It is a mentally and physically exhausting illness. It is one that sends you out of control, where your emotions control you, your behavior urges control you, and you, as an individual, become totally and completely lost.

Close your eyes and try to picture yourself in the mist of a horrific hurricane, crying and trying to fight the debris flying towards you. But no matter how hard you fight, you are still crying and still stuck in the center of the hurricane.

That is what it’s like living with BPD. How have I defeated the odds?

Professionals have told me that because I have a serious mental-health illness, I will never be able to manage paid employment and attend my medical sessions. I have been told by professionals that it’s one or the other—either work or go to appointments.

Eighteen months later, I’d like to say to these professionals: “I did it, I am doing it, and I will continue to do it.”

The Benefits and Rewards

So now you know about my illness and that I am working, but you’re probably still wondering about what I actually do.

On Mondays, I work at the DANI cafe. I set the entire cafe up from scratch, for we often have functions on Sundays. I also work with Orly, our head chef. I have learned how to make food for the participants, for the cafe, for our kiosk and for the social functions held here.

On Fridays I do office work. I sort credit-card receipts for individuals who work at DANI. I input the data into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. I file documents in various binders and work on special projects that require research.

I’d like to tell you what DANI has given me:

It offers me the opportunity to be a productive member of society.

It provides me with an environment where I can be myself—illness,I am learning how to trust people symptoms and all—and where I will get support. Through my work here, I am learning how to trust people.

It allows me to confide in certain individuals, safely and in confidence—individuals who don’t get spooked by what I tell them.

It instills in me that I am a human being with values, skills and importance.

It surrounds me with colleagues who check in on me periodically throughout the day to make sure I am alright.

The only employer I have ever known, DANI has shown such compassion, understanding, heart and a wealth of knowledge. We must create more work environments like this that are welcoming and inclusive.

Everyone will benefit.