Mental Illness Fallout: Carleton and Infosec

It’s difficult not to consider the effects of my illness on my ability to find and keep a job. It’s starting to look like the effects of my last suicide attempt might be permanent. If I’m lucky I get 2-3 “good” hours a day and I don’t think I could hold down a full time job. I don’t know how to feel about that, it’s just another layer of garbage that has been piled on.

There’s a lot I had wanted to accomplish with my life and I suppose if I force myself to look at the situation optimistically “helping people” and “making the world a better place” are still possible although my capacity to realize that have been greatly reduced. Writing that out feels incredibly stupid and naive but, if I’m being honest with myself.

One thing I am happy about is not continuing or perpetuating the harm I’ve experienced. I was pretty angry about everything that happened at Carleton and within the sociology department. Part of the reason I choose to move away from Information Security within a commercial context were because of the barriers being bipolar, and the baggage that I have to carry as a result, had proven themselves to be roadblocks. I felt university would be more accepting, and I suppose in a way it might be but like anywhere else there are worthy and unworthy victims. I don’t like thinking about myself as a victim.

I worked briefly at an application security firm in Ottawa the spring before I started at Carleton and I thought it was going well enough. The routine was helpful and contributing to a team was rewarding. One day the owner announce he was planning on obtaining security clearances for the business and the employees. Having lived through a few psychotic episodes, unfortunately, would surely turn up on background checks. I didn’t want the owner or his business to be blind sided by that so I pulled him aside later that day and went into a great deal of detail about what happened. It was an incredibly difficult and stressful conversation but I was hoping that being honest and transparent about what happened would be the best path forward.

My contract with that company, which was set to end maybe a month or so after that conversation took place, was not renewed with budgetary constraints cited. He never did talk about or push for getting the business that security clearance after I had told him about illness and related events. It’s hard for me to get too upset towards him if my past was the reason he didn’t renew my contract. I do understand and appreciate the position he was in. If you spent your career trying to build something up would you put in on the line? I had often heard that when it came to security/clearance related matters what mattered most was honesty and transparency and less the events themselves. I had hoped that would be the case.

As for Carleton, I didn’t expect it. I had experienced some pretty rough treatment when I was completing my bachelors at Queen’s. One of the more memorable events being the mental health counsellor who was appointed to take care of me flat out accusing me of lying about being bipolar. But looking back on it, the path on how to deal with that seemed clear, and I guess it would be at any institution. I setup a meeting with the director of the clinic and filed an official complaint, he and a few others took the time to listen to me and their interest and concern felt genuine. I remember looking over their staff list a year or so later and her name wasn’t on it anymore so, maybe something concrete had resulted from that. I don’t know for sure.

What happened at Carleton though feels different. I feel the problem I encountered was worse comparatively than what I experienced at Queen’s but much more convoluted and consequently more difficult to disentangle. There are some elements that are straight forward, the instances of discrimination seem pretty clear cut but even there, when tenured professors engage in it, I guess right away, it becomes more complicated. But complexity is no excuse, especially not at a university.

All that to say I feel pretty dismal about what the future holds.

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