For Alexandra Cox*, having a job means more than money in the bank. When the 43-year-old was hired by a Levi’s Store in March, it literally changed her whole life.
“I thought I’d never work again,” recalls Alexandra, who had been out of work for over two years after being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
The Ukrainian Village resident had struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her adult life, but a “major psychotic snap” led to hospitalization and a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, a condition she refuses to let define her.
“Having bi-polar disorder is just one aspect of my personailty,” says Alexandra, who plays guitar and is lead singer in a local band. “It’s not who I am first and foremost.”
Alexandra began seeing a C4 therapist and psychiatrist who prescribed medication to manage her bipolar disorder. About a year ago, she enrolled in C4’s supportive employment program, which finds jobs in the competitive marketplace for adults with major mental illness.
Working with job coach Tania Morawiec, Alexandra learned how to address employment gaps in her resume, and was encouraged to include her volunteer experience with Girls Rock Chicago, a summer camp for girls 6 to 18 who write and perform original music.
This spring, Tania suggested that Alexandra visit a jobs open house at a Levi’s retail store.
Alexandra followed her advice. “The store manager loved my energy and offered me a job,” says Aexandra, who now works part-time at the store.
Besides giving Alexandra extra money to afford the burgers and fries she loves, the job has profound benefits.
“I used to sleep until 2 pm most days due to my depression,” says Alexandra. “Now I’m out of bed every day at 10 am, whether I work or not.
Having a destination and purpose is wildly important in my life.”
Thanks to C4, more than 140 adults with severe mental illness have found jobs, a remarkable achievement considering that 70 to 80 percent of people with mental health problems are unemployed, even in a good economy.