How do I answer the question, “What do you do for living”?
I’m disabled. I have a mental illness severe enough that I qualify for Social Security Disability Income. For non-Americans or others who don’t know, it’s the system we have here in the US to help people who can’t work due to a handicap.
However, I used to work before I got sick. I have been a teacher and a salesman in big business in the US and internationally, and most recently, I was a book editor. I still do that last one on the rare occasion that someone sends me a manuscript to review and I feel that I’m in the right frame of mind to handle the responsibility.
I lived overseas many years and got used to the idea of not asking questions about personal matters when meeting for the first, second, or even third times. Americans don’t do that. We often ask personal questions the first time we meet, even if we never expect to see that person again. So, I’m often asked what I do for a living.
I invariably tell people that I’m a book editor, which is in many ways both true and false. Yes, I have a small web site, but the last time I was paid to edit anything was more than a year ago. It also sounds interesting and generates lots more questions.
My handicap is not visible from the outside, and mental illness is still misunderstood by most people I meet. I don’t readily share that I have bipolar disorder among other things. I don’t wish to lie to people, but I don’t want to give up something that I consider to be an intimate detail to random people I meet at parties.
Am I lying? Should I start blurting out my psychological diagnoses to all and sundry who ask? Should I just continue on with the way I’m answering?
This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.