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A couple years back I was successfully working in my company (which at that point was the 12th successive year in my career), when I started to all of a sudden get symptoms of delusional and paranoid disorder, where I thought the police were out to get me and that there were people/ cameras monitoring me everywhere. I ended up quitting my job voluntarily and pretty much stayed locked up in my parents house for the next 2 years due to fear and the continuing delusions. (I ended up being hospitalized during this time in which the doctors diagnosed me with this disorder otherwise by myself I was refusing to go to the doctor and was denying my disease).

I was lucky enough to recover from the disease and am back to a completely normal mental state, but now I need to get a job again in my same field to support myself and my family (after such an extensive gap of 2 years).

I tried saying the truth on my resume that I had to take a break due to a severe illness - that didn’t work with any employer- reality is no one wants to hire anybody who was out of work whatever their personal reason must be. Theres probably too much competition, no one wants to risk this, and there’s just a negative viewpoint that employers in general carry about people who are out of work (especially due to mental illness), which I think is unfair.

Since I didn’t want to lie on my actual resume/experience, I tried a bunch of other alternatives – 1) I took some time out to take care of a sick family member, 2) said I had to take over family business, 3) took a sabbatical, 4) took some time out for learning and development, 5) did some advisory/consulting work in between- all these didn’t work with employers either (I know, not good, these are still all lies). There is no possibility of me returning to my old company also.

So now I’m left with a tough decision - I don’t see any other way except to lie on my actual resume and experience to save my career. If I don’t lie, I have to start a new career which would cost lots of money (for college/certifications/training) which I don’t have (or that my family doesn’t have). Or I’ll have to work an odd job, which would mean trouble for me and my family surviving financially and I couldn’t properly support everyone.

I also thought of other options like starting a business with low or zero cost or even another career field where they would provide the training for free but, there is nothing that sticks out to me and nothing near the level of financial support/stability I need for my family.

Asking for opinions and help here: Would lying in this situation be acceptable as per dharma because : 1) I internally regret it constantly , 2) because my intention is not to hurt anyone, 3) because I am in a desperate situation to survive financially, and 4) because of the stigma people have of people who have had mental illnesses?

Elsewhere in life, I strictly follow the precept of never telling a lie and living a life based on truth. Due to this, I am being torn apart inside right now because I really don’t want to lie.

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    Sorry to hear about your situation. Don’t give up and give in to this craziness in the world. There’s discrimination of all kinds: age, sex, race, nationality, religion and so on. Let others discriminate but we mustn’t let ourselves be swept away. Don’t argue, don’t quarrel, just focus and out-perform them. You will emerge stronger while they are fossilized in their rigid views, unable to evolve.
    – Desmon
    Feb 4 at 12:29

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The Vinaya is more detailed and explicit than the suttas are, e.g. about what exactly "lying" is -- it's something like, "Saying something, knowing that it's untrue, with the intention to deceive."

If you don't say something, that is not lying.

There's data I don't put on my resume -- the date of my education, and my early jobs.

So instead of lying, consider whether you can just not say it -- leave a gap on your resume. A recruiter may say that they don't like to see a gap, but even so. What matters IMO is whether you can do the job.

If asked about it in an interview:

  • Congratulations, you made it to the interview stage! They want to hire you.
  • Say that you left work temporarily for "personal" reasons

I think it's justifiable to:

  • Edit your resume so it only lists experience that's relevant to the job you're applying for
  • Separate personal from professional information in an interview
  • Expect they may ask for e.g. a police background check, if they offer you the job

For example in Canada an employer must not discriminate based on age, gender, nationality, marital status, etc., and should offer reasonable accommodation for disability. So I wouldn't put that on my resume, wouldn't expect to be asked about it in an interview, and would hesitate (might decline) to answer in the unlikely event I were asked.

because of the stigma people have of people who have had mental illnesses?

I knew someone like this, working as an early childhood educator. She felt parents would be horrified if they knew the truth -- i.e. that she had been mentally ill and was now looking after their children -- and so eventually quit, which was unfortunate.

Her psychiatrist's opinion was "Don't worry about, you're absolutely fine now, keep working!"

The "stigma" was more in her mind, her self-image, than in anyone else's.

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  • Someone said they found this difficult to understand, and could I explain it more clearly -- but in what way? Is it that the sentences are long (grammar and syntax)? Some of the concepts from employment law are technical vocabulary (e.g. "reasonable accommodation")? Or something else, e.g the logic of not putting on a resume information that's irrelevant or even forbidden when making hiring decisions?
    – ChrisW
    Feb 4 at 11:06
  • I think leaving a gap on a resume is fine, but you should be prepared for a question about it during an interview if an interviewer noticed the gap, so that you don't stutter or look ashamed when asked what you did in those two years.
    – Stef
    Feb 5 at 15:28

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