When Work Doesn’t Work
Trying to maintain a job while battling with your mental health isn’t easy. With two demons living inside your brain, fighting for attention and dragging you down, you have little room for work. They have no consideration for it. You need a job? You have work to do? Tough, they don’t care. They just want you to give them attention.
That’s when work doesn’t work anymore. Before I tap into that, though, let me tell you about the perfect job.
When I left university back in 2013, I had a difficult time finding a job. It’s one of those pitfalls that a lot of graduates tend to fall into where employers want experienced people, not those fresh out of the classroom. As such, it makes it extremely challenging for those of us graduating to find employment. We’re constantly competing against everyone else, trying to shine despite having little to no experience of the jobs we’re going for.
It’s draining. It’s tough. It feels impossible.
When I got my first job, I was ecstatic! It was a chance for me to use my French and to learn a new skill. Working for a company in Birmingham was convenient, as it was in the vicinity of where I lived and the commute wasn’t too bad. The job itself seemed good but unfortunately it didn’t last, plunging me into another bout of unemployment.
Then came the cash and carry. While only part-time, it was a decent stop-gap job for a base upon which to search for new jobs. Aside from a number of the people there – some of whom I’m still in contact with to this day – it was an awful job but it paid some bills. I couldn’t complain, really, after being unemployed for so long prior to this job. Still, I was looking for other jobs.
Then came the job. Not just any job but the job.
For most people working stop-gap jobs, you find yourself waiting for your “big break”. It’s something associated with actors and musicians but I find that it works for almost anyone in a temporary job. We send out all our applications, our CVs, hoping that we will get a response to the job that we want. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
You can imagine my joy at being told I had a new job, after going through the lengthy process of applications and interviews. While it was not something that I had trained for, getting to work for a bank was of a dream come true! It’s high profile, looks good on a CV and is certainly far better than stacking shelves in the local cash and carry, wouldn’t you say?
Rarely do these things turn out well, however.
So I started the job and quickly became proficient at it. Telephony customer services, managing customer accounts and doing what they need doingwith their finances. It was something I enjoyed, interacting with the customers and being able to help them with their queries or problems. I particularly enjoyed being able to take a complaint and turn it round, resolving the customer’s problem for them and being able to go above and beyond their expectations.
Then my depression and anxiety hit.
Work and Mental Health
Trying to work with mental health issues is not easy. When your desire to get out of bed completely evaporates, you find it a struggle to get into work. More often than not, you make it to work and then sit there wondering what you struggled in for.
Every day became a battle against myself. I fought to get to work, then fought not to try and go home early. Panic attacks were a regular occurrence as I sat on the bus or waited for the next customer to call through. Sometimes panic attacks would come in the middle of a call and I’d have to work harder to simply get through that call.
During this time, my depression and anxiety worked hand in hand, interchanging to keep me off balance. When work was quiet, my thoughts would spiral down into black pits, dragging me further and further down. When it was busy, my anxiety would peak, driven by my stress levels. Soon, my manager started telling me to go home, to see the doctor and the other things that managers tell you.
In truth, the support wasn’t great. Aside from expressing concern for me and sorting out time for me to go to the doctor, my manager did very little to help me. Occupational health was unavailable, someone speaking on my behalf wasn’t an option and too much absence would not be tolerated. I found myself being pushed into a deeper, darker place than ever before. Looking back, it was potentially one of the things that triggered my self-harm as a way of coping.
Job Loss and Moving On
It comes as no surprise that I lost that job. The surprise might come from being let go for my absence after being told to take the time off sick. After everything I had done, everything I had put into the company, that hurt but it’s one of those things. As I mentioned, though: there was not much support.
With those experiences behind me, I firmly believe we need to do more to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and bring about a better understanding of what people are going through. Through Pushing Back the Shadows, I aim to do that. As a result, I have set up a page about doing public speaking, so I can visit companies and events and speak on the subject of mental health.
Do you have similar experiences of mental health in the workplace? We’d love to hear your stories! Drop us an email or a message telling us about it.
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