I wish I could give 2018 me a look into this year. I feel like a completely different person, and my whole attitude towards mental health has completely changed.
A year ago I was stuck in a job I couldn’t stand. My mental health was in ruins. And I could barely get out of the door. Every day I would sit in my local coffee shop and question whether I had the strength to get through the day. There came a time when I couldn’t sit at my desk for longer than a few hours without gasping for air in fear of what was to come.
I opened up about my mental health to my boss, and sadly this was where the situation got much worse. I was constantly belittled, told my mental health was having a negative impact on the team, and that I couldn’t work flexibly in case I was seen to be receiving special treatment, even though my office had a flexible working policy.
When I was off sick, I was sent emails of a bullying nature, and on the day I was diagnosed with depression, I was told I was making my boss’s job harder. At a time when I was finding it hard to see the bigger picture because I was stuck in the black hole of depression, I took this incredibly seriously and it made my condition much worse.
I didn’t receive the help I deserved at work, until I eventually, after months of comments on my mental health, I made a formal complaint of harassment and bullying. Had my boss, and my workplace, had training into supporting someone with a mental health problem, I might still be there.
I will never forget the fear of going to work for what my boss would say to me that day, or the feeling of not wanting to wake up the next morning.
To feel like I’d gone from someone thriving in my career to being told I was failing to make a contribution, was shattering. I eventually got an apology, and my boss soon left the company.
I finally got the help I needed to help me move on from the experience, and I developed the tools I needed to manage my condition at work. I’d be deluded if I said the depression was gone. It hasn’t and there are days when I feel the dark cloud coming over me, and I feel suffocated by my own thoughts. But I’ve learned to accept them, and deal with each day as it comes.
I can now look back on my negative experience at work as a learning. It forced me to grow up and accept my condition rather than fear it, and to take the confidence in knowing what was best for me and standing up for myself and what support I needed. In coming out of the hardest year of my life, and through my mental health diagnosis, I have learnt what true resilience is.
I wish my work had been given the support they needed to support me. Both me and my boss gave up our careers at an incredible job because neither of us knew how to cope at the time. Education and training are key. We all deserve to feel safe at work.
When we feel weak, we need the support of our workplace to give us the flexibility we need to be well as well as productive. Without an understanding of mental health at work, stories like mine will continue to be the norm.
A recent survey of the charity sector uncovered some uneasy reading about bullying and mental health at work. Whilst this made me realise I’m not alone, it also made me realise just how important it is to speak openly about mental health and how we are feeling. We must all continue to call out the injustices people with mental health conditions face at work if we are to make real change for future generations.
Nobody should be belittled into thinking their condition is a burden because their manager doesn’t have the experience or training to support you.
All mental health conditions are difficult for you and the people around you, but with the right tools, and the right help, you can have a career.
We’ve a long way to go. But there is hope. I didn’t feel it then, but I certainly feel it now. It really is time to change