Working With Mental Illnesses

I have an interesting history with employment, not so much where I have worked, but more how I was during the times I worked at those places.

My first proper job was waitressing at my mums cafe, I loved it, I was earning my own money and keeping myself busy during my weekends at home away from college. There were a couple of points during college where my mental health plummeted, it wasn’t in a good state to begin with anyway as I went through a rocky period with boys, then my anxiety got worse and then I was going through counselling, even though it wasn’t helping me, but then also carrying the 10+ years of PTSD and depression around with me, yeah…it wasn’t good. My anxiety had the biggest effect on my work. Taking orders from customers, working the till and serving the food became daunting and I’d try and work through it by hiding in the kitchen or by keeping myself busy by cleaning or something that didn’t involve me interacting with people.

After that I moved into my (at the time) boyfriends house with his family and I was working at a local racing yard. During this time my PTSD and depression were at one of their worsts. I had just lost control, I was barely sleeping but then also sleeping too much, I would cry for most of the day, I would wake up in the middle of a panic attack during the night and I was incredibly insecure. I was too depressed to enjoy it so it didn’t work out. The work wasn’t really for me and I was going through some relationship issues (which I now feel my depression impacted in some way) so I ended up leaving the job, moved back home and then finished my relationship.

Then there was the voluntary work I did in order to try and save my relationship. The yard was located about 10minutes from his house which made a huge difference from the 2.5hours from my home back near Manchester. I offered to work there voluntarily because I was desperate to get him back as the break up sent me into major depression. I stopped showering, rarely left my bed and barely ate which resulted in me losing a lot of weight. I was back self-harming and drinking excessively, I had multiple mental breakdowns at work and hands down to everyone there who helped me get through them. I enjoyed the work here greatly and I have plenty of fond memories of the place but my depression just sucked me down.

Then I ended the relationship (again) and moved a bit further away to work on a dressage/livery yard in Cheshire. I was happy here, I had made my own home which Barney could come to and I got to spend as much time with horses as I wanted. The people I worked with along with the horses owners were great and I still keep in contact with some of the owners now. I was far enough away from home so I got my space but not far enough away so that I couldn’t go home at whatever time and for whatever reason. I had friends close by that I usually went on nights out with and then my boyfriend and I started to ‘work things out’…again. At this point I was pretty good at hiding what I was really feeling, I was a bit more open about it but I was unwilling to openly show it. Needless to say the relationship didn’t work out and I lost the plot afterwards. After the break up (the final break up) I felt a freedom and as though a huge weight was lifted off me, fuck it felt good but I was incredibly self-destructive. I neglected myself and then alcohol and boys became my main priority to be perfectly honest, but I’ll get into that story another time.

I stayed at that yard for around a year and a half, it was a somewhat bitter ending (but that’s all in the past now, I still enjoyed my time there) and I moved back home and stayed unemployed for a couple of months before getting my first office job. I wanted to try something different, I needed a break from the horse industry so I joined a sales team at a company fairly local to my home. It started off great, I was eager to learn and improve and I am extremely thankful for this place as this is where I met Z, who has the kindest soul anyone could come across. I was still in self-destruct mode whilst here which made an impact on my work and eventually I lost the job. At the time my depression was pretty heavy again and I got dragged down by it. I ended up spending the following few weeks unemployed and trying to recover myself before starting a new job working as a customer service representative for another office local to me.

I worked for an online equestrian retailer, so I had kinda gone back into the horse industry but I still wanted to try out office work. The job started off great and I genuinely enjoyed the work. I was still self-destructive whilst here, I was drinking a crazy amount of alcohol and I was somewhat dependent on drugs to pick me up as all three of my mental illnesses were at boiling point and it was only a matter of time before I exploded. The work I was doing required me to make phone calls, receive phone calls, put on a fake voice and laugh, make small talk and I had to deal with some truly unfair complaints which I was fine with when I first started the job, but eventually my anxiety filtered into my work life and everything about work became daunting, then my depression had me crying before work, sometimes whilst at work and then on my journeys home and then my PTSD had me zone out from my work several times a day and would cause me to feel emotions from years ago. I was still working here when I had my mental breakdown back in May 2017 which led me to get professional help (this is when I started my online counselling and then CBT). Work became awful once I started CBT and after around 2 months of therapy I went to my doctors and he signed me off too sick to work. I stayed off work for the following 2 months or so before eventually handing my notice in but I never went back into the office after that doctors appointment (my mum took my sick notes into the office for me, bless her).

After leaving there I remained unemployed for the following 8-9 months. I needed to remain unemployed because I was honestly in no fit mental state to be able to function properly. It was during this time that I came to the decision to move away to Australia, the opportunity came up and I couldn’t say no, I knew it was something I needed to do.

I came over to Australia and I was back working with horses again but I was working in a different section of the industry that I didn’t know much about, as well as working on the other side of the world in a gorgeous place, it was all so refreshing. I was happy for around the first 3 months but then my anxiety got bad again and it impacted my work. I had panic attacks, I cried a lot and I rarely left my bedroom unless it was for work, it was the type of anxiety that makes you hide away because there is a fear of the outside world and then when you’re in the outside world, everything seems to have you on red alert for any dangers. My last month or so was the hardest as I spent most of my free time either drinking or sleeping. I’d drink when I was stressed or feeling anxious, I’d always nap on my dinner breaks and I’d be in bed asleep by 7pm almost every night. The work was draining me and my anxiety was draining me even more so it was somewhat relieving to finish working here as I was then able to properly look after myself.

For the following few months I did temporary work at a few different places before starting the job that I am currently in now. I can hands down say this is the happiest I have ever been in a job, ever. I was a bit hesitant about starting here at the beginning as I wanted to try and get out of the horse industry but I was desperate for a job and the opportunity came up so I just had to take it. My first month or so was the hardest, getting to know new people who knew jack shit about me, my past, why I am how I am and why I do what I do is actually very daunting. It overwhelmed me a few times and I spent quite a few evenings crying down the phone to my mum, this was once again my anxiety making my life challenging. I was struggling more socially, I have a history with alcohol and it was hard for me to socialise without having a drink but the more I socialised the more I drank. I’ll admit there has been a point where I did lose some control and I went off the rails for a bit but I was never doing it to suppress anything, I wasn’t depressed and to be honest I wasn’t even struggling, I was enjoying myself. I had made friends with honestly the best group of people I have ever come across, I was happy at work and I was happy within myself. I’m now in a place where I can freely socialise as much as I want but I can also still get as much me time as I want/need as well. My anxiety died down after a while and although I still have my good and bad days, it’s now is easier to detect, manage and deal with.

I believe my mental state has always had a huge impact on my previous employment and although I still struggle with anxiety now, working whilst being depression and PTSD free has been a big game changer for me. I’ve been reflecting on my work history for the past months or so now, in the past, when I thought about my previous jobs there was sometimes feeling of unhappiness that came with them. I usually just thought it was because I had left the job and was trying to put it all behind me, but reflecting back, it has been fascinating to remember what my mental state was like during the periods I worked at those places. It wasn’t necessarily the work and it wasn’t always the people either, but it was mostly my mental state at the time…which was not good.

I now feel I am at a point where I can remain mentally strong during times where I might get pushed to my limits. Since finishing my therapy, it’s all been a bit of a learning curve. Therapy helped me get rid of the depression and PTSD and although it helped me tame some of the anxiety, I do still struggle with it today (and I believe I will always struggle a bit with anxiety) but therapy also taught me techniques on how to cope with anxiety and what to do when I am going through an anxious period, it also taught me a lot about myself, which in turn has helped me to create my own techniques and coping methods to help me get through the rougher days.

Remember to keep looking after yourself and practise self-care!

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Sending my love,

Emma xo