Monday, 6 April 2020

Depression, Work & Me


I admit, this isn't the happiest first post, considering I've been out of blogging for around nearly a year now. But I feel like its an important one that will *hopefully* push me forward to much more happier posts in the future!

I don't know where to start with the topic of depression because I don't really have a start date. I know I've suffered badly since 2013 but I won't be creating a timeline or anything like that... Because that really will be depressing. I just want to explain a little bit about how its affected me in day-to-day work. 
Why? Because I put a story up (more of a rant) on my Instagram that actually sparked attention and it was really empowering. I had a few people tell me that they felt exactly how I did and they thought they were alone in feeling this way.

You're not alone, we just get too scared to talk about it.

I guess I've seen this empowerment as an eye opener to create this post, because for once I'm not nervous that people will read this and think I'm mad. Instead, I have a chance to make one person feel less alone, and that is enough of a reason.

Lets stick together.

Depression is often loosely related to struggling with a career, because a lot of people can recognise it as a paralysing sadness. The first time you come clean and admit you're struggling is hard, because how will they take it? I've worked for companies that have almost certainly pushed me out of the job because they didn't want to deal with my depression. But I've also worked places that really understand... 

For a little bit.

What do I mean by 'a little bit'? Basically, even when a company understands your issues and allows you time off to recover, it doesn't seem to last. It seems like theres a time limit on your depression because if it falls out of the companies sick regime then they're going to lose interest. Fast.
The empathetic, kind and thoughtful 'back to work' conversations soon turn to brash, cold, threatening conversations. The person who once told you to always come for a talk when you feel low is now shutting their door on you or rolling their eyes. Then you get the polite threats of failing probation if you don't stop taking sick days. 

Wow my depression is cured because you asked me to not feel sick.

Believe it or not, depression doesn't have a time limit and quite often can't be cured in a few months. Who knew? I couldn't get out of bed in the morning because my life felt pointless. Even getting up to go to the toilet seemed like a waste of time. To put it lightly, I was so depressed I just wanted to not exist anymore. Even if I loved my job, the people I worked with and everything about the company.. 

Unfortunately mental illnesses do not care if you're happy, they only care about keeping you sad.

I think the thing that hurts the most is seeing everyone else able to wake up, go to work and go home AND THEN do it all again for another 4 days. How?! How can people make it look so easy because then it makes me feel even worse that I can't do it. Something everyone on earth seems to do naturally comes as the most impossible task for me, so whats wrong? I would spend hours trying to get myself to just get in my car, trying to ignore how I felt and push through. But sometimes pushing through made me either have a painful panic attack before or during work, or I'd explode with sadness by the time I got home and I'd need a few days to recover.

Believe it or not, depression makes you exhausted.

I thought I was quite alone in the whole depression vs working life sh*t show, but I've had a few people tell me they felt the same way. I knew people suffered mental illness but I'd never shared how it affected my working life until now. I thought the fact I couldn't hold down a job whilst suffering with mental illness meant I was weak, as everyone else seemed able. I had to suffer a lot of judgement for going in and out of jobs alongside my own judgement of myself. I had family constantly reminding me: "another job?" "your CV must be colourful now" "maybe you need to stick to this one?" and then I had friends pretty much talking behind my back about it.

Maybe if someone appears to be struggling they might want some help?

Unfortunately, mental health is a hard battle when it comes to making people understand. Not one person is the same even if they have the same condition, therefore people find it hard to pigeon hole what it means. People who don't understand something find it easier if presented with an A-Z of explanation. So if you try to explain that some people work A-Z and other people work Z-A, well, they want to walk away from the issue.

If something can't be fixed, its probably easier to ignore it.

I found certain jobs would really affect my depression. Working in big chunks caused me a lot of anxiety related stress which dominoes into depression. For example, when I worked in retail id often work 2/3 days then have a day off because thats how retail works. However, when I started working in an office Monday-Friday (sounded like a dream) I suffered hugely. If I woke up Monday feeling paralysed with depression I didn't have my comfort blanket of "Its only 2 days until you're off work". Instead, I had 4 full days of dragging a heavy weight of depression with me. 
My doctor even wrote letters to the last company I worked for, suggesting I drop a day of work until I recover. Not because he thought it'd be a laugh believe it or not, but because he was aware my health was so bad I could end up a serious risk. 

Of course, his letters were rejected.

Another mountain I had to climb was feeling "stuck". This applied more in retail work, where you'd have to be present on the shop floor. But when I felt a panic attack swelling inside me and had no where to hide it created the fear. The fear of going to work incase a panic attack happened in front of everyone, which was enough for my depression to make me house bound.

Agoraphobia - the fear of leaving the house.

The final problem was leaving my safe space, which became my biggest mountain to climb. I was petrified of leaving the house because I didn't feel safe anywhere else. This has not only affected my career, but my social life and my sanity. I couldn't face leaving my house because what if I had a panic attack? What if I started to feel so low that I did something stupid in public? 

I couldn't face the answers so it was easier to lock myself in my house.

Im fortunate enough to have started my own business and alongside therapy get a lot of help. Working for myself means I don't have a company telling me what I can and can't do to help myself with depression. It means I can work my own hours and fit therapy, doctors appointments and self help into my life. I am so grateful I took the step into self employment as I honestly get scared thinking of what my outcome could've been.

"Depression is living in a body that fights to survive, with a mind that tries to die."

I'd love to finish this blog with an answer or a fix for depression, but sadly I don't. But at least I now know that I am not alone, you are not alone, and we can definitely find some peace knowing we are not alone!

We are together.

Much love,
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