Since I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder back in 2012, I have had an array of jobs and employers who all react differently to mental health and I thought this would be a good topic to talk about on here.
We spend so much of our life at work that it is important that we feel at ease in our job – life is too short to be constantly worrying and fretting about work, and although it is usually crucial to have a job to fund your lifestyle, your happiness should be the upmost important focus.
If I think about when I first learnt that I had anxiety, it was during the time I was still at university and working part-time in a call centre. Whilst I was working there, I made a close circle of friends, which made me feel much more at ease and my anxiety was never really apparent, and I felt as though I had it under control.
After finishing university, I started work full time straight away, which was such a shock to the system after having a few months of travelling around, going to festivals and spending time with my favourite people. Although I felt anxious day to day about the way my life was going career wise, I was also so busy and learning so many new things that it was always put to the back of my mind. Also, during this job was when me and Jordan became closer (after knowing each other for a few years prior) which gave me someone to talk to on a daily basis who I knew wouldn’t judge me if I wasn’t feeling myself.
After a few months, I noticed that I was starting to feel more and more anxious going into work and I felt like I had a heavy weight on my shoulders every day, which was a horrible feeling. I didn’t think I was getting enough out of my job, and it was making me miserable. I went to the doctors and they prescribed me medication but because I wasn’t particularly enjoying my job, I ended up moving departments. At the time, this was a really good move for me; I felt like I fit in more, I had a proper friendship group and people I could talk to in work if I needed to.
My anxiety never went away during this time, and some days it was worse than others but I felt as though I was in the right place work-wise. After I wrote this blog around the same time, my manager took me aside and said she was always there to confide in when I needed it, which made the whole experience much easier.
Writing that blog was incredibly tough, and at one point I wasn’t going to post it because I didn’t want my work friends or colleagues to read it and think I was strange or feel as though they had to treat me any differently, especially because there was no particular reason why I felt so anxious at the time – but everyone was so incredibly supportive, and a lot of people even said it helped them open up about their mental health, which was such a great reaction.
If we skip forward a bit to my last job, this was where I felt I was struggling more than ever. Although most of the people were nice, one of the turning points was when I overheard someone laughing about a colleague who had been signed off with depression from a different department. Apart from being in complete shock, I felt as though I would be victimised if anyone knew about my past so I kept quiet.
Acting as though nothing was wrong was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and it made going to work harder than ever. I woke up in the night worrying about what the next day would be like and I felt as though my workload was getting on top of me. The doctor prescribed me a different medication because I couldn’t handle going into work, but nothing was working.
It got to the point that every email I received with that name sent me into a frenzy – even if the email was a company-wide one. To me it didn’t matter; I constantly thought I was in trouble or was going to get sacked, even though I was doing nothing wrong and I could barely concentrate. I used to go home and cry to Jordan about how on edge and irritable I felt there, until one day I decided that enough was enough and I quit.
Quitting my job when I didn’t have one to go to was one of the bravest but scariest decisions I’d ever made, but I’m very lucky in the respect that I have a good support network. I knew I would be ok for about a month money-wise, but I also knew my mental health would be so much better out of that environment, and to me, that was the most important factor.
When I finally had some breathing space, I was able to think about what I wanted my next step to be career wise. I luckily got some freelance work straight away and I was doing a few projects for my old manager whilst I decided what my next step was. When I had time to get my head back together, I had chance to properly look for a job and interview with people who I wanted
Being out of that office helped me incredibly: I was myself at home, I was making plans and spending time with my friends and family and I was able to sleep again. It’s crazy to think how much having that job affected me mentally, but it was such a big learning curve.
The point of this post isn’t to encourage you to quit your job if you’re finding it hard, but to think about prioritising your mental health if you are feeling down when it comes to work, and never think you are alone in struggling day to day. Talking about anxiety is something I find incredibly hard, but it is something that I know people shy away from talking about, and I want to help break the stigma.