As most of you will know i recently (and by recently i mean January now) started full time employment after 5 years of being on disability benefits. Due to the restructuring of the benefit system i was reassessed and despite having been deemed to never need to work again i was all of a sudden stripped of my benefits and asked to gain full time employment. As you can imagine this was exceptionally stressful and not exactly helped by the fact my current employer was unwilling to fund me going full time, which meant finding a whole new place of work.
I’m now coming into my fifth month and geeze louise it’s hard work. As my Aunt noted yesterday i began work at the absolute worst time of the year, when it’s pitch black when you go to work and pitch black when you leave; at the time i recall thinking ‘cool, so literally my skin will not have access to the daylight now, well that’s good to know’. I was also heavily using, and have been up until the past week, sleeping tablets to ensure i slept through because there was definitely no way i was going to be able to function at work without sleep. This meant i was groggily traipsing into work in the dark attempting to shake off sedation before i arrived. The combination of dark and exhaustion meant i came home and lay comatose on my sofa unable to make something resembling a healthy meal and staring at the ceiling awaiting a time that was reasonable to go to bed.
The past 4 months have essentially been a constant state of half existence, i realised early on that i could get through work but i literally couldn’t socialise without being too pooped to be fully engaged at work the next day. Furthermore i had gone from spending 5 days a week solidly on my own to being thrust into a busy office in which everyone wants to talk and people are coming in and out. Initially i said i’d give myself a couple of weeks of being a hermit at lunchtime and then i’d engage but actually i need the half hour break to just wind down. As a result the idea of seeing friends became a ‘erghhh more socialising’ rather than the treat is usually was which meant i was officially working to not live. As the washing piled up on my bedroom floor and the washing up grew new life forms in my kitchen sink i hit a breaking point and called for back up. Lucky for me that week my friend arrived with food and cleaning products (and i literally love her so much for that) and my mum arrived to help me sort my flat out.
It’s taken 4 months but i am beginning to get into the swing of things a little bit and am realising however great your organisation is you need to look after your own mental health, after all they’re not mind readers. When i first started i wanted everyone to think i was awesome and be all ‘this kid is amazing, you would never know she’s just come off benefits and is a wreck at home because she is so high functioning here she’s smashing it’….which is a fair bit of pressure to place on a human. I then burnt out and had no life and had to do a full on benefit system and reassess (yeah that’s a dig), i realised i was too sedated when i began my day and changed my hours to allow myself more time in the morning to wake up; i then organised to work from home once a week so i could have a quiet brain and i quit berating myself for not cycling everyday and caught the bus. At first i felt super frustrated, like i was the token mental health person and i was letting the team down because people would associate me with mental health and mental health with being a huge pain in the ass but i’ve since realised a few things:
- My mental health is first and foremost my responsibility and i need to speak up and vocalise what i need if i expect people at work to provide that.
- There is a big difference to chilling out on your own in a clean tidy flat with some candles watching a movie to lying comatose on the sofa in a mound off grossness on your own crying and snot covering your hoody.
- If you only eat junk food that requires a microwave you can expect to feel like poop, gain 10 pounds and wobble when you move but that can be ok if you exercise self compassion and acknowledge that you are doing what you need to get by for a bit and it’s not for the long term.
- It is very hard to do 10,000 steps a day when you spend 8 hours of it sat at a computer.
- That it’s ok to switch off at the end of the day, to not work overtime or stay late to finish something, that’s not a reflection of your ability or dedication, work is important and should be done well but no one is on their death bed wishing they worked more…
- That actually when i do socialise or spend time doing things i enjoy outside of work i am more excited and engaged at work. This is a big revelation for me since those first few months of resting at every opportunity like a woman from the victorian period on a chaise lounge.
- That taking the odd day off here and there is so important and i should not assume that when i do people are contemplating why they employed me.
- Sitting at a computer in sterile lighting all day is not good for ones mental or physical health and whilst it may look like a cop out those DS breaks are something people should do….they should also quit eating lunch at their desks like there haven’t been 500 studies about why that’s stupid.
- The benefits system is ridiculous and unfair and will penalise me whatever i do, a case in point is the fine of £50 i was asked to pay because i only told them i had began work (that thing they made me do) 6 days after i started and not on my first day, because obviously everyone takes time out of their first day to make a 45 minute phone call…
- Once you share your experiences, even just a little, people are significantly more inclined to support you and cut you some slack, my colleague literally tells me off if i become too self deprecating, like ‘Hannah quit over investing because you think we think you’re rubbish because we think you’re great but doing too much work’, which is a cool vibe to have.
Things are slowly improving and a large part of that is about cutting myself some slack and ensuring i am enjoying my time outside of work. If anyone has been in a similar boat i would advise them to show a little self compassion and acknowledge if you were strong enough to get through your own challenges you can for sure get through this one ( ergh that sounds like a quote you’d find on a canvas and i HATE those).