I’ve just handed in my notice…

*Content warning: mentions suicidal thoughts*

After nearly two years of a high stress environment at a workplace where staff’s mental health is never openly addressed because of stigma amongst other things – I’ve just resigned. I feel so relieved.

Beyond their overall neglect of overall staff mental health, they’ve been particularly bad dealing (or not dealing at all, basically) with my declining mental health condition.

Let me be clear when I say this a structural/cultural, not a personal failing. Making this about a couple of individual staff members who are insensitive and/or ignorant on disability doesn’t tackle the wider dominant culture where ableist language and exclusionary behaviour is normalised.

I’ve been signed off work this last week & the doctor has me started back on meds, because of being in the worst place I think I’ve been in close to ten years.

Whilst everything is starting to seem less scary inside these four walls, my biggest fear was dealing with work again today. It was made clear there’s no back to work interview, no phased return, and all my workload will have been backed up and I’ll be expected to finish it in the time left over. This is just standard – no support after periods of serious illness like this.

Oh and the other day I found out my serious complaint against my Occupational Health Assessor, in the true style of my workplace, has been done fuck all with. Thanks again, folks, for taking my disability and your problematic culture of ableism, so seriously.

So I decided to resign electronically today, and tell them I’m not coming back in. Seriously, health first (the thought of going back to that office makes me feel physically sick with anxiety). I’ve said I’ll work my notice from home, and my awesome friend and colleague has gone to grab my computer for this morning, and I’m meeting her this afternoon to collect it.

Oh and I sent a litany of complaints detailing my experience to HR. So I’m hoping they won’t contest my working from home this next month to finish up, after everything that I’ve listed that has happened.

I got an amazing (as in, I was literally amazed) response back from a quite senior member of staff last Monday. I had to contact them letting them know I was off sick, because of various people in the chain of command being away. I said I feared for my safety, so had to go to an emergency doctor’s appointment. I said my graphic suicidal thoughts had become more active/prevalent.

Based on my previous experience, their response was ‘utter lack of give a shit’. It’s seeing staff as a piece of the organisation’s productivity, instead of a human being suffering with potentially life-threatening illness.

‘Thanks for letting us know. Let me know if anything needs picking up. Take care.’

WTAF?! I didn’t just tell you I’ve got a cold! Do you really think that when I’m battling with my own thoughts about ending my life, I’m going to be like ‘I’ll just pop those on pause, shall I? Whilst I think about my To Do List, and ping that right over to you in a jiffy.’

Christ, if it wasn’t so disturbingly ignorant, it’d be funny. The problem is for me, if I don’t try to believe that’s just ignorance, it comes off as disbelief. Mental health stigma fun times.

No ‘If there’s anything we can do…’ OR ‘I’m sorry to hear that…’ or any vaguely quasi-human response. ORG BOT’s reliance on its ORGANISATIONAL LENS™ is outdated. It need reprogramming with AI so they can feel – like a real human! (Other more direct managers have been more sympathetic on sick days, but this example is to demonstrate wider organisational culture/Senior Management view, so again let’s not focus on individuals – it’s STRUCTURAL not PERSONAL. Side note: I’m going to get this tattooed on my forehead.)

The awful temptation has been to internalise all of stigma & oppression now I’ve feeling slightly better (‘that didn’t just happen’, ‘it’s not real’, ‘you’re making it up’, ‘you’re attention seeking’, ‘they’ve not done anything wrong – it’s you’). But fuck that, that’s not my reality.

I won’t be shamed into silence after all of this. My experience is valid and real.

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The stigma of self-destruction – the hardest post I’ve written yet

Content warning: suicidal thoughts, self-harm, self-destructive behaviour.

It’s mid-Jan. I’ve broken dry January. Spectacularly. ‘Partying’ until this morning. And I feel awful. I’m not talking about a hangover, I’m talking about suicidal thoughts. Let’s talk about the problems with this type of mental illness symptom, in terms of my – and your perception of it.

This isn’t the ‘oh no, poor you, you feel shit because you feel depressed and it’s out of your control’ type of thing you can all relate to. This is the, ‘You knew going out and getting wrecked and staying up all night would make you feel like shit mentally, but you did it anyway’ type of destructive behaviour that is it MUCH harder for people to empathise with. Yeah – that’s right – I did it to myself.

Basically self-destruction of this sort looks like ‘you’re feeling better, you must be – you went out – you were ‘having fun’. As well as ‘you’ve made yourself more ill by going out and having ‘fun’ – so surely that’s your own fault you feel crapper’. Instead of the irrational stress reaction this is.

And doesn’t your sympathy just evaporate? Don’t you feel like I did this to myself? It’s my fault? ‘If you didn’t want to feel shitter, you shouldn’t have gone out.’ I know I feel that way about myself. This isn’t the right kind of feeling depressed and anxious. This isn’t the, ‘you’ve tried everything to help yourself, but you’re still ill, we get it’ nice type of acceptable mental health problems. This is one with a stigma all of its own.

It’s the ugly truth of a long term mental health condition. Not for everyone, I understand. But I used to physically self-harm by cutting, I stopped that years back. I’ve never had an eating disorder. Try, if you can, to equate my behaviour to that. Outlets like that are more ‘typical’ of mental health problems, and probably because of more awareness around them – and because of their clearly self-destructive nature, they are more what people expect and can feel empathy for.

No one feels empathy or sympathy for someone who feels shit because they were ‘out partying’, ‘out enjoying themselves’. Can you imagine if, as a result, I have to call in sick during the week because of my depression and anxiety being so bad in the aftermath – the difference in attitude if I’d stayed in all weekend, and knowing I’d gone out? How differently would work see it? How would it shift their opinion, even knowing I have serious mental health issues?

Trouble is, was I enjoying myself? If I was, why do I wake up regretting the money I’ve spent, the things I did, knowing it was awful for my health and feeling like I’m going back to square one in terms of self care? If I loved it, then why do I feel so bad, that all I can think of is that I can’t possibly tell anyone I feel that way, because it’s completely irrational to go out if that’s your reason, if you feel that way. If you were the life and soul of the party, how could you possibly be depressed or anxious? We saw you, dancing, drinking, ‘having fun’.

And that I’m a burden. I’ve told my partner before ‘I need to stop doing this’. Then he helplessly watches me leave, convincing himself, like I’m convincing myself, that it’s because I’m going to have fun with my friends, to go out and enjoy myself.

And because I’ve bought it up before with him and said I need to stop, I can’t say it again, because I’m still doing it. And he’ll worry. Because I’m still doing it. And it could drive us apart. Next time I want to do it – he may try and question me, and it’ll make me question it, and my outlet may be exposed. Then how will I self-destruct?

I convince myself in my head I’m feeling better and just having harmless fun. But I awake the next day hating myself, and often having pretty graphic suicidal thoughts. If I was really ‘going out and having fun’ – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be waking up feeling like wanting to kill myself.

That’s the true, ugly side to this unacceptable way I self-destruct. Ugly, because you saw me having fun. Ugly, because you partially blame me for my actions in the first place, and ugly because it’s not quite as other ways I could self-destruct, in a way you could have more sympathy with. And ugly because, for many of you, my friends, I’ve lied to you by doing this on nights out with you. So many times. I’ve lied to you. And myself. And I feel so fucking guilty for misleading you, and hiding that I feel this way afterwards.

So then I feel like never going out again, and will lock myself away, until the next stress trigger that sends me off the rails.

This has probably been my hardest post to write because it actually exposes a lot of the behaviour you’ve all seen in me before. And because I’m actively making my mental health worse by doing it. And because it would openly change my friends – and my employers’ feelings about me. And it’s such a dark self-destruct secret, that I’ve not even ever bought it up with doctors or councillors. This is first time I’m admitting it. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction, because maybe admitting this will help me deal with it somehow, instead of carrying it on.

I don’t know how though. But I’m sorry.

~ MCL x

 

 

I’ve just written my resignation letter…

I’m off sick again today. I spent two weeks over Christmas (mostly) relaxing in my hometown, taking it easy, repairing the damage to my mental health from the last few months.

My first day back, I worked from home. I planned to ease myself back in, before coming back into the office the next week. I took Mon – Wed as annual leave. I have an interim arrangement in place of working Thursday and Friday from home (after much challenging of my organisation, and having to educate them about what reasonable adjustments are and how I’m eligible for them… which has been super stressful in the midst of one of the worse bouts of mental illness I’ve had in a long time).

Morning of the first day back, I’m asked if I’m coming into the office. I respond that these are my working from home days, and then it’s bought up I had annual leave the last three days so it’s presumed I may be coming in. Cue my explaining I was very sick at the end of 2015, and need to ease myself in, and these are my agreed days – followed by a lot of backtracking the other end.

Point is, after fighting for getting reasonable adjustments made – in order for me to be able to continue to do my job – a stressful and ableist Occupational Health Assessment I was made to endure before my reasonable adjustments would be accommodated (until I challenged this, explaining an interim arrangement is a reasonable adjustment, and I shouldn’t be made to wait until afterwards when my health was declining) – I don’t then expect to have them questioned, again.

Seriously, the arbitrary insistence on my arse being on a seat in a specific geographical location is NOT more important than preserving my sanity. Soz.

So that had me nearly having a panic attack on Thursday, before I’d even got back into the office.

Monday, first day back, was full of a load of ableist BS, that whilst wasn’t directly about my issues, serves to further alienate and undermine my being there. Basically, it makes you not feel welcome there as a disabled person – it’s like saying ‘this work place is for the able only’. It feels so excluding.

Tuesday, second day back, I feel excluded again, get unrealistic requests made, start feeling really low, go out on lunch and get really panicky, end up in tears on a bus. (Super embarrassing). I went back to work and hid in meeting rooms the rest of the day, avoiding a meeting I didn’t have the energy to attend.

Last night I slept awfully, as my anxiety was at super high levels. So instead of dragging myself in, I’ve called in sick. Because, self-care. I’d only end up feeling shitter again for being there.

And now I’ve written a resignation letter. I’m printing it, putting it in my bag, and hoping knowing it’s there will make me feel better next time I have another awful day.

My fiancée made a good point about me seeming happier over the break, then first day back I’m in floods of tears when he gets home. We discussed it, and worked out we’d be able to just about cope financially if I quit, as long as I get something down in my hometown ASAP that just covers my bills, and I’d have to not be fussy.

Is there a job where I get to look after/play with animals all day? I think I prefer them to humans.

I’m hoping I don’t have to hand it in before I find another job, but right now every bit of energy is being sapped by having to constantly deal with some shitty thing at work to do with my mental health. (I.e. I’m currently writing a big document of things for colleagues not to do because they exclude me. A lot of which are common sense/courtesy – but because of our work culture no one has time or energy to bother thinking about being sensitive to or respecting all of their colleagues.) So there’s no spoons (energy) left to deal with job searching.

It feels like the only option may be to quit, and as I have a surge of energy (fantasising here!) and when the anxiety is somewhat dissipated – begin to job search then. I’ll just have to take it each day at a time, and see how it goes. But staying there is making me sicker, and I have to put my health first.

Less of a reflective New Year’s post, more of a rambling preamble

I’ve read an avalanche of Facebook NY/NYE posts reflecting on 2015 and planning for 2016 – which can be a bit irritating when it’s so many of them. Especially if you’ve been battling with your health, and someone’s most pressing ambition for 2016 is I really must wear more red. I don’t think anyone’s was quite that vacuous, but you take my point.

And worse than any Facebook statuses posted by people I mostly still speak to, was receiving an essay-long mass email from an old acquaintance listing their professional achievements of 2015. YUCK! Insensitive, at best. (Modesty wasn’t in their achievement list, in case you were curious.)

Essentially, it’s just another day, week, month… year. And every year has shit bits, better bits, and if you’re fortunate, a few awesome bits.

Having said that… I do have one phrase I’m going to stick to from now on. Which is (aside from being slightly hypocritical as it sounds a bit like a NY resolution) more realistic than resolutions after a bout of severe depression and anxiety. The phrase is ‘Self-care’.

I’ve haven’t written here for ages, and I don’t want to harp on about this one phrase considering how I feel about the whole NY resolutions thing. I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of how to break the silence in this post. What to cover? So what you’re getting is me just pouring out what comes to mind, in no particular sequence. Normal service (particular topics, etc) will resume shortly (hopefully).

The festive period was stressful this year. I won’t lie, at a time where everyone’s all ‘YAY Christmas!’ it can make you feel even more isolated for being constantly depressed and anxious. And this was following on by all the stress of employment vs. mental illness stuff, including an awful Occupational Health assessment in mid-December.

Pile the booze-fuelled gatherings of people you rarely see (ending up in a fall out with a family member this year who then stormed out), £200+ of spending, having to find that money, having to find presents in time when you’re sick & can’t face the outside world & all the other organising on top of that – and it can be a really stressful time for ill people.

It’s worth my pointing out, that I recognise it’s actually a stressful enough time even if you’re in good health. You’re just not allowed to say that in case expressing it gets met with phrases like ‘Bah, humbug!’ or being called ‘the Grinch’. ‘C’mon, it’s Christmas, WHY AREN’T YOU HAVING FUN? SMILE!’ ARGH!

Ahhh, the tyranny of festive cheer! 😉

There were good bits; chilling with my fiancée at home, watching fun stuff on TV. I cooked a lot – which I really love (it allows me to ignore the constant negative chatter in my head by providing sufficient distraction). Having time to do that regularly, and experiment with it, has been amazing.

I also decided at the last minute to swing by my friends’ NY gathering too. This was a big step after being such a hermit recently, and after having to abandon my family gatherings mid-way through because of such bad anxiety after the aforementioned fall out. So glad I attended NYE. Small group, friendly faces, nothing too overwhelming – and fun/relaxed. Also my first NYE in my hometown instead of the stressful round trip to London. It felt like a step in the right direction.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that the worst of this bout is over. It’s getting lighter earlier, I’m well rested, and starting to make a few social arrangements. Not going to push it though, just ease myself in gently. I’m also not drinking in January, and maybe beyond, to help my mental health recover as best it can.

Next year, I’m seriously toying with the idea of ruling out all family adult Xmas presents (which I’m sure will not make me popular), and disappearing abroad for the festive period with my fiancée. The idea is, somewhere sunny, to combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder & avoid all the stress.

I hope ‘looking after yourself’ is at the top of your list of priorities, too.

~ MCL x

P.S. My view of Xmas being a giant ugly consumer fest is a WHOLE separate blog post. I’ll save that treat for you for next year.