Mental health at work: Why it matters

For so long, so many of us struggling with our mental health have tried to keep our issues well hidden. When asked why there’s unaccounted time-off on our CVs, we’ve simply put it down to ‘taking some time out to develop much needed skills’. If asked at interview if adjustments need to be made for any reason, we’ve shied away and shaken our heads to confirm that no, we don’t need help or support. And this is fine.

However, should we, in this day and age, be hiding our mental health conditions away like diseases we don’t want people to catch?

Courtesy of Mind

Blogging for Mind about mental health at work

When I was starting out in my career, I went at it full force, nothing was stopping me, I could work 24/7 and nothing affected me. Then the paranoia started; were people at work talking about me? Were they doubting my ability to do my job? Did they know I was struggling? Then the Glandular Fever happened and then came the downward mental health spiral.

At interviews for future jobs, I didn’t mention my mental state to anyone. I thought it would jeopardise my career and I already had a low opinion of myself and compared myself to everyone else. Everyone else looked shiny and professional and I was falling behind and falling apart. When I eventually had to tell someone I was struggling with depression, it was dismissed like I was making it up. I needed a doctor’s note as ‘proof’. Then I was given verbal warnings and given the choice of ‘getting better or leaving’.

This shouldn’t ever be a position that someone should find themselves in.

Since I’ve received a diagnosis and been more open about it, the shame is starting to disintegrate, although I do still worry about it and whether employers see me as weak. However, after blogging for Mind and having an amazing response, there are so many people out there being discriminated against for their mental health and IT’S NOT RIGHT.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you tell your employer about your mental health condition but if you do decide to and they treat you badly or differently, it’s discrimination and YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Read more about these on Mind’s website here.

Here are a couple of pointers that might help to start you on your way:

  • Sit down with your Manager in a quiet and calm space
  • Take deep breaths and remember why you’re telling them
  • Speak slowly and don’t feel pressured to rush
  • Be honest and explain what’s happened and what’s going on
  • Let them know you decided to tell them because you’d value their support
  • Ask if there are any adjustments that can be made (if you need them – Have things in mind, for example, starting work later in the morning if you struggle to sleep at night or if driving at rush hour makes you edgy)
  • Thank them for listening and for being supportive

Your Manager might want to talk to HR about your chat so they can get support themselves if needed. Not everyone will know how to help you so they might need some input. All the better if it’s going to help you in the long run.

There’s an interesting article here on Psychology Today about anxiety, stress and mental health in the workplace.

In the end, sharing the state of your mental health and your condition is entirely up to you. No one else. If your workplace is still stigmatising mental health and you don’t feel comfortable disclosing it, you don’t have to. However, if you do want to share, your employer should be open to listening.

 

 

Mental health, debt and ‘breathing space: what it all means.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (started by Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert) have found data suggesting that 23,000 people in hospital for a mental health problem were being hounded by banks, credit card companies and local authorities for payment, despite their conditions.

Charities, like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, are joining the MMHPI in calling for a ‘breathing space’ scheme whereby these organisations would stop charging people interest, charges and fees for a certain amount of time if they approached them for help and support.

As someone who’s been on the receiving end of banks and credit card company houndings, this is definitely good to hear. It should also be extended to those who have been diagnosed by their GP and going through treatment and Community Mental Health Teams too. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you’re coping or dealing with life as well as you could be.

I used to do things like:

  • Ignore statements from the bank and hide them in the wardrobe
  • Not answer the phone for fear of it being the bank
  • Ring the bank for advice, listen to what they had to say, but not do any of it
  • Pay back some of my credit cards but re-spend again when I had no money
  • Go on a spending spree because I needed cheering up and not feel bad about it until I had to face the statements

It sucked. Royally. However, the bank did not help because:

  • They never asked why I was spending so much so quickly
  • They automatically increased the credit card limits so I would spend more money (I think this should stop happening as it’s taking advantage)
  • They never signposted me to any other agencies who could help

Back in December, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post about what it was like having a mental health condition and being in debt. Many of you guys reading this may well have been in that position before, not wanting to face your money matters head on or worrying so much about them that you make yourself sick or have panic attacks.

To me, this ‘Breathing Space’ scheme seems like a positive move in bringing mental health and debt into the public eye and get people talking about it. Government now needs to listen. It could help so many people. It could ultimately save lives.

My advice if you’re in this debt spiral:

  • Don’t hide your bank statements
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend for help
  • Go to a charity like Mind or StepChange who can give you guidance or even Citizen’s Advice
  • Look up information on budgeting and see if you can give it a go
  • Cut up your credit cards
  • Give your debit card to a loved one and use cash

I’m slowly working myself out of my ‘bad debt’ (credit cards, overdrafts) so I can pay more off my ‘good debt’ (mortgage, house stuff) which is quite a nice feeling. I still don’t feel like I’m good with money but I’m getting better.

YOU CAN DO IT. You have the power to change things 🙂

What is Borderline?

Since receiving my suspected diagnosis from the psychiatrist, there have been some interesting reactions when I tell people that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)(sometimes known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder).

A couple of the best ones:

  • ‘Does that mean you’re on the border of personalities?’
  • ‘Oh, is that like Bipolar then?’
  • ‘Are you, like, more than one person?’
  • ‘On the borderline of what?’

I’m sure anyone with BPD/EUPD has had some of these things said to them more than once. Having just been diagnosed, I find these quite amusing. For those who don’t know what BPD is, Mind write that it’s “a type of personality disorder. You might be diagnosed with a personality disorder if you have difficulties with how you think and feel about yourself and other people, and are having problems in your life as a result.”

Story of my life.

These are some of the things you can and I do experience:

  • Feeling very worried about being abandoned, and would do anything to stop that happening.
  • Having really intense emotions that last from a few hours to days and can change with a snap of the fingers (for example, from feeling very happy and confident to suddenly feeling low and sad).
  • Not having a real identity and not really knowing who you are
  • Finding it hard to have stable relationships and being reliable
  • Feeling empty
  • Acting impulsively (such as binge eating, drinking too much or driving dangerously).
  • Having suicidal feelings and thoughts.
  • Feeling really angry but not being able to or not sure how to deal with it.
  • Feeling so stressed that you experience paranoia or zone out completely.

For so long, I was telling my GP, mental health teams and other professionals that my moods were erratic and I was doing things to the extreme. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, didn’t belong and didn’t really know who I was. I changed who I was according to who I was with.

Now, and quite recently, I’m feeling so angry at things. I say what I think, I don’t hold back and am openly passive aggressive to strangers (when I hold the door for them and they don’t say thanks, I’m there with the ‘Oh, don’t worry about it’ sarcasm). I almost chucked my Mum out of the car the other day after she commented on my driving. It feels like I can’t stop.

More recently, I’ve been feeling like I want to cry all of the time. I keep pushing the feeling down into my stomach because I’m almost searching for the right time to let it all out. Blogging and talking about it helps to an extent but there are always those nagging worries, the anger, the lack of identity, feeling like everyone wants to leave… It’s hard.

However, I’ve been told that there are things I can do to help myself.

Thank you for reading. I feel like it was a waffly post and I’m really grateful for you stopping by.

 

 

Proclivity for the mind

In truth, I did just have to Google what the Daily Prompt: Proclivity actually meant, but thought I’d give it a go.

I have a proclivity for talking about mental health. It’s something I feel passionately about, strongly about & having experience of it, it’s something I have tendency to talk about a lot.

However, since the update to my ‘diagnosis’, I feel a bit like a fraud. I don’t feel ok in my skin. My mind is an unsure, uneven, overwhelmed entity. I feel like I don’t fit into the world I do strongly associate with.

My proclivity for mental health also goes hand in hand with that of my other love, running. It helps clear the fog, gets me away from the annoyance of daily life & lets me breathe. I’ve run the stages (5k,10k, Half Marathon & Marathon), read so many books, have collected running tops, medals etc. It waned for a bit because I was injured but I’m getting back to it by taking part in RED January. ‘RED’ stands for ‘Run Every Day’ – and is to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind.

This will have my focus for the next month. I do have a tendency to launch full force into things & then give up so we’ll see!

What do you have a strong tendency to talk about? What gets you excited?