Today I’m exploring the effects of working with a mental illness. The intense hardship this brings and what I’m hoping for in the future.
The expectation when you become an adult is that you grow up, maybe go to university, or college if that`s your thing, and then get a job.
You work, pay taxes, buy a house, get married, have a family. These are the small little expectations that society has sort of laid out in front of us. Yes, it has changed a lot, and this isn`t always the expectation, but it`s like its the small whisper in the background still. Now, all these things sound lovely, and if that is the way you want your life to go, and if that all works out for you, that is fantastic! However, let`s go back to the very first one. Work. A very normal task for a healthy individual to take part in. A lot of people love their jobs, a lot of people hate their jobs, but none the less, I would bet that the majority work.
Now, can we think about how awful life with mental illness can be? Now add in working.
If you do suffer from it, then you`ll know exactly what I am talking about. If you don`t, then try to imagine it as I am writing it.
When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, you don`t jump out of bed ready to start your day. You are filled with dread and sadness that yet another day has come. Maybe your body is filled with aches and pains and the very thought of getting up and getting dressed has exhausted you so much, that you just want to close your eyes and go back to sleep. You maybe don`t feel. Maybe you are just numb at this point, from carrying the heaviness around for so long. Maybe you do feel, but it is just so awful, deep and dark. None the less, you force yourself to get up. You have to be responsible right? You have rent, or a mortgage, and everything else that comes with adult life.
You don`t care what you look like.
So you throw on whatever is easiest to grab. It`s not because you want to look sluggish or ragged. It`s because you are basically just going through the motions of life, without actually living. Inside, you aren`t alive. Maybe you brush your teeth.. maybe you don`t. We won`t even talk about make up. Every movement you make, you just want to collapse and make it all stop. As you walk, there is so much taunting in your head. The rooms are filled with blackness, even though there are lights on.
All this, just to get out of bed and get dressed.
Maybe you are a mother, maybe you aren`t. If you are, it adds a whole other level to this picture. You now have children to get ready for school, lunches to pack, agenda`s to sign, and children to talk to. You smile, you try to look alive. You try to hide it, because you love your children. You don`t want them to ever feel or see the darkness in you. On the outside, you do everything you are supposed to do. Drink coffee, or tea, or water, whatever you prefer, make a lunch, leave to go to work. You drive to work, and fight the thoughts that tell you to drive your car head on into another car. But you don`t want to do that for fear of hurting the other person. You don`t ever want to cause anyone the pain and darkness that you carry with you. By the time you get to work, you feel like you`ve been awake for 3 days. You are tired, exhausted, and can barely move. You ache, you are sore, and you just want to cry. But, guess what, you now have 8 hours to go before you go home.
Whatever your job is, you just go through the motions. You barely make it most days. You often go to the washroom, just to be alone, and wonder why you are alive. You feel alone, and isolated. Nobody understands. Nobody can see it, therefore to them it doesn`t exist. You`ve been told to exercise, to eat right, all those typical things. Nothing seems to help you. You feel in despair every single minute of every single day.
Now of course this is not every single person who struggles with mental illness.
It is a picture that I`ve painted so you can see and try to imagine. When an employee is sick, it is acceptable. It is usually okay to stay home sick. And, for more long term sicknesses people show empathy, and sympathy and often even support.
Why doesn`t mental illness still not have that same effect on people?
So those who do struggle to this extent, where they just can barely make it there, but they need to pay the bills, why can`t there be some help for them? So they can focus on a recovery path, and get back to work in time.
If you got injured, you could be off work without any judgement. If you had surgery you could be off. Why aren`t mental illnesses the same?
We need time to get it under control, and take care of our mind and if we need a medication, then we need time to have our body adjust to it. It is not easy to start one.
Starting a path of recovery, while still going through the daily motions of life, well, is that even recovery? You are just adding another layer to your life. You are making it more busy, and adding another stress, on top of all the other stresses you have.
Maybe sometimes people miss work because of mental illness. Chances are that makes them look bad, or unreliable to their employer. Maybe some lose their jobs as a result of. Now there is another stress, of how are you going to pay bills now? How are you going to get a new job, when you just got fired? That doesn`t look great to a new employer.
It is a vicious circle.
It does not make anyone feel good, empowered or strong, which we need inorder to feel like we are capable of getting to a healthier state of mind. Why can`t there be something to help those who struggle? Something to protect them.
They don`t deserve to lose their jobs, just because of their illness. They deserve to be working.
I wish the world would change. I think it slowly is. But I do wish that it would be faster with the change. A lot of people who struggle with mental illness, should be able to be at home and focusing on their recovery. They should be securing the support and maybe therapy if that is what they need. They should be able to go to appointments without any added stress. I hope I live to see the day when mental illness is just as regarded as any other illness or condition. I think if employers could recognize it more, maybe people would have a better chance of healing and living a full quality life.
While I recognize that working is a part of contributing to adult life and to society, and way of paying bills, and being responsible, but how can we do all those things if we are not healthy. Struggling with a mental illness is not living a full and healthy life. Even insurances, and unemployment programs I feel could help more. If working is not an option for an individual, or they lost their job as a result of their mental illness, then there needs to be help. They are still an adult, and still in the adult world.
I think that, while the world has made many advances towards accepting, and improving mental health, and maybe even some parts of the world have resources, but I am sure they are not always easy to access.
It needs to be. People need help. Working life may not always be possible for some who is struggling, and that needs to be okay. There needs to be help. There needs to be help for those working with a mental illness.
What have your experiences been working with mental illness? I would love to hear them.