September 7, 2012

Red bug on a plantThose of us living with mental health issues need understanding, support and encouragement not bullying, discrimination, judgement or criticism.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type III in February 2011, which made me take a step back and think and learn about the condition in more detail. After quite a long period of denial, it was half nice and half scary to know that it wasn’t all just in my head.

I’d spent years struggling with chronic physical pain whilst continuing with a full time job. It was a physically and mentally demanding job and also and stressful. IT was made worse by staff shortages. I’d been prescribed anti-depressants for a while to help me ‘cope’ with my chronic pain and had also tried some anti-convulsant medication as a way of treating the pain. As well as this, I was studying part time (over 4 years) for my degree and my final year exams were approaching.

The stress, anxiety, panic and medications had all caught up with me

The stress, anxiety, panic and medications had all caught up with me and I was unable to think straight enough to be able to plan my workload. A confrontation with my manager sent me over the edge and I used self harm to try to regain some control. I had 3 months off work.

I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that almost anyone in the situation I was in could have gone down a similar path with regards to the effect the situation had on my mental health.

I came off all medication and things started to calm down. I started accepting what had happened, got all my degree work finished and returned back to work. I felt odd at times, out of place almost.

I was singled out for informal reviews

After a while, it was clear that my chronic pain was still an ongoing issue and my mental health was deteriorating. I was trying so hard to do my job through the pain but ended up in tears of agony by 11am most days. Work had got to the point where I was singled out for informal reviews to keep them informed on the progress I was making in tackling my pain. Something had to change.

I was reluctant to go back on medication for the fear of previous events however I agreed to give it a try and I felt stable for the first time in a long time. The rollercoaster of ups and downs felt more in line with others around me. I’d been doing more exercise and physiotherapy, which had helped immensely with the pain and my mental health. However I did notice that there were times when I felt great, “on fire” so to speak. Accomplishing my work, taking on extra work, singing, couldn’t sit or stand still, was the ‘life of the party’. Then there were the times when it all went downhill. I would struggle to plan my work, put things off, lost motivation, didn’t want to talk to anyone and was irritable.

this just demonstrated their lack of understanding about mental health problems

Although work knew about my mental health condition, they seemed to refuse to accept it. In my review meetings I was told that I needed to be more consistent and looking back this just demonstrated their lack of understanding about mental health problems. Basically they wanted me to perform in my normal / hypomanic phases all the time. It’s not like I had any control over it!

Redundancies were being made at work and I just knew it would be me. They applied a selection criteria which was totally unfair and discriminated against me for my disability. I have 100% support for this from my union, which is absolutely fantastic to have. It demonstrates to me that I haven’t been going crazy all this time, I was right. They had no understanding for my needs, they made no adjustments to help me. I will fight them to show that nobody should be allowed to get away with discriminating against those with disabilities.

I am looking forward to starting a role in a more positive workplace.

My mental health has been difficult since leaving work. However I am more positive now. I can see how badly the workplace environment affected me and was no good for my health. I am looking forward to starting a role in a more positive workplace.

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