October 17, 2012

Daniel, a Time to Change bloggerIn August 2011, after suffering with what I thought was just simple back pain, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), which is an auto immune disease and has caused the lumbar section of my spine to fuse together. This means that my mobility is very limited as a result and I experience stiffness and pain near constantly.

After learning of Ankylosing Spondylitis from my GP and researching on the internet, I got to know how this condition has affected other people. I started to fear for my future, knowing that although the pain can be partly controlled by medication, the condition can worsen with time.

Regretfully, whilst waiting six months for an appointment with a rheumatologist specialist, the worrying soon developed into depression which drastically affected my work-life balance. I was due to start chemotherapy as treatment for the Ankylosing Spondylitis so I was worrying about the condition along with the possible side effects of the chemotherapy. I lost an incredible amount of sleep and time with my family and friends.

 was made to feel that I was being lazy

In addition to the personal problems I was experiencing, I found myself not being able to work effectively in my job. Not only was my workload effected, my flexi time was gradually decreasing and it seemed that my colleagues were getting less and less tolerant of my minimal contribution to the team. I was made to feel that I was being lazy, unmotivated and therefore underachieving. I was even put on a capability procedure.

I tried so hard not let myself feel down whilst at work and not get upset by what was going on but it was very difficult. I felt like I wasn't liked and cast aside, that they didn't like talking to me because they didn't know how to talk about my feelings or they were too ignorant to ask because they didn't want to talk about how I was feeling.

If only they understood what I was going through

I tried to make an effort so I could feel part of the team but the topic of conversation was often changed. If only they understood what I was going through, if only they were more supportive, if only they asked me how I was feeling instead of casting me aside and discussing my welfare behind my back and coming to their own conclusions.

I met with management to discuss my concerns regarding my mental and physical illnesses and how it was affecting my ability to work effectively in my job. The only support I was offered was suggestions of taking annual leave and/or pain management sessions. I was made to feel that everybody has problems and I should just deal with it.

It was apparent that they [would]... persist in the belief that mental illness was not a valid excuse

I saw how management dealt with and spoke about another member of staff that had recently returned to work from long term sick leave with stress and anxiety. It was apparent that they were not prepared to be professional and support staff appropriately but to persist in the belief that mental illness was not a valid excuse for poor performance at work.

Dealing with my everyday depression, the pressure of poor performance and the lack of support from my manager and colleagues meant that I thought I had no other alternative but to issue my resignation and go home.

Do not let yourself be pushed out of your job because of mental health stigma

I have been unemployed for the past five months and have had a lot of time to reflect on what happened. I would strongly urge anybody going through similar problems at work to be open about your mental illness and demand more support from management. Although I am now much happier and stronger for leaving my job, it has been a really distressing journey. Do not let yourself be pushed out of your job because of mental health stigma.

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