Melanie, June 20, 2018

Picture of the blogger, Melanie

Having spent almost my whole life living with the effects of anxiety and then recovering after therapy, there's still one thing people (and admittedly, myself) dislike talking about: being out of work.

When using the word 'unemployed', people tend to think about you in a negative way. Maybe it's just me being self-conscious. I am embarrassed to be out of work and that I have been for the past four years, when a breakdown, set off when I was at work, led to me losing my job.

Since then I have fought every day to recover, missing out on opportunities and the chance to live my life. I am now missing out again because the gaps in my employment mean that it is difficult to get back into work. I don't want to be seen in a negative way when I tell people that I'm out of work and looking for a job, and that I have anxiety.

I became responsible for my two younger sisters when I was 18 years old when our mum died, which was another life changing period. I'm proud that I went through that and came out the other side, just as I have done with battling anxiety. For me, it's enough that I'm getting to grips with even talking to people again, after years of hiding away and having no self-belief and no self-confidence. To have that added pressure of being out of work and being judged on my status of employment, and a loss of worth because of that, can be quite overwhelming.

I didn't go to university and have gaps in my employment, so to an employer, I am a risk. I am a risk not worth taking in the view of a business, no matter how much I put myself out there. Even acknowledging on a cover letter that I had anxiety and that's why I have gaps in my employment doesn't work. Even stating my strengths from being a Kinship Carer to my sisters also doesn't work. It's so frustrating because I have achieved a lot in a non-work life but that doesn't translate to employers. It is soul destroying.

Having to rely on benefits (the one thing I am most embarrassed by). Having to rely on my partner to cover the bills that I don't have. Going without the things like makeup and clothes that I love, like a normal 29-year-old. Not moving house. Not booking the wedding that I dream of. Not moving on with life, the list goes on. I don't want pity, or tea and sympathy, I am just looking for a way to get these things.

I can't be the only one who has this sort of situation caused by mental health issues. In the media and society in general, being out of work or 'unemployed' and having a mental health issue is not spoken about. I'm sure it's due to the embarrassment felt by people because they feel judged, not good enough and bottom of the pile. I know I am good enough underneath this feeling of embarrassment.

I know I am capable of achieving. I am writing a fictional book about my anxiety, and I know how far I've come in my recovery and all that I have achieved in a non-work life. For someone who couldn't leave the house without someone being there and literally couldn't make conversations without the fear of looking stupid and being so ashamed of myself, I think I'm progressing very well now.

The world of work is a daunting place for someone with mental health issues. Taking things slowly at the start is the best way to gain confidence again. That's why I am volunteering one day a week at a primary school my sister is a teacher at. Its giving me confidence to know that I can.

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Comments

I too have been fired because of my mental health

Melanie, I first want to say you have been incredibly brave in stepping up and writing your post above! Yayyy! It truly is time that we who have mental health illnesses or injuries speak up and tell our stories. We are no longer the 'dirty little secret' like a mistress that has to be kept hidden away in the shadows, shamed and blamed. I too have a mental health diagnosis that involves anxiety and have been speaking about it publicly for many years. Problem now is that anytime a potential employer has my CV on their desk all they have to do is google my name and voila they can read all about it. I don't get a lot of calls for interviews, but get lots of letters letting me know that I was screened out in favour of 'more suitable' applicants. Funny how easy it is for a potential employer to do this and not be held accountable for their discrimination of me despite the laws that are in place. I have been unemployed or under employed for almost 5 years now and have not received one single interview for positions directly related to my masters degree education. There are many gaps on my CV as well, but I haven't had to answer the question of why. When I apply for basic entry level jobs in areas that I have experience I provide a resume that only contains the relevant experience, and then when asked about the gaps I tell them that I have been in school attaining education unrelated to this position being applied for. When I am then asked if I plan on staying put or leaving to follow my education, I state that I am a very loyal person and that I am looking for a full time position that will provide me with room for advancement to build a life long career. This usually gets me hired.. but then I get fired within the trial period usually as soon as my employer finds out I have a mental health diagnosis - in the trial period they don't have to provide a reason and without a reason I cannot point the finger at discrimination. But I will tell you that when I can prove it (sometimes this happens) then I do file complaints to stand up for myself... this is the ONLY way that employers will learn that their assumptions are wrong and therefore they might change, or be forced to change. I encourage you to do the same. :) If you would like to reach out so we can chat I would like that... we can all use as much support as we can get from our peers. Regards, Rae-Lynne

Feel proud of yourself- things will change

Melanie - you are so brave to share your story. I work in a big global company and I’m the first to admit I used to have negative preconceptions about mental health until I became ill with anxiety & depression. I was very lucky my family, real friends and company were very supportive which from this site I realise is not that common. I’ve learnt mental health is real and I believe people can/will change if brave people like you keep sharing your stories. The workplace still has a long way to go to be properly supportive of mental health so the more we raise the issue in society the better. Take care Iain

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