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.