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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