Work and mental illness are very hard to balance. Trust me, I know.
Unemployed, I was so miserable, and my mental health took a huge hit. The constant effort I had to put in to get some money was hard to keep up when I felt like a failure after every rejection.
Seeing friends and telling them I still didn't have a job was embarrassing. Everyone kept talking about what they were doing and where they wanted their career to go. I just stood there feeling like an idiot.
But, unemployment gave me a new perspective. I learnt to keep looking after myself in any way I could. I learnt to appreciate the smaller things, such as a new book, or a bouquet of flowers from Tesco, while my friends were going out all over London, and going on trips abroad.
I tried to work hard on my mental health, and CBT did help too. But by the time I went back to work, my perspective on my mental health had changed. I'd been selling myself to employers to get work but I'd forgotten how beneficial my mental illness could be, and what I'd learnt from it. Truth is, mental illnesses can teach us things. And employers should take note.
People with mental illnesses are more than their illnesses.
Not seeing past an illness can prevent you from seeing their skills and talents. They might have a diagnosis, but they also might be hard workers, be good communicators, or good at using their initiative. They might view problems in a different way that you haven't thought of. And, if you actively discriminate against them because of their illness, you're breaking the law.
We're good at empathising.
Mental illness can often make us feel a whole range of emotions, or even feel nothing at all. We know what it's like to feel overwhelmed, and we also know what it's like to carry on whilst feeling like that. We understand, and can often put ourselves in other peoples' shoes.
We're good listeners.
We know the value of talking; and so, we know the value of listening. We know that sometimes, it's good to get it off your chest. We know how comforting it can be to have someone sit there and not just tell us what to do or give opinions. A lot of us will have experience of having to calm ourselves down in anxiety-producing situations, so we can help rationalise or distract or work things out with people if they need it.
Sometimes, what might seem to be the most obvious way of going about things isn't possible for us. So, we get thinking and choose to tackle the issue in a different way. We need to think differently about how to approach problems, because we do the same thing in our everyday lives, just to get by. Don't underestimate our abilities just because we might do things differently.
We know what it's like to have to find ways to keep going, no matter what. So, in the workplace, we can apply some of these same strategies to tackle tasks, goals, and targets. When you're dealing with your own mind every day, you learn to find ways to make yourself keep on keeping on.
We're all human. We all have mental health. We're all valuable.