My mental health issues first started due to bullying in the workplace. My manager would pick up on the tiniest of errors and blow them out of proportion, stand over your shoulder as you wrote emails, correcting mistakes you hadn’t made yet and berate anyone that wasn’t in the office to their colleagues. It doesn’t sound like much but, after putting up with it for 8 months, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had been crying on and off after work for about 6 months.
I never realised I was depressed; I always thought that kind of thing happened to other people. My GP signed me off from work for the last two weeks of my notice and I was prescribed anti-depressants to help me manage my anxiety and depression. My manager refused to believe that I was experiencing depression despite my doctor’s certificates; that was 9 months ago and I’m still waiting on my last month’s pay as she still doesn’t accept that I have mental health issues.
I was very nervous about going back to work
I was very nervous about going back to work as that’s where my issues had started but I pushed myself and signed up with a temp agency. I explained my mental health problems and they were really understanding, they even found me a job to start the next day. I had an anxiety attack before I walked in but I made myself do it anyway, and it was fine; the people were nice and very professional. That wasn’t so bad and they clearly couldn’t tell I had any mental health issues.
The things I thought were a dead giveaway (fidgeting, flushing, sweaty palms) weren’t even noticed. After a few more short placements I had regained some of my confidence and was placed in a long-term assignment. At around the same time I received a call from the complex care team to tell me that I had reached the top of the list to receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Now I was in a dilemma: I needed the on-going work but I would have to see the clinical psychologist every week so I needed to say something.
I was so ashamed that I couldn’t own up to my problems
At first I told my temp boss it was for “treatment” but I was so ashamed that I couldn’t own up to my problems, it just added to my negative feelings. I already felt embarrassed because there are no obvious outward signs. In some of my darker times I don’t believe myself and I wonder if I’m making the whole thing up to get attention. After a couple more weeks in the job I decided to just go for it and made a throw away comment as a start. The next time it came up I explained a little more and then a little more.
As it turned out my boss was amazingly sympathetic, he was flexible about the hours I did so that I could still earn the same amount of money while shifting my hours around to accommodate my CBT. I was so relieved to find that there are good managers out there and not everyone was like my old boss. My new manager was compassionate, accommodating and really supportive. It’s a terrible cliché but it restored my faith in humanity… or at least in managers. From then on the rest of the placement was really good and I became much more relaxed, unfortunately as it was a temp contract I would soon have to move on.
Regrettably, not everyone is so understanding, the next workplace I went to I had a very different experience…