“Can you pull over by here please?” I ask the taxi driver.
“Are you sure?” he replies, “because I can drop you at the gate?”
“No, by here is fine.” I tell him. I pay my fare and exit the car as quickly as possible, looking around to make sure none of my colleagues are about.
I've gotten the taxi driver to drop me at the side of my workplace building, instead of at the front. This is to make sure less people see me arrive in a taxi.
I suffer with stress and anxiety so I often get a taxi to work in the morning if my husband cannot take me in the car, to avoid the palaver of getting the bus which aggravates my condition. It's not cheap, takes a fair chunk out of my wages and isn't something I want to do. It is something I have to do in order to help me be able to work while having a mental health issue, and I forego other luxuries to be able to finance it.
Yet when I pull up a few days a week to work in a taxi, it leads to questions and unsolicited remarks off my co-workers, which quite frankly is unwanted and at times unprofessional and rude.
"Oh, a taxi again, she must be loaded!” exclaimed one colleague to another in a loud, jokey manner, as I entered the building.
“Taxis are lazy, I never get a taxi, I walk.” another chimes in.
“Yeah, or just get the bus.” a third staff member says in agreement.
You'd think it would end there, but there's always one who wants to rattle off the local bus timetable to me or get the others rehashing old stories of bad taxi experiences, and put emphasis on how they simply couldn't afford a taxi once a week, let alone most days.
I am not ashamed of my anxiety; in general I'm fairly open about my mental health issues, but only to people who either have a reason to know or who I can trust. Disclosure of illness in the workplace is often done on a need-to-know basis only.
My colleagues do not need to know I have anxiety simply because I turn up to work in a taxi. My mode of transport is none of their concern. It doesn't impact them or their job and it shouldn't be something they feel the need to comment on, yet they do. Still, this isn't their fault; anxiety and stress doesn't always make itself obvious and we tend to associate taxis with rushing or having a bit of extra cash, rather than a service people need to rely on regularly because they are unwell.
Maybe I should just explain the situation to my colleagues, but hearing their jokes, jibes and remarks about me getting a taxi doesn't make me feel safe or confident in disclosing something so personal. On top of that, I work for an agency, so I'm constantly going into a multitude of settings, meeting new people and working in different roles. While people are generally nice on the surface, it is incredibly hard to properly bond with colleagues and build a decent rapport because I'm not in the same place for very long.
Each morning is a struggle. It's as if anxiety wakes before me and waits, so that when I open my eyes it's already there punching me in the stomach. I have to psych myself up to get out of bed, psych myself up to get washed and dressed, to make breakfast and pack my lunchbox. I keep having to stop to wipe tears and practice deep breathing through the nausea, which is how my anxiety manifests itself. All the stopping I have to do to psych myself up is so time-consuming that by the time I've psyched myself up enough to leave the house, I've missed the bus. I don't have the mental energy required to get on the next one, which is always busier, meaning a taxi is the only thing that's going to get me to work on time and not in a state.
I want others to know that there are many ways people like me cope with our stresses and anxieties in order to function and hold down jobs. It could be getting a taxi to work, going for a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting in the breakroom socialising, or lingering around the office for 20 minutes after finishing, to avoid packed buses if work ending coincides with the kids coming out of school.
I fully accept that doing these things may seem a bit odd or unusual when no explanation accompanies them, but through doing these things it allows people like myself to stay in employment. None of us owe you an explanation about why we do these things as we are entitled to our privacy, but if you see people doing some of the things mentioned they may have a mental illness. It's not that we are loaded with money, unsociable, or don't want to hurry home – it’s that we are doing what we have to do in order to be able to function with our illnesses while working.