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Work Experience

By Chris Wood, 21 July 2017 – 0 comment


Q. What do the following phrases have in common?

  • EU Brexit repayment due

  • Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein’s monster

  • President Trump in charge of the nuclear button

  • Overdraft limit reached

  • I’ve got Mental Health problems

A. They’re all too scary to even think about!


***


I’ve had bad mental health problems for the past 20 years, or rather, I recognised that I had MH problems 20 years ago, and one of the hardest things for me to accept was the fact that I was no longer fit for work. Me being me, I initially refused to accept this fact and struggled on “manfully” for another 5 years before I faced up to the inevitable and signed on the sick. What damage this period of not acting on my better instincts did is debateable, and a subject for a later blog.


Once I had ‘recovered’ I made a couple of attempts at returning to the workplace; neither of which were successful. They failed quite simply because I was neither ready for work, nor, accepting of the true nature of my illness.

When I finally accepted that I could “no longer do what I used to be able to do”, I got my act together and started volunteering. Anyway, that too is the subject of another later blog; this one is about the general public’s view on mental health.

 

***


Three long months ago, I woke up one gloriously sunny morning and decided that it was time for me to return to the workplace. I reasoned that after 15 years on the sick and 10 years working with services towards my wellbeing, it was now time to put all of the lessons into practice and collect a weekly paycheque.

At my interview I was brutally honest with the manager and told him about my mental health condition and the effect that it has had on my day to day living. I explained that I’d done voluntary work for over 10 years, specialising in MH. When he asked why I hadn’t done paid work instead, I told him how one of the benefits of volunteering was that if I was having a ‘bad day’, I could simply phone in and no explanation was needed.

Truthfully, I think that it was my honesty that got me the job and very probably, against his better judgement. For three months I worked like a Trojan. I was never late; I was always willing to do anything and to help anyone; I worked harder than I should have because, after all I had 15 years of pent up energy to expel.

Finally, and almost inevitably, my illness caught up with me.


***


One thing that I am extremely proud of is that when I feel a crash approaching, I take the necessary action, however hard it may be.

I loved working. I was proud that the money I was spending was coming from my own labours. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my new colleagues. But, on the other side of the coin, I was using the strength that I normally reserve for my constant battle with my inner destructive voices on manual labour at work instead.

On the morning that I handed in my notice, I was shaking like a leaf. Not from fear but from complete exhaustion. I no longer had the strength to control my basic motor functions.

Reluctantly, I walked into the boss’s office and told him that I simply couldn’t work anymore because my MH was starting to play up again and I was heading towards a crash. At this, he nigh on exploded and started shouting about having the chance he’d given to me thrown back in his face. I walked out of his office and left him with the words “if you’re not going to listen I’m not bothering to explain”.

Anyway, after 30 seconds of calming down I was called back in and the manager apologised for his outburst. He then uttered the dreaded phrase, “if you’d walked in with a cast on your leg I could see that you couldn’t work, but with mental health, I didn’t have a clue”.


***


I’m pretty sure that everyone who suffers from bad MH has at one time or another heard those exact words. My question is;

WHY?

In these technologically advanced days, there is no shortage of information on the internet. Most reasonable sized towns and all cities have support groups for relatives and friends of sufferers. The media is forever highlighting celebrities who have had the courage to be open about their battle with MH. And probably most importantly of all, with over one in four of us suffering, we all know someone personally with bad MH.

Anyway, I’m going to leave it there because those of us that do understand don’t need another rant about the general public’s ignorance of our condition, and those of you that don’t understand, you should be reading up on other stuff.

RAISING MENTAL AWARENESS
RAISES SOCIETY

- Rick

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