It’s been three months since I last wrote. In that time I lost my therapist as he felt therapy was causing me to be a danger to myself, fought through the mental health system to get new medication, and whilst all this was going on, started a new job.
I have been struggling with my mental health my whole working life and it has always been difficult. In the two unpaid internships I have undertaken since leaving university I have had very accommodating line managers who have let me have time off whilst I got used to new medication. However I was giving my time freely which is very different to paid work.
In my first full time paid job I was warned 3 months in that I might not make it past my probation if I didn’t find a way to deal with my crippling anxiety around driving alone at night in the dark. There was no suggestion of reasonable adjustments and my anxiety that I might lose my job made everything worse.
After this I tried going part time so I could access mental health services in my spare time. However my new employers took the opposite approach and ignored me completely. I worked from home with no company and eventually the lack of support meant I could not longer cope.
So in October when I started a new part time job with a disability charity I was understandably scared. Before I had even started my line manager suggested that I write a crib sheet for my colleagues explaining my condition and how they could help me. In this sheet I mentioned that I suffe from paranoia about failing at work and struggle when receiving criticism. The fact that my colleagues know this means they give me lots of reassurance at work and can frame feedback positively. I feel very liberated that I don’t need to hide my struggles at work anymore.
Just before the Christmas break my line manager pulled me into a meeting. She told me that the team had noticed that I was on my phone a lot during work hours. I thought I was getting in trouble and my mind instantly compared the situation to getting in trouble at my first job, sending me into a spiral of anxiety. Before I could reply my line manager asked me if I felt my phone was a safety blanket for my anxiety. I was amazed that she had the thought through the situation enough to realise this. She brought up reasonable adjustments and we decided to split my lunch break up so that I could take time in the morning and afternoon to check my phone if I felt the need. Her help has allowed me to stop a very damaging habit that perpetuated my anxiety.
I still have a lot of anxiety around work and it takes constant effort to stay in employment. However my manager has made everything a lot more comfortable for me. Being in work is really good for me. It keeps me distracted, makes me feel useful and allows me to be independent. I wish that more workplaces were aware of mental health issues and how they can support their employees.
If you suffer from anxiety and would like more support in the workplace you can contact Anxiety UK at firstname.lastname@example.org.