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Leaving Work But Not Unemployed

Work is also a funny subject when it comes to people's mental health. It can be very difficult to hold down a full time job, or any job for that matter, but we need to find a way to pay those bills. Not only pay those bills, but also find purpose and give us routine. Every mental health worker who has crossed my path in the last 10 years has told me to keep working if I can. I can understand their reasoning but that also puts pressure on, like great now I need to be well enough to function at work too!

After the relapse I had in 2017 I stumbled from job to job trying to find "the one". I was open and honest in the recruitment stage about my mental health, which I'm sure meant I didn't get far in the recruitment process for some interviews. But eventually I found one, a stable one, with longevity and opportunity to progress. Now due to the nature of the work I'm not able to share with you what I actually do (I feel it puts my safety at risk), but I do work within the justice sector. I worked two and a half days a week and I managed. It was just what I needed, until COVID and my relapse of 2020. I wasn't able to function and ended up with the label "limited availability to work". This label did open doors for me to get support with finances, so in a way I was thankful for it, but understandably work was anxious to have me back and I was anxious to go back. I had been on long term sick for about 6 months and I was uncertain about my future.

Just the thought of having someone depend on me, even for just two and half days, to turn up to work on time and do my job well... it made me sick. I knew I wasn't well enough. So I made a decision, I was going to leave work. I didn't want to, I couldn't afford to, but I had to. For myself, for my sanity. This is when I realised I had a good boss and good management. We made a compromise, I did leave my contract, but I was given a new contract. A casual contract. This meant they would let me know with a couple of weeks notice at a time when they needed work and I would work when I felt up to it and wouldn't work when I didn't. The weight of expectation was lifted and I thought, "this is great" and arranged the first day I'd come in.

However, my first day back didn't go as well as I had hoped. It got to lunch time and I knew I wouldn't be able to go on. My brain was jelly and my anxiety levels were shooting up. They let me go home. I got depressed and felt defeated, I can't even manage a day. So what's the point? I'm terrible at being a person. That was all I could think of.

It took me another full week to recover from that sink in my mood. But yet again, work stood by me. "You're struggling to manage full days? Then don't" they said, "work half days instead". I can't tell you how quickly that conversation boosted my confidence. I can do that. I already have! This change, them showing they believed in me, I picked up more half days. Allowing me to make that change allowed me to be successful at work and gave them a well functioning employee.

I can't stress enough how often I've heard of people having to leave work, but now I believe they didn't need to leave work. They needed a good boss. I hope if anyone who employs people is reading this it impacts how you manage staff for the better. It may take me a long time to get back to where I was before my last relapse, but I know that I have a job, a purpose and I'm good at it. Don't give up guys, because your day will come.


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