This week I’m looking backwards in order to move forwards. Thinking about how my brief encounter with Headtorch is an opportunity to reconsider my own values and approaches.
It is January 2014 and I had been working at my previous job for a while, three months or so. It was a difficult job, high-pressured, fast-paced and genuine life and death decisions were made on a regular basis. People, or “clients,” pass away frequently when you work in care. I didn’t mind this aspect of the job so much, I was trained for the job, and I had the experience.
I find myself crying in a bathroom. I couldn’t handle it. Not the job, but the workplace. It was relentless. There was a culture of bullying and an atmosphere of silence. I shudder just thinking about it. And it was shift work. Have you ever worked 10pm to 6am? It’s rubbish. Proper rubbish. Worse than this picture of a sausage on the floor.
At the end of every night shift I would drink half a bottle of wine – at 6:40am! – And wake up at 12pm. I would do this five or six day in a row. Safe to say I wasn’t sleeping properly. My back was in agonising pain. I was binge eating. I wasn’t getting regular exercise. I couldn’t sit still. When I got to work I would sit at my computer, endlessly rearranging the icons on my desktop into patterns, a coping mechanism and an early sign of my later issues with OCD. I had stopped communicating with my colleagues. I was endlessly trawling job websites but never applying for vacancies, always planning holidays but never making a booking. I was my own worst enemy.
I could have sought help, used the company’s in-house counselling service, or spoken to someone in HR. There was a lot I could have done but didn’t. Ruts can make for very comfy beds. You just get used to it, and so I stayed in the job for two years.
I didn’t realise how much my mental health was being affected. I wasn’t aware of how serious it was becoming. And now, although it is a little late, I’m putting my hands up.
A lot. Look at those limbs!
I put my hands up to say I have mental health. No matter how bad the workplace, no matter how bad the situation, my mental health always deserves my respect, and the respect of others. Sometimes I might not notice, sometimes I can’t perceive those changes, but where possible my mental health is something I have to be actively engaged with.
It isn’t just my responsibility of course, there’s definitely no love lost between me and NAME REDACTED! They should have given me the support I needed, helped me realise what was wrong.
Yet thinking about what role I can play in the maintenance of my own mental health, about how I can treat myself with respect, is definitely a solid foundation towards better mental health in the workplace.
What is my manifesto for respecting my mental health? What are the steps I took? You’ll just have to tune in next week for another entry in the HEADBLOG.
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