I have always worked. From quite a young age, I worked on weekends and evenings in pub kitchens, I did a waitress job, I did a lot of cleaning and worked as a shop assistant. Quite often as I got older I worked two jobs. I love to work and keep busy. But this is about having a mental illness and not working.
These past 6 years have been very different. I was on maternity leave with my first son when I had my first breakdown and was hospitalised for my mental health. Since then, returning to work has been almost an impossibility. Not only because of my mental health but the cost of childcare is astronomical as well!
Even if we were in a position to pay for childcare, working in certain environments really triggers me. I am well aware that I sound, stupid, pathetic and like I making excuses but honestly in my experience my mental health hits rock bottom very quickly.
I am not saying that I never want to return to work – my goodness I absolutely do! If I am totally honest there are some days when being a full time stay at home mum makes my mental health worse! Sometimes I feel like I just can’t win! That’s why I am trying my hardest to access therapy so that I can cope better and get back out there, but right now, especially with two children and another on the way it’s just not feesable. I don’t receive any benefits so I’m not ‘sponging’ off the government as is often what people expect, I am just very lucky that my husband works extremely hard and earns enough to keep us ticking over.
A huge amount of stigma surrounds people not working because of their mental health. They are deemed lazy and sponging. But with me, and several people that I know, this could not be further from the truth. I know people that are super successful, love their jobs, main bread winners of families, artists and more, who desperately want to work but just can’t until they get their mental health under control.
I am also aware that working is proven, in some cases, to help with mental health issues. Having a routine, less money worries, being sociable – and yes this is very true for many, but it’s not a one size fits all situation.
I worked in an office for many years, I didn’t particularly want to but I needed to pay the bills. I can honestly say it made my mental health the worst it could be at times. I would suffer crippling anxiety and depression and would lie my way around so many situations, make myself look bad and would physically make myself ill.
Now that I have 2 children and another on the way, I will not be able to return to traditional work for some time – again mainly down to childcare costs (an argument for another day) but I also want to make sure I am ready mentally and not put myself in triggering situations that could potentially lead to another breakdown.
I am a complete and utter perfectionist as well as an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person (thanks BPD). So I have to be super organised and do everything myself my way, because of this I get burnt out very quickly. But at the moment it’s not something I know how to change.
As all stay at home mums and dads out there will know, it’s tough. It’s a full time job in itself. Since becoming a mother I have taken the – quite stupid – idea that I need to be super woman. I must do absolutely everything. My way and on my own. Home cooked meals from scratch, clean and tidy home, extra curricular activities with my boys. If i don’t then I am a failure. I then endure crippling guilt. I literally don’t know when to stop.
I have made myself ill with this kind of attitude but it’s how my mental health tells me I need to be – I am working on it.
But the truth is that everyone is ready to return to work in their own time. We are not all the same with the same issues. There should not be pressure to get straight back to work because that’s what others expect. People I know have said that its often the first questions they are asked after leaving hospital are;
“You back working now then?”
“When are you going back to work?”
And it is so so difficult to say,
“No I’m not going back to work yet, I’m not ready.”
The fear of judgement from others is just awful. It’s just something else that we don’t need to worry about and it’s not fair.
Again it goes down to talking about things more, a little less stigma and judgement about things that you don’t about. We all have our own struggles, physical, mental or otherwise. We just need to remember that kindness and understanding go a really long way.
Be kind always, you never know what battles people might be facing.
Love Amy x