Statistics, memoirs, blog posts and my own personal experiences track less than desired work histories. A lot of people who suffer from extensive mental health issues such as my own, and worse, often find it difficult to hold down a job. Stigma allows for the belief that we are less effective at our jobs, so we hide our afflictions, we pretend we are physically ill when we need a day to reset our mental state. We try to push on as best we can while trying to make sure no one finds out what is wrong out of fears of losing our jobs. Trying to live a ‘normal’ life, holding down a job and managing your illness can be extremely difficult and exhausting but once in a while we are lucky enough to find a diamond in the rough; a workplace that supports their employees and believes in taking care of one another.
I found such a place and joined their team in August last year. I knew it was the right place for me on my fourth day of employment. They had asked me to attend the annual conference with the rest of the team and on the first day we had a session on mental health. The session was led by the Operations Health and Safety auditor, who had a mental health first aid qualification (I never knew such a thing existed). There was a person who questioned why you would hire someone with a mental illness when they would be more sufficient. This disheartened me for a moment but the fact that my employers thought it was important to discuss mental health in the workplace and look for ways to support their staff really made me realise how fortunate I was to join such an amazing team. The two business owners were asking questions about how they can be supportive and what practices or procedures they can implement in our workplace in order to achieve this.
Within two months of working there I had fallen into a mixed episode and was in need of medical help. I spoke to my manager about my Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. I explained that I would need to see a psychologist and psychiatrist in order to be able to work efficiently in a full time capacity while studying as well. She was very supportive. I tried to make sure my appointments did not disrupt my work day. I tried to arrange appointments during lunch breaks or at the end of the day and made up for any extra time by shortening my lunch breaks throughout the week.
My managers and bosses were incredibly supportive. They sent me home when I had to go on medication last year as I was struggling with the side effects. This year when I had to go on medication for Brief Reactive Psychosis as a result of trauma therapy they let me work from home for a few days so that I could adjust to the medication. What I valued most about this workplace, my employers and management was that they never treated me differently; they never assumed that I couldn’t handle the responsibilities of my role or any extra tasks and project work. They were constantly teaching me and helping me further my development.
I bet you’re thinking, why would anything leave such a wonderful place? Well, I wasn’t looking for a new job but I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to further my career and it is with great sadness that I say goodbye. I spoke with the CEO today and tearfully and emotionally thanked him for all the support the team has shown me in my 11 months of employment. I have never felt more supported in a job as I have in this one. He said to me that he believes that I have a great medical team that will hopefully help to make sure that my disorders have minimal impact on my quality of life. I told him that before joining the team I didn’t believe that was possible. Being part of this business gave me hope for the future; it showed me that I could work full time, study and manage my mental health rather than ignore it as I have done in the past.
I was hesitant at first to take the job offer at another company as I am comfortable and happy here. I know that they value their staff and support them as much as they can, having said that, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the next step in my career. I never even thought I could have a career before this job that I now have to say goodbye to. When I was offered the new role I had to do a lot of thinking, naturally. I wondered how I could possibly leave the people that gave me my first role in this industry, the people that taught me everything I know about this job. How do you leave when you have been given so much to be grateful and loyal for? Unfortunately we have to make difficult decisions sometimes and we have to say goodbye to what we know and love. Sometimes we must step outside of our comfort zones.
This is the closing of a wonderful chapter but it is not goodbye for ever. I could never say goodbye to such an awesome group of people. I will definitely be seeing them again.