So I just wanted to mention something that has been on my mind for a while. I wanted to make a response to this article written by Katy Mathilda Neo “Not working is crucial recovery for mental health”
Because I too firmly believe that it is OKAY if you cannot work due to mental illness; in fact in recovery I am finding more and more that the case is that not working plays a big part in my maintaining my health and well being.
I had to stop working back in 2015 when I was hospitalised and developed Psychosis. This was a really tough time and being somebody who is perfectionist and extremely conscientious and hardworking, taking on a million different tasks and working myself in to the ground leading to subsequent burn out, I have learned a lot about mental health and managing. Enough to know that when things like anxiety and depression affect us so deeply, even to the point of mental deterioration, being employed can become (if it isn’t already before this) quite the hindrance not just then, but until we are in recovery and beyond.
I spent a long time while I was ill, trying to deny that I needed help and that work and rushing back to employment was not the right choice, in fact it was nearly impossible given that I was bound to stay in an institution at the risk of doing myself harm, or to others. Mental illness become a flashing light in the distance of an almost fog-ridden highway of hell but I did not want to see it.
I have spent a long time, since that time of 2015, focusing on recovering from severe anxiety, from the psychosis. And I am doing fantastically well. This is because I have worked hard of ME. On helping myself, and accepting the help I had around me. I would say to anybody that is going through an illness like depression or psychosis, that it is not going to be easy (far from it) and it might not get easier for a while, but it does get better. You know how I know that? Because I am living proof that you can go through a personal strife, a grief, a loss, an illness or trauma and feel totally and utterly worthless, even suicidal. But this is why you will be ten times stronger for it when you do finally come through it. I want to point out that I am not trying to be some martyr for mental illness or jump on the bang-wagon of glamorising mental illness for what it is not. I’ll leave that one to the celebrities…
Mental health is not just about a period of being sick. It is a condition, which means that it affects your life and compromises your health and wellbeing so you are constantly at logger-heads all the time and it can seem as though you may never get through the day, let alone be cured. But it is not just that- mental illness completely engulfs your life and in most cases, turns it upside down from what it was or has been. This can be devastating and cause a lot of negative impact, but it absolutely cannot be a definition of YOU. You are not your illness, it should not define you and you deserve to live an enriched and fulfilled life, just as much as anybody else does.
It is when we start defining ourselves on the basis of our job or career, that the psychological issues start to worsen. My story is a fine example of this- because, being someone who is quite passionate and driven, and as I mentioned, a perfectionist in every sense of the word, I ploughed against every grain in my body which said I could no longer do it, this thing called life, let alone do a job. But it didn’t stop me working against this illness and denying that I needed rest and sanctuary and professional help which I truly did. This in the long run, may have been the problem but it has turned out to be the indicator that I now know look out for as I navigate myself to recovery. Change cannot happen overnight, and your mental health may not always be great but you can make personal gains from such adversity that will pay dividends in the life-long battle with mental health.
The next thing I have to say is please do not beat yourself up if you are dealing with a mental illness. The worst thing I could possibly do (which I did do several times over), was to chastise myself for something which was not my fault, which I had no control over. I beat myself up for being unwell, for being low and being depressed, for being hospitalised, for going through a trauma and when I could not return to work because things had got that bad I could no longer handle things and had to go in to what felt like a prison, both literally and metaphorically. But it was a very good thing that I took that time and realised that I could not cope at work, because then I started to see that I needed to look after ME, not my work.
You want to know something true? People like to lead themselves to the conclusion that a life with a mental illness is a life destroyed. The words that they use, the emotional and derogative language we pursue is shocking, you are ‘mad’, you are ‘committed’ to an institution, you are carted off to ‘the mad house’ and that is that, your life is ‘ruined’, finished, over finito.
But let me tell you… that is not the end of the story, far from it. It is merely the beginning and the negative impact that illness will have on a person is not the making of them, yet still people are all too quick to blame and stigmatise when it comes to the mention of mental health issues. When that person gets back up again, no matter how many times they have fallen, remember that they have been through hell and back again and may go through it again. Yet it is not what happened when we first enter therapy or hospital that defines us, ‘that person has this wrong’, doctors give diagnosis, notes are written and families go through therapy (or the door) my experiences are of being institutionalised and this is not uncommon for a lot mentally ill young people, but it is what happens once we’ve got to the other side that truly shapes a bigger meaning for those of us affected by mental health issues.
You may not like this but the truth is you will likely go away, forgetting that you ever read this (please don’t stay and read more of my blog etc!) and resign it another preachy piece on how mental health is awful. Well I’ll save you some time- I won’t lie because I know for sure, mental illness is awful. People don’t go to a shrink for fun. I am not trying to dramatise it for you have all kinds of social media platforms already doing that, what I am making the point of is that if people gave half a crap about the ways mental health and recovery can change things positively instead of denouncing and insulting those who are affected with depression or anxiety or borderline personalities and blaming them for their illnesses, then we would soon realise that the loaded and stigmatised phrases such as ‘schizophrenia’ that people chuck about may no longer hold such a place in the world we live in in 2017, where there are developments in neuroscience such as neuro-plasticity that suggest the brains make-up can be re-moulded and therefore we can influence our brain through our behaviour, along with mindfulness based on the buddhist philosophy as a way to cope with depression and anxiety.
I hope that this may have provided more of an insight in to living with mental illness and also how it is without work. I will write again soon.
All the best,