Well this is a bit of a blogger cliche isn’t it? But I’m going to look on this as a bit of therapy and self-progression for me and possibly/hopefully a bit of inspiration for you. Who knows! As I started to write, it became clear that I would need to break these posts down into a series, (oh great I hear you all groan). There have been some huge changes and events over the past year in both my personal life and career that I think warrant deeper exploration… So here goes.
How was my 2019?
I’ll be completely honest, it was a bit of a mixed bag! There were some definite highs and crushing lows. But all in all, it wasn’t terrible by any stretch!
Personally, I started off the year in a relatively new relationship, which thankfully is still going strong. My mental health was on a decent level and I was living in a home I loved.
Professionally and career-wise (and somewhat regrettably, intrinsically tied with my personal life) I had some lose ends from the year before that I really wanted to tie up and the only way I could see to do this, was to take on full-time employment and dissolve my freelance work.
In hindsight, this was a possibly a huge mistake… actually no, let me reframe that, it was a huge learning curve. One that was quite distressing. But ultimately, needed if I was ever to make lasting changes in my career and self-progression.
My Career and the impact ‘traditional’ work environments have on my Mental Health
I’ve never been great in what you would call a ‘traditional’ work environment. For the entirety of my working life, I have struggled to feel comfortable in the workplace. I tried lots of jobs as a young adult, from bar work and retail, to working in educational settings and for the most part in administrative roles.
I can genuinely say, in each role, there was an element of enjoyment. It wasn’t all doom and gloom I promise. I love interacting with people and the most rewarding of my roles was working in education as a learner support. Helping young people with learning disabilities was intense but joyful.
But even at my happiest, I found being in public for prolonged periods incredibly overwhelming.
Going to work every day was exhausting. Not in just the usual tiring, knackering, frustrating kind of way. But in a way, so soul destroying that I would find myself cycling between periods of ‘okay’ and periods of utter devastation, where I felt so overwhelmed, my whole body would just shut down. I would sob uncontrollably, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t bear the thought of facing another person again. I would be panicked to my core, I needed to be in solitude and it couldn’t happen quick enough. At it’s absolute worse I would consider suicide on the way to work, lingering on the railway bridge just that little bit too long.
Sometimes this would happen at home, so I would ring in sick. But more often than not, this would happen mid-shift. I’d find myself locked in toilets or cupboards, frozen to the spot in a stairwell, or at best just completely silent at my desk, not being able to function and hoping that no one would notice because if they did, I would ultimately crumble.
A feeling of shame and embarrassment
I was so ashamed of how I acted I would often leave jobs suddenly, write letters of resignation, or just never turn up again. I couldn’t believe what an utter failure and embarrassment I was. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just go to work like a normal person?
Enough is Enough – Self Progression
In the last 10 years, I have tried to return to employment – every time, I’ve failed miserably. The last time being early 2019. After being self-employed for so long, I felt like I’d reached a point where I couldn’t grow the business any more without financial input which I simply didn’t have. I cautiously started looking for work, and very soon I found an opportunity I thought would be perfect for me. The promise of flexible working and working from home, the place seemed really forward thinking and fresh. I was really excited and could see me progressing my career and really reaching my potential.
At first I was really living off the adrenaline of a new challenge, the thrill of excelling at something and getting recognition for it from my colleagues. But as reality started to slip in, things became more and more difficult. The promise of flexible working and working from home began to disappear, and what was available was limited and not at all flexible.
This compacted by my usual fears and feelings of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people, traffic, (animals – yes animals) I found myself crumbling again. I really thought this time I could do it, that somehow I had changed. But the fact is I hadn’t and finally, I have come to realise that, that is absolutely fine.
I wasn’t made to be ‘normal’
There’s nothing wrong with normal. In fact, I crave it sometimes. But I know now after wasting so many years, that I wasn’t made that way. My fabric is cut completely different, and that is okay. I have worked incredibly hard to position myself in a way that means I don’t have to work in a traditional work environment. That in fact, I excel in an environment that I can control. An environment that allows me to put myself in situations that work for me. I can still be social and interact, but on those days I’m not able to, I still have a safe space in which I can work and still earn money.
Working from home allows me the step away from situations that would have previously had a detrimental affect on my mental wellbeing. And for a long time, I saw that as me ‘hiding’ that I was running away from my ‘problems’ but you know what, I refuse to see my difference as a problem. It’s an intrinsic part of who I am and I’ve found a way to work with it and be bloody good at the work I do.
In the spirit of Career and Self-progression I’m doing a free 5 day course with a wonderful lady called Kate Taylor – who I was recommended by another fabulous lady called Katy Taylor (I know haha!) – if you’re at all interested, you can access it here. It’s not sponsored or anything, I’m just really enjoying it!