I had a breakdown a few years ago. I had a full time job at the time. I worked as a Family Worker for a local council. This meant I ran a Children’s Centre that supported vulnerable families in the local community. It was a busy job, with a range of responsibilities. I ran activities for children and their parents, ran postnatal groups and children’s behaviour management classes, baby massage sessions and supported parents on a one to one basis. I loved my job. I felt I was contributing to society and helping others.
It all came crashing down and I could no longer cope with life. I was on sick leave for six months when I decided I was too ill to return and resigned. I was later diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Even though I had a diagnosis, I had lost all my confidence and felt I couldn’t return to a caring profession. Including the six months sick leave, I was out of work for nearly two years. It crushed me. My work had defined me and I was immensely proud of what I did day in and day out.
I eventually felt it was time to find a job. I needed something that was calm and stress free. A job where I could do my shift and leave without worrying about it when I got home. I found a job at an independent coffee shop and it was exactly what I needed. There was little responsibility, I had no families or children that I worried about the welfare of in the middle of the night. I worked there for just over two and a half years. I felt like it was time for a change and moved to another coffee shop. What I really wanted to do was quit coffee shop work entirely.
Even though the job wasn’t as stressful, I was still struggling with my mental health. Every other month I was finding myself too ill to work and had to take time off. I had come to the realisation that working full time, or even reducing my hours to part time, was too much. Being tired is a trigger for manic and depressive episodes for me. I’m stubborn and keep going even when I’m struggling, which is a trigger. When I’m ill I need time to recuperate, and I was finding myself trying to work through it, and putting a face on at work. It was detrimental to my health and caused me to spiral further into an episode. Bipolar is a severe illness and I needed to take time to look after myself. This meant giving up work for the foreseeable future.
Five years ago I would never have made this decision. I was too proud and work orientated. I realise now acting this way was only damaging my health. At the moment I am working as a freelance writer and sell my artwork. This means I can pick and choose when I work and on what projects. I have already turned down work because of my health. I still struggle with not having a conventional job. There is a voice telling me I’m a failure, that I’m a pathetic loser. I try not to listen. I know I might not ever be able to hold down a nine to five job, or do full time shift work again. I’m slowly accepting this and making my peace with it. My health comes first. I want to be able to be stable for long periods and enjoy my life and even have children at some point. This can happen now I’m focused on managing my mental health.
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