I have depression.
Simple to say.
Hard to accept.
Why am I talking about this? So you can too.
I’m sick of the stigma, sick of the ‘man-ups’, sick of people not being able to just talk about how they feel for fear of judgement. We’re living in pandemic, people are uncertain about their lives, their jobs and what comes next. A mental health crisis is imminent, so we’d better get talking about it.
I didn’t always have this black cloud over me. I was entirely optimistic that things would work out, success would find me, and while my legs would stop working, my mind wouldn’t.
Growing up with a disability I’d feel down, I’d feel frustrated, but I’d never felt depressed. You know, that true existential dread, that immobilising emotion, the voice in your head that sounds like yours but is someone else entirely? I’d liken it to the evil me from a parallel world taking residence in my brain.
I didn’t really pay any mind to my mental health when I was younger, I accepted that some days would be bad, others good, the rest would just be, and such is life.
The first time I had any real experience of mental ill-health was when I was working in Hillington, an industrial estate outside of Glasgow for a company called BMI Healthcare.
You know what they say about not burning bridges when you leave a job? That doesn’t apply here, I’d gladly ride across that bridge driving a flame spewing train, carrying a cargo of fireworks and wearing a C4 waistcoat.
My job was booking hospital appointments for BMI hospitals, a private hospital company. This was a combination on inbound and outbound calls, with bookings being made on the most achingly slow computer system I ever had the misfortune to use. It felt like dial up in the 90’s without the screeching (although I was screeching on the inside), made all the more frustrating when trying to hit a target.
It was lagging, unresponsive and such a piece of crap that I found myself having to note down details to come back and log my appointments on my breaks, and even after my shift. That’s right, I was eating at my desk (hygienic) and staying back for an hour or so after I was finished.
I couldn’t drive at the time, so I’d have to text Tracy and tell her to come for me an hour or so later. She knew how terrible it was and admits to her heart sinking every time I sent one of these texts.
To make it worse one of my “colleagues” had obtained supervisor access and was poaching my appointments, causing me to miss my targets and resulting in tough talks from management.
I broached with with my manager, who did absolutely nothing. I grew frustrated with the whole ordeal and told this person in the break room that in no uncertain terms what would happen if this continued – funnily enough their crap stopped soon after.
Now I don’t condone my approach in the workplace, we should try to be diplomatic, but I felt I had no alternative. I was trying to provide for us and this person was putting that in jeopardy because they felt I wouldn’t stand up for myself.
I think I shared an important lesson that day.
Never underestimate the strength of someone with a disability.
To top it off, the shifts were random as hell. Any eight hours between 8am and 8pm, and I mean any eight hours.
An example of this is:
Mon 12pm/Tue 8am/ Thu 11am/ Fri 9:30am, Sat 12pm
I found myself crying over this place, I’d lose sleep thinking about having to go to work, I’d be stressed all day long. I started to think that I was the problem, that I wasn’t as strong as I thought, that I was stupid and deserved this existence. I was starting to hate life. I couldn’t take much more.
The irony of working in a healthcare setting that destroys your mental health wasn’t lost on me. I had to get out, I applied for everything I could find.
Towards the end of my employment Tracy and I were in a car crash with Winnie, a vile little girl in a big car. She powered through a red light in her BMW X3 and hit us so hard our car was facing the wrong direction and giving Tracy whiplash.
In all the confusion and panic, she wrote her phone number on an envelope and gave us some story about a friend in a garage fixing it. We stupidly agreed because we were shaken up but I have Motability Car, off the record repairs aren’t allowed.
I called the insurance company, and put the claim in. Mysteriously her registration changed car, and her insurance company advised ours that she denied all knowledge of being in a crash. I’m still angry that someone could be this callous, she clearly thought we were worthless and was more concerned about claiming her insurance than being an actual f*cking human being!
Luckily I had that envelope with her handwriting, proving she was at the scene. She wasn’t as clever as she thought. She continued to avoid her insurers when they came to her door, so in the end had to settle as they had to admit fault.
We used the compensation money to book a trip to Kenya for a week over Tracy’s birthday. We went on Safari and had an amazing time.
I’d been for some job interviews before the trip and returned to two phone calls. One from NHS24 to say I was unsuccessful and another from Tesco Bank – during my lunchbreak at BMI – to tell me I was successful.
I was elated, so glad to see the back of BMI and that’s when I realised that no job is worth your mental health.
To make things even better, my first week at Tesco Bank was the week I learned I was going to be a dad! This came after years of doctors telling us we’d never conceive, I think it was the holiday that helped.
I’m not going to say I had the time of my life at Tesco Bank but there was certainly more highs than lows, particularly when I set up Enabled at Tesco – a disability an mental health network I’m immensely proud of.
My day to day job, as with any, had it’s challenges but I never felt it spill over into my actual life. I never sat up at night, or cried to myself about it. I found some sort of balance.
Times are certainly trying for us all, and jobs aren’t as easy to find as they once were but I urge you, if a job starts to make you feel this way, speak to someone, get help if you need it but please remember that no job is worth your wellbeing. No job at all.
It’s a sad fact that you can be easily replaced in a job but you can’t be easily replaced as a person. The world needs you.