When Your Mental Health Affects Your Job

When Your Mental Health Affects Your Job

The alarm goes off and I’m tossing and turning, feeling weighted by the duvet but also uncomfortable, not feeling well rested in the slightest. “5 more minutes” I think to myself, a pit of dread sitting nervously in my stomach, but why? It’s another day. I don’t snooze my alarm – I stop it. I hope that I sleep in far too late and I have no choice but to jump out of bed and get out the door. I haven’t got it in me today, just like every other day. The dread fills my stomach until I can no longer only acknowledge it – it’s the only thing I can think about. I feel sick. I feel ill. Maybe I could use that? No, I can’t. I feel so groggy and not very well put together and I wonder how I’m going to do this for another 5 days. The Monday morning blues are perfectly normal for everyone, but when you are in poor mental health, the morning before work can bring on a whole new array of obstacles. In the end, the only thing I really, really want to do is pull the blankets up over my head and wish the world would go away. “I’m not ready yet”. But I’m never ready, and I’m not sure what to think of that.

I’ll end up going to work – probably late because I was in bed far too long, and stressed because I didn’t have time to wash my hair/walk the dog/ do the dishes and now it’s one more thing to do tonight.

When I get to work, I am among like minds, “I couldn’t be bothered to come in today” They’ll say. Yeah, me neither. I’m met with “Morning, you alright?” From every corner of the warehouse. I never know quite what to say so I muster up the same crap response every day. “Well, I’m here” I say with a light-hearted sigh. It gets a laugh out of one or two people, at least that’s something. But no, you don’t get it, that’s probably the most truthful answer I could give without launching into a full-on “My depression and anxiety leave me feeling so weak and exhausted that I could barely bring myself to get out of bed and I really don’t think I can keep up with the fake smiles and chit-chat all day” But that’s a bit too heavy for anyone first thing in the morning.

My job makes my depression harder to cope with. I sit at my desk, in an empty office, hearing chatter from the warehouse from a distance far enough so that I can listen, but I can’t contribute to any conversation. I am alone with a computer. The phone hardly rings, but when it does, I groan in frustration and wish that people would leave me alone. But when the obsessive thoughts and self-doubt creep in, I want nothing more than for someone to talk to me as a distraction.

I’m often bored, and it’s relatively quiet. I can sit alone in the office and do whatever I like; which isn’t a good thing. As soon as it gets busy however, I find myself stressed and frazzled and wishing it would all go away. Do I just not like my job? Not really, I can do the work and I get along with my colleagues, it’s not a difficult job to do, it’s just inconsistent in stress levels, so depending on the day, it’s either my anxiety or depression that could be winning.

Some of us who battle a mental illness are unable to hold down a job while we are ill – and that is ok. There is no ‘one size fits all’ time frame that says we MUST be working by a certain date. Everyone is different, and I’ve found that while I can keep a steady job, my mental health really can disrupt my work. I wish I could have time off, but I’m scared I’d be exposed as being incapable because of my illnesses. There is still a stigma around mental illness in the workplace and I feel that by showing up every day and soldiering on, I’m fighting that stigma. I feel like I have a point to prove; to be able to show people that I can do this, and I’ll keep proving every day that my mental illness does not disqualify me from a career and I can still be successful no matter what I suffer with.

mental health work workplace stressful career depression job



  1. August 23, 2017 / 6:03 pm

    I completely agree. There is so much stigma against mental health both in the workplace and in society. This causes people to feel like they can’t talk about any problems they may be facing. Unfortunately, society as a whole seems to still think that mental health disorders are not legitimate illnesses. If a person were severely ill with a physical ailment, they would be able to take time off from work without an issue, so the same should be true for illnesses that affect the mind. Hopefully society starts to change the way mental health is viewed so it can become a more acceptable topic to discuss in the workplace. Great post! It was very enlightening.

    Valerie – http://www.simpletipsblog.com

    • August 23, 2017 / 6:05 pm

      Thank you! I hope attitudes towards mental health changes, I’m made to feel weak and incapable at work if I’m having a bad mental health day.

  2. August 24, 2017 / 8:24 am

    Wow. This is the first post I have read of yours and I truly love the way you have written this ☺

    I have been in this position all too many times. I left a job I loved to try a better work/life balance and struggled in following jobs, unbeknownst at the time, due to mental health.

    I really look forward to further posts. I like your style of writing ☺

    • August 24, 2017 / 8:27 am

      Thank you so much, that’s a lovely compliment, you’ve really made my morning! 🙂 I struggle with work most days but I think the biggest problem is that it isn’t what I want to do (see my first post). Mental illness is a pain, isn’t it?

      • August 24, 2017 / 8:33 am

        It was like a mini novel, hooked straight away ☺ I think that was my issue, always seeing the negative sides to he job? It is the worst, I’d rather break bones than deal with it lol

        • August 24, 2017 / 8:47 am

          Yeah, I suppose there are some positives to the job. It’s hard to see through it all when you’re battling depression, like you stop seeing everything in colour & it’s all black and white instead

      • August 24, 2017 / 8:34 am

        Just realised I had read your first post 😂 I had even commented on it haha. Worst memory ever.

        • August 24, 2017 / 8:49 am

          Oh no! We’ll let it slide – at least I know they’re being read!

          • August 24, 2017 / 10:02 am

            Haha, yeah I try and leave a comment on every post I read.

    • August 24, 2017 / 9:03 am

      Thank you! I wish mental health was taken seriously at work. Thank you for the link – I’ll read it now 🙂

  3. August 25, 2017 / 3:32 am

    I absolutely love this post & wish this topic was talked about more often. Hopefully, as people become more open & willing to share their experiences with mental illness, employers will be a little more accommodating. Every should have the opportunity to have a career/job without sacrificing their well being whether that mean a health care plan inclusive of mental health or more “sick days.”

  4. August 25, 2017 / 11:20 am

    I really enjoyed your post. Completely identify with trying to hide away for as long as possible in bed until you leave yourself a mad dash to get to work. My time keeping was really erratic for me when my anxiety overwhelmed me 😩

    Speaking to my manager actually really helped me challenge stigma and helped colleagues understand my changes in behaviour though.

    People have been really supportive and have an understanding with me now where I don’t have to justify why I’m quiet or can’t focus 100% at times. You should check out the article I wrote recently for Time to Change http://bit.ly/2ikllH0 🙂

    • August 25, 2017 / 11:35 am

      I love your article! Does Ruth want to be my boss too? 😀

      I lack that support at work, it’s a very old-fashioned company with a lot of heartless people at the top who don’t really check in on the employees wellbeing. As long as the job is getting done – no matter how frazzled we all are – it’s all going smoothly. It’s a real shame and it’s why I wanted to write this post.

      • August 25, 2017 / 11:49 am

        😆 I’m sure she would if she could 👍🏻

        I know I’ve been lucky at work with how people have reacted but it’s impossible for attitudes to change if people don’t talk openly. I understand it’s difficult because of stigma though – it took me years and until I felt I had to before I spoke to my manager.

        It’s crazy that companies don’t realise they could actually make more money and be more efficient if they just took simple steps to look after staff Wellbeing!

        • August 25, 2017 / 11:53 am

          All companies do is lecture you with the “Companies lose billions of pounds each year due to employee sick days” Doesn’t make me feel comfortable taking a mental health day when they see pound signs instead of people.

          • August 25, 2017 / 11:55 am

            No but if they realised that they would have less sick days if they looked after their employees then it might motivate them. Obviously the human aspect is the most important in reality and it is awful that some people/companies overlook it. It will be to their detriment in the long term though.

  5. August 25, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    You touch on how crappy it is to have to hide your illness to keep your job and that’s so freakin’ relatable honestly. I remember I had a panic attack while working at a gas station; I told my coworker I had to use the restroom and while he wasn’t looking I ran behind a dumpster and called a psychologist to set up an appointment because I couldn’t take it anymore. We have to hide, or else we’re deemed unfit for work, and it sucks. Kudos to you though for being able to talk about it openly here though!

    – Shannon | http://www.goingwithhappy.com

    • August 25, 2017 / 6:40 pm

      It really does suck – feels like I’m living a lie! It’s easier to pretend you’re physically ill. Good for you for taking action and contacting a psychologist, I hope you’re in a better place now.

  6. August 25, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. I recently left a job that I hated so much, I could barely get through the day without bursting into tears. I too was left on my own at times and it become a very solitary environment and I’ve lost a lot of social skills because of it. I really admire you for persisting and staying at your job!

    • August 25, 2017 / 7:50 pm

      Thank you, to be honest I do kick myself for staying at my job sometimes, it’s not easy with a mental illness! I’m really happy for you that you left a job that was damaging your health. No matter the perks or salary, you have to do what’s best for you, and your health must come first! 🙂

      • August 25, 2017 / 7:52 pm

        I agree, health is far more important than any job. I probably should have left mine sooner. I hope things improve for you!

  7. August 25, 2017 / 8:04 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience with mental health. I hope people realise that mental health is just as important as physical health. Thankfully I’m still a student and everyone there is very understanding but I can’t imagine what it must be like in the workplace and not being able to have time off. Hopefully it will change and people will become more understanding.

    • August 25, 2017 / 8:18 pm

      I hope so too! Thank you for your lovely comment, workplaces still have a long way to go but I believe it can change 🙂

  8. August 25, 2017 / 9:06 pm

    This resonated with me. Beautifully written, by the way. I am self employed so no longer feel that my mental health is a work issue but I remember a time when I wasn’t self employed and work was not only impacted by my mental health, work actively contributed to it. Work takes up a huge amount of our lives, its so important that it supports healthy mental health. Fabulous read, thank you.

    • August 26, 2017 / 6:57 am

      Thank you, and I understand how you feel completely. Work isn’t something you can ignore when you spend 40 hours of your week there. Health must come first, I hope employers attitudes change in future. I’m glad you’ve been able to do something now that you enjoy and doesn’t impact your health.

  9. August 28, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    Zoe, well done for writing such a personal and honest piece. Mental health issues remain a taboo subject despite record numbers of our young people needing psychological support. No one can truly understand the feelings unless they have been there, or can understand what it feels like to witness a loved one fall off the edge – been there, done both…..husband, both sons – what a house we are! Anyway I have included your link on my regular Pain Pals feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! – so glad to connect, C x

    • August 28, 2017 / 4:31 pm

      Thank you so much – and thank you for taking the time to comment! ☺️ you sound like a great family & I’m glad you can all support each other, it is difficult dealing with a mental illness when those around you have no understanding.

      • August 29, 2017 / 3:41 pm

        Absolutely – hang on in there, we never know what is around the corner – and there is some great support from this “chronic health” on line family! Always here to talk x

  10. August 28, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    This is such an important piece. I’m so glad I found it through the Pain Pals blog recommendation. I have had to leave workplaces before because they were unhealthy for my mental health. It makes such a difference to be at a job where I feel well!

    • August 28, 2017 / 4:34 pm

      It makes such a difference, your health is so much more important than any job! Glad to have you here, thank you for reading ☺️

  11. October 7, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Thanks for this post. I know that feeling of sitting in an empty room with just a computer from school. It’s horrid. Now I’m taking a break from all of it, which is a bit better for me. I recently posted about discrimination in the workplace and mental health on http://www.luthienthegreen.wordpress.com. If you have time, take a look and let me know what you think 😊

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