I have to start by saying that I have been very, very lucky and unfortunately not all employers are as supportive as mine. My colleagues and workplace have been an integral part of my recovery but because my mental illnesses have been high-functioning, this may not be the case for everybody. (If you’re unsure on what high-functioning means, it basically means that I can carry on living my day-to-day life i.e. going to work, as opposed to some other people who find these kind of tasks impossible).
Going to work has helped me a lot. It has provided both routine and support – two things that I don’t think I could have managed without. I’ve experienced no stigma or discrimination and have received nothing but support from my bosses.
At my lowest, I’d wake up in the morning, rush to get ready for work, then as soon as I got in my car I’d start to cry. I’d cry all the way to work, I’d cry drinking my morning cup of tea, and all throughout the first part of the day until around lunch time. Once I started work, I would improve. Being busy helped a lot, but I was incredibly fragile and, at times, found it difficult to adapt around normal situations such as colleagues leaving, and lack of concentration is a common problem with depression.
All the time this was happening, I’d come in each morning to a cup of tea waiting for me on my desk. My colleagues dished out hugs like nobody’s business. They didn’t ask. They didn’t pressurise. They just let me do what I needed to do and were there for me whilst I did it with a constant supply of tea. But also, they knew when to leave me to it and just let me get on with work.
Now as I said, not many workplaces are like this. I am very lucky. So here are some things that you can do yourself.
I still do this now – when the weather is ok I go for walks on my lunch break. This may be with others or on my own, it doesn’t really matter.
Making lists to ensure that things don’t become extra overwhelming can be really useful. I love a list and a fancy spreadsheet anyway, but when you feel you have a lot on your plate, it can help to work out what you need to be doing and prioritising each task rather than looking at a big pile and thinking where do I start?
Don’t forget the basics
I’m talking food and water. Don’t forget to drink enough water and continue to eat properly if you can – I went wrong here. We underestimate the power of eating enough, drinking enough, and sleeping enough.
Your evenings are important
If, like me, you work in an office job, don’t neglect your evenings. I have found meditation to be really helpful for me as well as reading a good book (and writing, of course). Remember the importance of self care and give yourself something to look forward to each evening. This may be a bath, your favourite book, your favourite movie etc.
You’re not a machine – know your limits
Although you’re there because you have a job to do, you are still human. Remember to try to be compassionate and treat yourself with a bit of respect. You’re doing great.
I love this one. I’d encourage people to do this generally, whether it be related to your work or not. This is a really nice way of being able to see how far we’ve come. Something that my good pal, Rich, said in his recent video really stuck with me. He compared recovery to a glacier: day-to-day you don’t really see much movement, but when you look back over five years, you think bloody hell it’s moved loads! This is such a brilliant way of describing recovery. Allow yourself to celebrate your victories, however big or small that they are, and create a list on what you’ve achieved each month.
These really are small tips and I encourage those that need further help to seek it, but don’t underestimate the difference that small changes can make to help you along the way.