Why I quit my job: fight or flight?
Yesterday was quite bittersweet for me. It marked my final day as employee of a very influential player in the financial industry. A few weeks ago I made the decision to quit my job. Not because I do not want to work, but because I had to make a choice between my mental health and work. For weeks I have been at home struggling with my anxiety and depression. In actual fact I’ve been struggling for months telling myself it will pass. I will get over it. I found myself in a space where I was unable to concentrate and I forgot how to do things I’ve done everyday for over three years. I was unable to concentrate because my fear of judgement by my colleagues and how management would view me if I told them about my anxiety and depression was overwhelming. Work was a major initiator in my disorder and it became a place where I no longer felt safe. Colleagues would tell me how strong they thought I was, but then the whispering would start. No one understood the daily battle of living with anxiety and depression. Mental health is widely acknowledged by major players in employment, however they do not live in the fear of persecution and the fear of stigmas surrounding mental health disorders within the workplace and some may even be oblivious to it. They talk the talk, but do they walk the walk? I was amazing at my job. I loved what I did and the relationships I built with my clients, but my mental health requires my attention and my focus now has to be on my mental health recovery. I need to take the time off to find myself again, but I strongly feel that I would not be able to do that had I stayed on at my work. The past few months have really proven to me how important it is that I focus on my mental health. I felt an enormous sense of guilt when I missed work due to my mental illness and upon returning to work each time I felt persecuted, misunderstood and that no real empathy existed. Maybe because no one truly understands what it is like living with anxiety and depression unless you have been in that position yourself.
Anxiety and depression is like a silent assassin. No one sees it, only you know when it’s about to hit and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s like standing at the edge of a cliff admiring the beautiful scenery and suddenly and mostly without warning, you’re falling into a deep dark never ending gorge. You feel empty inside yet every experience, every word spoken towards you whether negative or positive, every action becomes emotionally traumatic and you find yourself entangled in a web of destruction. Your body physically hurts, yet you’re still able to move because you have to. You become robotic. You want to meet up with friends and socialise, but the fear of doing so is too much to bear so you hide away at home and make your excuses. Anxiety and depression makes you petrified of failure yet you have absolutely no desire to be productive or successful at anything. You are paralysed. For some this may be very difficult to comprehend, because they see a beautiful smile and a happy face, but no one ever really sees the deep dark abyss of pain,confusion and angst that exists within you. They do not see the storms raging inside you. Only you know. Only you must learn to calm the storm, but that is not an easy task. Fear of divulging your mental health disorder, something so private and personal to your employer is exacerbated by stigmas that are very real within the work place. Employers try to spread awareness on the issues, but that doesn’t stop the disapproval whispers and the way some colleagues may treat you. When I first started in my job a colleague was off with anxiety and upon that persons return to work the whispers, the disapproving eye rolls and even the judgmental comments was not silenced even at knowing the company policies on mental health. The lack of empathy was so apparent that I found myself questioning why I even took up that position. I quickly pushed that aside and got on with it. Fast forward a couple of years and here I am diagnosed with anxiety and depression and the fear of how I will be viewed by my colleagues and employer become immensely overwhelming. Many nights I drove home crying because I knew I would have to speak up at some point but, I remembered the comments and the disapproval my colleague received and I found myself unsurprisingly unwilling to divulge any of my information.
One day I went into work and locked myself in a bathroom cubicle crying. Walking through those doors after months of hiding my condition was an arduous task. Hiding in the bathroom was where I found the courage to walk up to my management team and divulge my condition to them. At first I felt a cocktail of emotions. I was overcome by shame, quilt and mainly fear of being ridiculed and the disapproval of colleagues. But then I felt relieved and the very next day I took my doctors advice and took some time away from work. So after numerous discussions with my husband, gp and counsellor I came to the conclusion that for my own self preservation I need to decide what is more important to me. My job or my mental health. Fight or flight? I chose the latter. Work is important, but my mental well-being will always come first. I cannot be a great employee if I no longer feel safe nor if I am no longer able to do my job to the best of my ability. No one is more critical of themselves than a person with anxiety and depressive disorders, and I know right now my work is no longer a good place for me to be. Breaking the stigmas surrounding mental health disorders requires sufferers to speak up and talk about their conditions, but when we do not feel safe enough to do so we’d rather suffer in silence than risk the ridicule and judgement. Talking about personal battles with mental health requires an enormous amount of courage and strength and if we feel safe enough we will open up, just stop judging us. We suffer enough emotional trauma and we bear the scars of our disorders. We live in a world that seems to be more and more judgemental, a world that has no patience or desire to understand our struggles. Yet it is a world that shouts lets spread awareness on mental health! Double edged sword if you ask me. That is why I quit my job. Not because I am lazy and do not want to work, but because I want to be the best I can be and do the best I can do and right now the best thing I can do is focus on my recovery. Work may have had monetary value, but good mental wellness does not have a price tag. My sole focus now is my recovery and in doing so I hope to learn more and more each day how I can fight this battle and come out victorious.