I was asked to leave my job because of mental health problems

My life was beginning to slip through my fingers and I knew something had to give

It was three years ago. I was in a bad place with anxiety and depression, and was really struggling to keep up with my A Levels, let alone with my job, working in a small cafe in the town I lived in. I didn’t think much of it at first, but my life was beginning to slip out of my fingers, and everything seemed to fall apart. My grades weren’t what I wanted, my relationship at the time was getting increasingly fractured and I was falling out with friends and struggling to stay optimistic and happy. I knew something had to give.

I loved my job. It was great fun working with such a great bunch of people and engaging with customers, but it was also hot and very, very stressful, trying to keep up with washing up, serving and cleaning the business. I’d come away wet with sweat after my 9 hour day and curl up in a ball on the sofa for the rest of the evening. Each Saturday was harder than the last, and before long I was missing hours through stress migraines or having panic attacks on the job.

After a while, I was called in to see my boss. She was a good lady, but she wasn’t happy with me missing work. We sat outside and talked for a while about what was going on, until she finally hit the crux of our meeting: “I think it would be best for both of us if you took some time to sort things out and maybe we’ll see about bringing you back sometime in the future”. My heart dropped. I felt vulnerable, I felt dejected, and worst of all, I felt different. Work can be fantastic for helping fellow sufferers process and even beat their conditions, but for me made things worse. So I ask this: how can you keep up a job when you’re struggling with a mental health condition?

First of all, you need to think honestly with yourself about where you’re at in your head. Speak to friends, family, and your doctor, and try to establish how you feel and whether you think you would be able to cope with the strains of working hard. Think about which job you want to apply for. Various jobs have varying amounts of intensity. Cafes are tough. I know that now. Retail is where I found my mojo and finally felt settled enough to commit and do a good job.

If you’re already in a job struggling, or if you’re really worrying, try to make some provisions about how you can cope. I mentioned it on my CV and I spoke to my manager, and I am able to take five minutes to breathe if I’m having a panic attack or finding it tough to cope. It’s doable, but you need to make sure you do it in your own way, to make the job work around you while still doing it well.

Mental health conditions don’t stop you from getting a job or doing one successfully. They just make it a little bit trickier to manage, but you can do it. I didn’t think I would ever work again until I found my new job and now I’m pretty content. Don’t let it stop you.