You know when you have those things that stop you in your tracks when they shouldn’t? The things that you don’t expect to be an issue that suddenly become one. Well, my mental health appears to have become one of those things!
As you all know, I have been offered and accepted a new job. As part of that, I’m having to go through Occupational Health for clearance to take up the role. As part of my application I was asked “Do you, or have you in the past, had a disability or health problem that may require adjustments to your working environment?”
As someone who has suffered with depression, PTSD and anxiety for coming up for six years now, I ticked yes. Particularly considering that I had six weeks off at the start of the year with depression, I figured it would be prudent to tick “yes”. Well, cue one of the biggest regrets of my life.
I had to wait two weeks for a phone consultation with a nurse. I explained that my condition doesn’t currently affect me and I’m not on meds presently. She asked many MANY questions, sometimes several times. She asked if I am anxious about the new position, to which I told her that I am what I classify as a “normal” level of anxious – “good anxious” as it were. When we got to the end of the consultation she said she cannot clear me at the moment as she needs input from a doctor. I now have to go and see a doctor. So, that’s another week where I cannot hand in my resignation.
Of course, they have to cover their backs, right? They are just trying to help, right? I get that. It makes sense that they would check. It’s good that they would ask if I need any adjustments. It’s good that I can be open about the fact that my mental health can affect me day to day.
What isn’t good is that because it is mental health, my word isn’t good enough. I have to see clinician after clinician because apparently what I say doesn’t count. I told the nurse when I spoke to her that I’m fine. This has been part of my life for six years now. I don’t need any adjustments and I’m ready to take up the role. I’ve done day and night shifts before, so I know what they are like. I know a little bit about the department in terms of layout as Eden was born there. My current job has MORE responsibility than the one I’ve accepted. There is literally no reason why it would exascerbate my condition.
But no. I need to go and see a doctor. The nurse said she was concerned about how the change in role will affect my condition and is also concerned that I stopped my meds, despite the fact that it was done with my dr’s knowledge. Why on earth would I continue to take (and pay for!) meds that I don’t need any more? That would be silly…
So, even though I am fine and have told them as much, I have to see a doctor. Because it’s mental health. Because I can’t possibly just be “ok”. Because I’ve ticked a tickbox that automatically means I can’t just be ok. I don’t have integrity as a person, because I have mental health issues. I couldn’t possibly know my own condition enough to judge my situation well enough to know if I can change jobs. The hilarious thing is that this whole situation then causes a buttload of anxiety that wasn’t there before! So, in investigating a condition they run the risk od exascerbating the same condition.
Had I ticked “no”, that would be me in the wrong if I had then had a relapse of a disability that I hadn’t told them about. If I had lied, that would have been my problem. That could have lost me my job in the end. My new job. The one I chose to apply for, chose to interview for and chose to accept when it was offered to me. There have been times in the past where I have decided not to apply for things because of my mental health. Surely, that should be my decision?
I think this is what they mean when people talk about barriers for people with mental health. If I had chosen not to disclose my condition, I would be starting my new job next week. Because I disclosed it, I’m being passed from pillar to post and I still need to give my four weeks’ notice to my current job. One in four people experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. That means a hell of a lot of people being passed around a system at any one time. Half of which probably wouldn’t be being passed around the system if they were listened to.
Just shows that honesty isn’t always the best policy. When you have a mental health problem, you can’t win. Keep it to yourself and you’re wrong. Be honest and open and you’re still wrong… And we wonder why there is still a stigma…