Last week, my boss told me someone I worked with thought I was miserable. It was said as a joke, with the colleague in question present and denying it. But I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.
I admitted to the pair that I am miserable and nearly revealed that I have mental health problems. However, the subject quickly changed to banter about themselves so the opportunity quickly fell away.
I really wish I could have told them about my problems because I’ve felt miserable at work for some time. When these feelings of sadness occur, I’m torn between wearing a mask for the sake of the job and letting myself be upset as a cry for help.
Only one person has asked me how I’m doing so far. And I should have given him my honest thoughts, along with my utmost thanks, as he seemed genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. However, I batted his questions off continuously, despite his insistence that he didn’t believe I was okay.
He’s gone back to university now so there’s no second chance coming anytime soon. Everyday I’m miserable and everyday nothing is said about it. I don’t enjoy my job, mainly for the fact it makes me feel invisible. I work in retail and when I serve at the till, I find most people see me as a machine rather than a person. Very often, no one says thank you. Sometimes people don’t even say a single word. More often than I wish was true, people will come to the till on their phone and ignore me. There are nice people who ask how my day is going and I feel better after talking to them. But it can quickly be forgotten amidst the 20 proceeding hollow transactions.
Things are not great away from the till either. Putting out stock makes time go faster but is often done in isolation. I also rarely have company on my breaks because people are covering for me upstairs.
Going to football matches has been a big factor in keeping my head straight. I can be having a stressful day but then I look forward to a weekend or midweek game with anticipation. They’re the light at the end of the tunnel.
As the season’s ending, though, I’m losing my therapy. The stress has began to turn into genuine sadness. Getting a new job would be the logical solution. I am planning to get one but I’ve got plans to move away soon so there’s no point in finding a new job around here. I’m stuck being miserable at work on a day-to-day basis for the short-term. I just wish I could be more open and not feel so guilty about being sad.
I believe the workplace still has a long way to go to improve the mental health of its employees. I had a bad spell at my previous job too and even got offered a chance to go on sick leave when I went to the doctors’. However, I felt I would let the team down as they were already struggling for numbers.
It would be nice to rest my mind for a bit now but I’m in that same boat again. There’s a lot of expectation and pressure to turn up. The place is built like a house of cards, one person doesn’t show and the whole system crashes. Having less weight on my shoulders would be ideal but just being able to talk about what’s happening in my head would give me more reassurance.
This is why the Not A Red Card campaign is something I adore. Organised by Legal & General, it’s trying to make mental health discussions more acceptable in the workplace from both the perspective of the employer and employee. It also highlights some possible signs of poor mental health to be aware of amongst fellow colleagues, while the sporting aspect is something I relate to as well.
You can find out more about the Not A Red Card campaign at legalandgeneral.com/not-a-red-card or follow their updates on Twitter: @NotARedCard. The more well-known this campaign becomes, the better. By just sharing their posts, it will go a long way in helping people feel more comfortable discussing their mental health at work. Hopefully it can become a staple part of future workplace inductions alongside heavy-lifting training sessions and preventing repetitive strain injury.
According to Legal & General, 78% of people don’t feel comfortable discussing their mental health with their manager. I would count myself in that group. It’s like an alien topic. Even mentioning my blog doesn’t appeal to me.
I always seek out the writing of others when I feel down as the relatability allows me to feel less invisible and alone. I figured I’d write my thoughts down on here to offer the same outlet in return.
Knowing that there are others out there in the same hole as me inspires me to be braver. I’m going to try my best to be more open and honest about my bad spells at work. Whether my situation will improve or not, I’m not sure. But I’ll feel less guilty about being miserable and hopefully my colleagues will understand that it’s not my personality on show, it’s my struggles.