Today I didn’t much want to go to work. (Nothing special, I know, bear with me here.) I was tired when my alarm went off, and though I told myself the sky was a glorious blue I didn’t much fancy entering into the day. I’m an introvert, and being in an open plan office wasn’t what I most desired. I’m trying to finish a novel and working today would get in the way.
Obviously, I got up and I went to work. This stuff is just normal, like I said. But, actually, just normal is a luxury.
The last 5 years when I’ve been fighting to continue working I’ve wondered almost daily whether I was just being lazy, whether what I was experiencing was what everyone experienced when they fancied a day off and at home, when they were a bit unsure of themselves before a big meeting, when they had better things to do.
Today’s normality tells me the struggles of the last few years have not been ‘normal’. They have been the struggles of depression, and complex PTSD, and probably as well side-effects of being on shed-loads of tranquilising medication. That is to say, all those days I told myself I was just being lazy, that I should get on with it, that I was making a fuss about nothing – all those days (years) I was mistaking what was going on.
Here’s some of the stuff that’s not normal:
Being so heavy-headed that after 14 hours of sleep you can’t wake up (maybe you’ve spent the night crying, or in nightmares, or sleeping on the floor and with the light on because it’s safer that way).
Waking in dread at still having to be alive. Day after day after day.
Having so little energy that the choice is between eating, showering, putting on smart clothes or going to the office – and arriving at your desk unshowered, unfed and in yoga pants and trainers because that is the only way.
Terror that you’ll be fired for arriving late.
Sitting at your desk unable to summon the energy to tap the laptop keyboard. Repeatedly cancelling meetings with colleagues out of a terror in attending you can’t even name. Hearing screaming in the back of your head. All day. Hiding in the toilets to shake and cry for half an hour, and then going back to your desk as though nothing has happened. Distorted vision when you look at a laptop for more than a couple of hours. Amplified hearing until you’re unable to distinguish sounds from each other and have to leave to the park to settle your brain again. Fear that everyone can see all of this and they’re putting up with you only out of pity.
I could go on. (On and on.) But I have a day’s work to do. So I’ll say just two more things:
Number one: I wasn’t being lazy, and I need to keep telling myself that, because on bad days that’s still what I believe.
Number two: some of you will have more examples to add to this list of the effects of poor mental health on your ability to work. If that is you, then I wish you well.