6 months ago I was offered an incredible opportunity to work for an amazing international human rights charity that was relocating to Leeds. It was in many ways a dream job – I had the chance to learn new skills, work alongside exceptional colleagues, and to help make the world a slightly better place.
About 3 months ago it became apparent that the charity would not be moving to Leeds and that the seven empty desks in my office would remain empty. I decided to stay – embracing new opportunities to help the charity develop – working mostly from home.
Since then, it has become increasingly apparent that I am not at the right stage of my life to work by myself day in, day out. I thrive off human contact, and the lack of it was a fertile breeding ground for my first mental health breakdown. I developed a form of anxiety-related depression, got various physical symptoms, and found the stress affecting my personal life.
Recently I had a two week holiday, and whilst the pressure was lifted for a while it became apparent that I was dreading returning to work. I don’t blame anyone I work with – every single person that I’ve worked with has the most incredible passion for making the world better for people with mental disabilities and mental health issues – but I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since joining they’ve released a major report on abuse against children at a care home in Hungary, launched a first-of-its-kind monitoring methodology for identifying and preventing abuse of children with mental disabilities in institutions, and fearlessly worked on dozens of cases in countries around the world (plus lots more that just wouldn’t fit into this blog). I look forward to staying in touch with the charity and supporting their fantastic work, but from the outside.
“So what next?” I hear you asking.
I don’t know. I guess I’m back on the job market – I’ve got a notice period to work but after that I’ve got a mortgage and a wife and two hungry cats and life is expensive. More to the point, I know I need to throw myself back into work to regain my confidence, and to become the Antony that I know I am – and not the shadow of Antony I’ve become.
Perhaps writing this blog will put someone off employing me – but I know something will come up. I guess this blog is written partly to avoid having the same painful conversation for the next few weeks – but also because our society has created a huge stigma around mental health and this frankly needs smashing down. After my last blog (which has more details on how my first mental health breakdown affected me – read it here) a number of close and distant friends offered love, support, but also shared their own stories. At least one friend was inspired to seek support for their own mental health condition.
Now, please don’t think I’m writing this because I want you all to think I’m a beacon of inspiration. I’m writing this because I’ve taken a really tough decision to leave what I thought was a dream job for the sake of my mental health. It isn’t going to be easy – job hunting is not a stress-free process – but I know it was the right decision and already I feel a small weight has lifted. Whatever motivates you – fame, money, changing the world – you’ve got to look after yourself if you are going to succeed. It’s scary, but there are some really lovely people out there. And if the worst comes to the worst, there’s always a guy with a ginger beard who’d be happy to listen to you right here.