When you are listening to someone talk about their mental health problems, it is always important to remember that the route cause is specific to them, it is created by their own, individual, experience.
I mention this because I am going to try and explain the reasons why I say I cannot work.
Most of what I am about to write may seem trivial to some of you, you may even have gone through something similar and don’t have a problem; if that is the case then I am very happy for you.
You may think I am just a weaker person.
A paramedic I met when Kim had to call the emergency services for me summed it up beautifully. He said that anxiety and panic can affect anyone at any time, he has known the biggest, toughest guy deal with a horrible accident with no problems, but then that same guy could attend a rather innocuous call-out and fall apart. Why? That’s the joy of mental health.
So, why am I so convinced I cannot work?
The main problem is trust; quite simply, I wouldn’t trust a company’s so called ‘values’ or ‘ethics’ and I wouldn’t trust a word a manager said to me.
If you have read my previous blogs you will know the background and the history that has led me to where I am today, so I won’t go into all of that again; what I will do is highlight some of the specific situations, that when combined, caused my mental breakdown.
Before my first panic attack my work was stressful, and I wasn’t really enjoying it. Normally I would have started looking for another job and got the hell out of Dodge. I didn’t because I was told by my manager that he wanted to promote me to assistant manager and he had big plans for making the department better. I was sucked in like a moth to a light bulb.
I jumped through all the hoops, I did the management training course, I helped present our new vision to the team; I highlighted the problems we were having and made suggestions on how things could be made better.
Unfortunately this was a waste of time, and soon the wheels started to come off and the level of trust slowly drained.
I think it was all the lies that hurt the most. I felt as though I had been conned into staying; in short, I was the one left feeling like an idiot for believing them.
What transpired went a long way to showing me the lengths that some people and companies will go to in order to sweep something under the carpet; here’s a couple of examples:
- When I had my panic attacks I would lock myself in the disabled toilet. My manager knew I was there but didn’t bother to check I was alright. He even lied to Kim when she asked him to check on me personally because she was worried; he said he had when he hadn’t.
- My manager ignored advice from HR. Latter he would say this was because he did not know that my panic was work related; something I proved to be incorrect during the employment tribunal.
- The promotion never happened; in fact according to my manager, there was no promotion, I was making it all up….. Apparently.
- They lost all of my HR documentation for 2015, documents that would have proved I told my manager I was struggling, and would have proved the theory of the promotion.
- They kept saying that I should have received counselling through their employee assistance program, but no one bothered to actually follow up on this. This went on for months and when I resigned they made out that I wasn’t giving them the chance for them to help me…..
- Their handling of my internal grievance was terrible, My manager (a new one because the old one had left) didn’t bother to do any investigating, they questioned me for long periods of time without a break (during one meeting they pushed me to the point that I had a panic attack and they had to call the emergency services).
- They kept saying it was all fine and it was so much better, so when could I get back to work; they didn’t want to understand that it was too little o late, they basically ignored everything I was telling them.
- Despite a number of assurances, they screwed up my pay for months while I was off sick and it ended up that I owed them money.
- I had to beg for Kim to be with me during the grievance meetings.
- I sent the new manager the thoughts I had about improving the department and also a job spec for a role I thought I could do (this was after my panic attacks) she ignored this.
I also felt that any future chances of promotion would be hindered when I saw a comment made by the senior manager in his investigation:
“Regarding possible promotion, DC was concerned that with Paul being, in her opinion, a sensitive person that perhaps he might struggle as and when a more senior position became available.”
In every job I have done I have always wanted to work for companies that provide high levels of service; I was dismayed when during the grievance procedure the same manager that described me as a ‘sensitive’ chap educated me on the ‘Exceeding Expectations’ level of service the company sells:
“….it’s a perfect service, but we can’t always provide it I know.
We couldn’t be a business if we didn’t sell our services and work towards offering that service.”
It is this attitude that sets employees up to fail, and leads to them having to bear the brunt of the angry customer or client, while the idiots who come up with this crap hide-away in the offices.
It’s because of this that I don’t trust what companies say about the level of service they offer and the level of support they offer their employees. It seems that companies are free to advertise any level they want, but don’t have to deliver. I feel there should be regulations similar to the Property Missdescriptions Act for this sort of thing.
The final nail in the coffin was the decision made by the Employment Tribunal; the judge found in the company’s favour, there was no breach of trust and confidence, they did nothing wrong and so I am the one left to suffer and pick up the pieces, while they all get back to their normal lives.
This is why I get anxious when I think about looking for a job; I wouldn’t trust a company website, if I could get to an interview I wouldn’t trust what the interviewer was telling me about the company.
If I did get a job, I would need to record all meetings (formal and informal) and follow up everything with an e-mail copying in my private e-mail address, just so there was no risk of HR documents going missing again.
I struggle to see how a company would want to employee me anyway despite any disability discrimination regulations; I never know how I am going to feel and would struggle to be reliable, which would not be fair on the company or other employees.
I don’t think I could put up with the company politics and bullshit anymore without getting myself into serious trouble.
I want to work, but it is really difficult when you consider the fears I have around it. I guess my biggest fear is being in a position where history repeats itself and my condition deteriorates again, I have fought too hard to get this far, I won’t risk going backwards again, I can’t.
I hope this goes some way to explaining my issues with work; my hope is that I can find some way of earning money, it just need to fit in with my restrictions….. Easy eh?
Thank you, thank you, thank you.