This week I have learnt that despite the battles I have won against my mental health problems, they are still coming back to haunt me. On Thursday, after a very long and drawn out process, I was given the devastating news that I have lost my job.
This whole saga started prior to my Everest marathon when I had been back at work for 3 months and I was told that I had to attend a formal sickness meeting. I knew that this would be serious but having recovered from my illness and returned to work I didn’t think for a second that the outcome would result in my dismissal. However unfortunately, after much debate, it was decided that due to my sickness record I was no longer able to continue working for the ambulance service.
Despite this gut wrenching news, I kept focused and stayed strong because I knew of the incredibly important task that lay ahead of me. So, I channelled all my mental strength and determination into fundraising for OTR and my Everest marathon, knowing that on my return I would be whole heartedly appealing the decision.
On the 11th of August I attended my appeal hearing. I was completely open and honest about what I had been through and how I had developed coping mechanisms to deal with my illness and would now be able to attend work regularly without episodes of sickness. However, unfortunately this was not enough and I received an email on Thursday to say that my appeal had been declined.
I not only feel gutted for the loss of the job that I love, but I also feel deeply saddened at the lack of understanding surrounding mental illness, particularly amongst healthcare professionals. Yet, rather than let this set me back it has only made me more determined to talk openly about mental health and put a stop to the stigma surrounding it.
It has been an incredibly difficult period of time, made more difficult by the fact that until now I have been unable to talk freely about my dismissal and how I am feeling about it as I didn’t want anything to jeopardise my appeal and I was hoping that the outcome would be positive. I can now openly say that I am extremely disappointed at the way South Western Ambulance Service have handled the whole situation and I now plan on taking legal action.
Despite the obvious lows of the situation that I find my self in, I have taken comfort in the knowledge that I have been able to cope so well with what has been a very stressful event in my life. I have been able to continue to function without anxiety taking control and this in itself demonstrates the progress I have made.
It put it into perspective when Helen said that when I was really unwell she would have taken me losing my job any day if it meant that I would be better. We have been through so much that this is just a drop in the ocean in comparison!
I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough though. There have been times when I’ve felt very lonely and isolated without the structure and social interaction that work provides. However my family have been amazing and I have some incredible friends that have helped put a smile on my face when I’ve felt low. It’s at times like this that you realise who your true friends are!
Statistics show that OCD is ranked in the top 10 of the most disabling illnesses by lost income. In fact on average a person with OCD loses fully 3 years of wages over their lifetime (OCD UK)! It is sad to think that having already had many months of zero pay and having lost my job I am now part of those statistics. It just shows the devastating effects that mental illness can have. It’s just a shame that this had happened just as I had managed to turn my life around.
However, rather than see this as a negative step in my journey, I have decided to see it as a positive. The world is my oyster and I will use this ‘opportunity’ as fresh start, to meet new people, make new memories and to continue to show that no matter how much you may have suffered, there is still hope – you can recover from the grip of mental illness.