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03rd Nov 2018

‘Work was going to kill me’ One reader shares her struggle with depression

Jade Hayden

mental health month

“I was going to have to give up work because work was going to kill me.”

*Some of the details of this story may upset some readers. 

Meghan was 26 when she was diagnosed with depression.

She had just returned from a trip to New York, one that she describes as a “dream” and “once in a lifetime.”

But it was on that holiday that Meghan realised she wasn’t feeling herself. She had, as she likes to put it, “lost her sparkle.”

“I was sleeping a lot more, I was eating a lot less,” she says. “I was bawling my eyes out in the middle of Times Square for no reason.”

In the beginning, Meghan didn’t recognise her symptoms for what they were. She was tired but she thought she had the flu. She wasn’t eating, sleeping, or physically able to go to work.

“I used to associate depression with older people,” she says. “I thought ‘I’m only a young one, why should I have this problem?'”

A visit to her doctor in Kilkenny eventually confirmed that the chest pains and her racing heart were due to panic attacks and that she did, in fact, have a mental illness.

Meghan was signed off work for two weeks – a move that should have allowed her to take some some to herself, to figure out what her next steps would be, to try and feel better.

But her employers weren’t accepting of her diagnosis. They didn’t think that depression was an excuse to take time off work and, for the most part, they didn’t see it as an illness at all.

“They would say things like ‘But you’re not sick?’,” she says. “And it was very difficult for me.”

“When I returned to work after the two weeks, one of my managers refused to take my doctor’s cert. They said from then on they wanted me in work, they thought I’d be better off in work.”

“They said I was physically able to work. But I wasn’t mentally able to.”

The longer Meghan stayed in her job, the worse she felt. She started attending counselling regularly which allowed her to delve into whatever might have been causing her rapid mood changes.

After awhile, she was signed off work again – for a longer period this time. Meghan says her managers continued to “make things difficult” for her.

They stopped contacting her. The friends she had made at work stopped texting. She says that everybody she knew there “cut themselves off.”

“When I handed in my cert for December of that year they refused to take it,” she says.

“They said I was physically well. They’d say ‘You don’t have a broken arm or a broken leg’ and because it’s such a small town, when I went for a walk, people I knew would see me and they’d stop me and be like ‘Why won’t you come back to work?’ Or they’d ignore me.”

Meghan says that after that, her depression became harder to deal with. She says she was having regular panic attacks, many of which left her in A&E.

“It got me really down in myself,” she says. “On one occasion I ended up harming myself, cutting my leg.

“It was after that that the doctor told me I was going to have to give up work because work was going to kill me. I had associated it with a bad place and because of that, I was advised to leave.”

Today, Meghan feels comfortable talking openly about her depression at work. After taking a year off, she switched professions entirely and is now training in the beauty industry.

She received counselling to address her self harming, she learned coping mechanisms, and she started CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).

“My current employer took a chance on me. I was open and honest with her and she gave me a full time job and I’m very grateful,” she says.

“At first, it was a deep dark secret, I kept it as a deep dark secret. But now I talk openly in my job, I talk to the clients about it sometimes too. They really appreciate it.”

Meghan says that although she is now “happier than ever,” she still knows she needs to keep an eye on her moods going forward.

“I don’t mind if I have to take two tablets a day, I don’t mind that. I just know that if I feel myself slipping, I have to tell someone.”

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected]

November is Mental Health Month on Her, where we’ll be talking to you and the experts about some of the common – and the not so common – disorders and conditions affecting women in Ireland today. 

You can follow the rest of our Mental Health Month series here. 

Want to get in touch? Email me at [email protected]