Those of you who know me in person, or have been following my blog for a while, will know that I “live” with mental illness. I have been struggling with my mental health again for some time now. It’s got to the stage where I decided to quit my job of 20 years due to menopause related anxiety and depression.
There has been much in the news lately about menopause and the workplace so I decided to share my story in the hope that it will help other women. I also want to bring some attention to this symptom of the menopause as it is not often recognised or talked about.
Read on if you want to know what happened, how I feel now and what my plans are for the future.
LIVING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
When I say “live” with mental illness, I do mean just that.
I don’t mean to downgrade the severity of mental illness. It affects us all differently. Sometimes it is truly awful, sometimes worse than awful, but having had mental health issues for more than half my life, I have learned to accept it. I have learned to live with it.
I’m not always ill. I’m not always anxious or depressed. In fact most of the time I’m happy. I enjoy my life. I manage to work, run a home, look after my family and have a social life. My social life has taken a nose dive of late, but I hope that will rectify itself soon. Like most people suffering from anxiety and depression, I have good days and bad days.
MENOPAUSE RELATED ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
I’ve been going through the menopause for a few years now, and it has brought with it more anxiety and depression.
I worry about silly things and although I know they are silly I cannot control the feelings. I know I overreact to things. I overthink situations that may or may not have even happened.
I find it hard to cope in certain situations, and social anxiety has become a problem for me too. I no longer feel that I “fit” anywhere. I have lost any little confidence that I once had in those scenarios.
I feel drained. I often have no energy. I have lost interest in things that used to excite me. But I’m ok! These are all things that are on the inside. We are all quite good at putting on a big smile and getting on with it, aren’t we?
WORKING WITH MENOPAUSE RELATED ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
I work a few different jobs, mostly for myself, as I like the variety and I like being my own boss. As well as my self-employed status, I have also been working part-time in a school for 20 years as a Learning Support Assistant to mainstream students and children with special educational needs.
Sure, it’s stressful but it’s also very rewarding. It’s a career that I’ve loved and one in which I was extremely confident. I felt that I did a good job.
However, during the last year or so, I’ve found my workplace to be a huge focus for my anxiety – to the extent that I was dreading going in. On the whole, I loved the work, the children and my colleagues, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of anxiety away.
I didn’t know if it was menopausal anxiety causing me to feel this way, or the job itself was exacerbating my anxiety. I wondered if I would feel better if I left this work environment, or whether I should stick it out.
If I got rid of the anxiety would I enjoy the job? Or would I ever get rid of the anxiety if I continued to work there? I felt like I was going around in circles. A real chicken and the egg scenario.
I spoke with my employers to say that I was thinking of leaving and that I was suffering from extreme anxiety. They had offered to make some changes, but to be honest I didn’t want to be treated any differently. I didn’t want any “special” treatment. We were a team and I wanted to pull my weight as much as everybody else did.
I just wanted to FEEL better. I wanted to feel confident and enjoy my job again.
I had obviously discussed my symptoms with my GP. She felt that I needed to go on anti-depressants as well as continuing with my HRT. I opted for a higher dose of HRT for the time being instead.
LEAVING THE WORKPLACE DUE TO MENOPAUSE RELATED ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
I decided that I would see out the rest of the school year and see how I felt then. But it got the point that it was making me ill. I was not sleeping. I was filled with dread. And I no longer felt that I was doing such a good job (although my colleagues said I was).
I knew that I had to leave for my wellbeing and health in general. Several months later, I handed my notice in and left a couple of weeks ago. The relief was immense.
Leaving day was bittersweet. I’d been involved with that school for 25 years. My children had been to the toddler group, pre-school and infant school there. I’d been the chairperson of the pre-school, and had been part of a small team that set up the PTA at the infants’ school. I’d been a parent helper and then taught in both the pre-school and infant school for 20 years. I’d actually taught some of the parents whose children I was teaching now! It’s been a big part of my life.
Have I made the right decision? I think so. I’ve been told the door is always open which is comforting, and I’ve since been offered work at other schools, so I was obviously doing a good job. But I think it’s time to open a new chapter.
LIVING WITH MENOPAUSAL ANXIETY – WHAT NOW?
I know that leaving something that was causing me stress, is going to go some way towards relieving my anxiety. I’m not expecting it to be the cure. I know I have to find a work-life balance and start to practice this self-care that everyone’s talking about nowadays.
I’m planning on taking a little bit of time out for me. I feel that I have used up so much energy with stress and anxiety that I need to build myself back up. I want to get myself fit both mentally and physically and the spring seems a perfect time to do this.
I will continue to do my other jobs. They cause me no stress at all and I love them.
After my sabbatical, I’m really going to focus on applying for some freelance writing work. I’ve already had some of my writing and photography published, and I’m currently writing for a health company, so I do need to get a portfolio together. So that is my first task.
I’m really looking forward to the prospect of writing for other publications and of course, I will continue to write my blog for pure enjoyment.
I am probably being over-optimistic about how much free time I’m actually going to have but I have a big “To Do” list:
I must have about 100 books in my “To Be Read” pile both in paperback and on Kindle. I’m looking forward to getting my head stuck into a book or two each week.
I don’t really “do” clutter but like everyone I have accumulated far more than I really need. I am intending to go through every cupboard and drawer and get rid of stuff we don’t need. Of course, I will make sure it is all repurposed or redistributed as I hate waste and most things can always be reused by someone.
Now that spring is coming, I’ve looked at the garden and think that it needs a bit of work starting with repainting the fence, some weeding and finishing with a jet wash of the patio.
I’ve already started spring cleaning the house and I’m sure that once the sun starts shining through the windows, I will want to decorate again just to freshen it up.
So yes I’m feeling optimistic that I’ve made the right decision and even though I still feel exhausted, I do already feel a sense of calm. I’m ready to enjoy life again.
I will be writing more about this symptom of the menopause soon as it is a huge, and very common, problem for us ladies in our 40s and 50s. I do believe that the more we talk the easier it is to cope with.
Has anyone else has quit their job for the good of their mental health?
Do you suffer with menopausal anxiety?
Are you planning a spring clean of your life or your home?
I’d love to hear your stories, do share in the comments below.