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. Three years ago my mental health started to decline again, and when it didn’t improve, I made the decision to quit my job of 20 years due to menopause related anxiety and depression.
Menopause and the workplace had been mentioned in the news a lot at the time, so I decided to share my story in the hope that it would help other women. I also wanted to bring some attention to this menopause symptom as it is not always 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 reasonable social life (well not in 2020 obviously 😉). Like most people suffering from anxiety and depression, I have good days and bad days.
MENOPAUSE RELATED ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
I eventually left my job in March 2019, but I will fill you in on the lead up to my resignation.
I had been going through the menopause for a few years, and it had brought more anxiety and depression with it.
I would worry about silly things and although I knew they were silly, I could not control the feelings. I knew I overreacted to things. I would overthink situations that may or may not have even happened.
I found it hard to cope in certain situations, and social anxiety had become a big problem for me too. I no longer felt that I “fit” in anywhere. I lost what little confidence I had in those scenarios.
I felt drained. I often had no energy. I lost interest in things that used to excite me. But I was “fine”! I mean, these were all things that were on the inside, and I was pretty good at putting on a big smile and getting on with it!
WORKING WITH MENOPAUSE RELATED ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
I worked a few different jobs, mostly for myself, as I liked the variety and I like being my own boss. As well as my self-employed status, I had also been working in a school for 20 years as a part-time Learning Support Assistant to mainstream students and children with special educational needs.
Sure, it was stressful but it was also very rewarding. It was a career that I’d loved and one in which I was extremely confident. I felt that I did a good job.
However, during the last year or two of my employment, my workplace became 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 feelings of anxiety away.
I didn’t know if it was menopausal anxiety causing me to feel that way, or the job itself was exacerbating the anxiety. I wondered if I would feel better if I left the 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 met with my employers in the October of 2018 to hand in my resignation and told them that I was suffering from extreme anxiety. They didn’t want to accept my resignation, and asked me to give it a bit longer.
They 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 before I made any rash moves and quit my job. But it got the point that it was making me so 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, so in February 2019, I handed my notice in and left a month later. 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 all those years later! It had been a big part of my life.
Did I made the right decision? I am confident that I did, especially with all the measures put in school with Covid. I would never have coped being in the anxious state that I was in back then. I was told that the door is always open which is comforting, but I decided it was time to open a new chapter.
LIVING WITH MENOPAUSAL ANXIETY – WHAT NOW?
I know that leaving something that was causing me stress went some way towards relieving my anxiety. I wasn’t expecting it to be the cure and I still suffer with anxiety to an extent now, but it is so much better now than it was back then.
I began to practice this self-care that everyone’s talking about nowadays. I had used up so much energy with stress and anxiety and I needed to build myself back up. I wanted to get myself fit both mentally and physically. I’m still focusing on that, but I don’t beat myself up about taking time out for me anymore.
I still do my other jobs. They cause me no stress at all and I enjoy them, but I’m choosy about what I do. If I feel a certain job is likely to cause me more stress, I don’t take it on. I know we don’t all have that luxury, but that is one of the joys of working for yourself. I do wonder if this is nature’s way of making you slow down and make time to be kinder to yourself!
I’m enjoying the freelance writing and digital consultancy that I do. I’ve already had some of my writing and photography published, and I’m really looking forward to the prospect of writing for other publications in the future too.
And of course, I continue to write my blog for pure enjoyment.
I will be writing more about anxiety in the menopause soon as it is a huge and very common problem for ladies in their 40s and 50s. I do believe that the more we open up about it, the easier it becomes to talk about. You begin to understand that it is an illness, just like any other illness and you shouldn’t try to hide it. I hope my story may help others to acknowledge it.
Has anyone else has quit their job for the good of their mental health?
Do you suffer with menopausal anxiety?
I’d love to hear your stories, do share in the comments below.