*Trigger warning – this blog touches on the subject of suicide. *

This is an individual's story and we recognize that everyone's experience of mental health and everyone's circumstances are different.

Last week, I made a bold, or what some may view as a rash decision. I quit my job...

A good job. Well paid, achievable bonuses, opportunities for progression and a likable workforce. As I was writing that last sentence I was thinking ‘Nic, what the hell have you done’, but each day I must remind myself why I made such a “rash” decision. 

It was only 12 months ago I scoffed as I saw colleague after colleague walk out or obtain a two week sick note from their doctors. I even whispered to my desk neighbours that “they knew what they were getting themselves into” and that they needed to ‘get a grip’. My genuine apologies if any of you are reading this now, it took a little longer, just over 12 months to grind me down.

The skin around my fingers has been bitten down to their last remaining layer and I’m emotionally drained. The rudeness of some of our general public, the vile comments, having to listen to people’s fantasy sob stories or unfortunately genuinely horrific sad circumstances has taken its toll. 

In 19 working years I have never taken time off for myself, to recharge or just have a day of peace but in one year at that company, which is outside of Lancashire, I needed four separate mental health days. Until last year I’d always worked in cafes or restaurants, where, believe me, you come across some interesting characters and you can be rushed off your feet but working the phones in a debt collection company is a whole new level! During the training, I thought ‘I can do this’, I wanted to help people, offer them support and financial options, a chance of a way out. Some customers, however, couldn’t see a way out and during one of my first solo calls, the caller verbalized thoughts of suicide. This was something covered very briefly in training and I was advised this would only ever happen every couple of months. In reality I actually averaged one call a week from my first day on the call floor. Maybe they were just angry, desperately passing comments designed to shock, but maybe they weren’t. 

The agent advice sheet on the employee website offered no practical or live support and I handled it the best way I could. Each time I knew I could have said something better. At the time, all I could feel was my face burn with fear and my skin tingle, I was out of my depth. The pressure in these circumstances was horrendous.  Each time I had a “bad call”, a manager would wander over and offer a few minutes breather off the phones. The problem was, there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, nowhere to cry, no where to compose  yourself. The only place was the toilet. It was the only room that wasn’t made of glass. Where was our safe space?

Each day became more of struggle, those “bad calls” got worse, happened more often and impacted me more. I became numb and just stopped caring. The stories, the insults, fell on deaf ears. I didn’t want to help people anymore, I wanted to scream back. I wanted to tell them I was a person too, a human being and I had my own problems. I felt myself become more unprofessional each day and I was seeing a side to myself I didn’t like. I needed to repair my mind. 

I took a week off but as I walked to the train station on the first Monday morning back, the dread was real and I knew I wasn’t going to last the day. I took one call and ended up handing my lanyard in to my team leader. I told him I couldn’t cope with the calls any longer. He asked if there was anything they could do but we had been here before in November when I took my first “mental health day”. Empty promises of change and that was it. 

And now here we are. Straight back to the café, making the best cappuccinos I can and enjoying small talk with the regulars. I wake up optimistic for the day instead of fearful. I walk by strangers who say good morning or simply smile and believe me this goes a long way.

The morale of the story is, I chose to be happy. I chose myself. Our minds (and the skin around my fingers) will always need repairing, there is so much going on in the world, in our own worlds but that bold decision was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. Self-care isn’t selfish.

If you have been affected by the topics covered in this blog there is help available:

Lancashire Mind is a company limited by guarantee (company number 3888655) and a registered charity in England and Wales (registered number 1081427) at 80-82 Devonshire Road, Chorley, Lancs, PR7 2DR. Lancashire Mind are registered with the Fundraising Regulator. For all enquiries, call us on 01257 231660.
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