On the till made me ill

    Having suffered from mental health problems since childhood, it
    surprises me how ignorant people are about such issues. Why is it
    that we can talk freely about sex, yet mental health still remains
    a closed book? Many people are uneducated about its effects and
    stereotype those who have such illnesses as dangerous or
    weak-willed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told
    “pull yourself together” or “everyone has off days”.

    Recently, I had to leave my job as a sales assistant for a well
    known high street retailer. I had worked there for three years but,
    during that time, I became increasingly anxious whenever I was on a
    till. I persevered as much as I could, but my nerves got so bad
    that I began to burst into tears in the middle of serving
    customers. When I explained to my managers how I felt, it was
    agreed I only had to go on a till for 30 minutes at a time.
    Unfortunately, this was never adhered to, even when there were
    plenty of staff to relieve me. In the end,
    I dreaded going in and became so depressed that I was signed off
    work.

    During this time I had to keep the human resources manager informed
    of my progress. I kept explaining to her that, though I could not
    go on a till, I was willing to work hard in other areas of my job.
    But all she would say was that till work was part of the job and
    that not wanting to do this was my personal preference. I found
    this comment insulting as it dismissed the fact that I suffered
    from anxiety and made me feel as if I was being awkward.

    I also had to have a meeting with the company doctor about six
    months after I was signed off sick. She was just as unhelpful,
    making comments such as “there are people a lot worse off than you”
    and “you’re lucky to still have your job”. She also commented that
    I “only worked 16 hours a week”, not seeming to realise that
    working part-time was probably as draining for me as it was for
    someone working full-time. By the time the meeting had finished I
    felt worse than ever. If a doctor would not take me seriously, who
    would?

    It wasn’t long after this that I took an overdose. Not having a job
    to go to made my depression worse as I had more time on my hands to
    think about my problems. I felt a failure and the future seemed
    hopeless. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to live for as
    everything good in my life was blighted by my problems.

    Fortunately, life is brighter now thanks to the psychological help
    I’m receiving. I only wish people could feel the suffering that is
    with me every minute of the day and then perhaps they would not be
    so quick to judge. If I had suffered from a physical illness it is
    unlikely the people I’ve written about would have made such
    unhelpful comments. Mental illness can strike anyone at any age.

    One day it may just happen to them.

    Amanda Robinson has depression and uses mental health
    services

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