Things to consider when you’re off work with a mental illness

off work sick with mental illness

I have such admiration for people who can continue to work whilst being treated for mental illness. I struggled so badly that I had to quit my job and was subsequently out of work for over a year whilst I built up my confidence to return.

I know for some people going to work is the one thing they continue to excel at whilst their mental health suffers, but for me it simply wasn’t an option.

It took me a long time to come to terms with that. When I lost my career I felt like I lost my identity, but I wish I’d realised that is was OK to be off work. It was OK to need help. It was OK to take as much time as I needed. It was more than OK – it was necessary.

Whether you’re off work for a day, a week or a prolonged period of time; you should use this time to make your recovery as wholesome and speedy as possible.

Don’t beat yourself up

Once you’ve decided to take time off, it can be common to feel guilty about being at home resting whilst your family and friends go out to work. You may feel bad that your colleagues are left with more work to do, but remember they’re mentally well enough to cope with added stress whilst you are not.

With the physical symptoms of mental illness often hard to see, certain employers often doubt whether they are there at all. This can be very frustrating – but try not to let it get to you. It’s merely a reflection of how little knowledge most people have about mental illness, and not an indication of whether or not you should return to work. That’s a decision that should be made by you with the advice of your GP.

Consider your finances

If you’re unemployed or off work long term this can be very stressful for a lot of people. If you’re running out of savings you should be honest and consider making a plan for the future. If you live in the US you may want to have a read of the DRB Capital structured settlement review. I was receiving benefits and Statutory Sick Pay when I was off sick abd residing in the UK, more information on which can be found here.

Any extra cash can be pivotal when you are no longer earning full time, and this will also help take the pressure off you rushing back into work when you’re not totally ready to do so.

off work with mental illness

Implement a routine

When you’re out off work for a prolonged period of time it can be hard to find structure in your day. I know for me the days often ran into one another, with sleeping taking priority over eating, showering and staying in contact with family. You should try to avoid the days slipping away by implementing a loose routine.

Try setting your alarm every morning and try to follow a basic self-care routine. This could be something as simple as getting up before midday and making a cup of tea. Over time you can add more difficult tasks such as washing, cooking breakfast and leaving the house. This will give some purpose to your days without adding too much expectation or pressure.

Try to stay active

This doesn’t mean going a run everyday or religiously going to keep-fit classes like I did, but it will benefit you to get out of the house and move around a little most days. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed and it’s OK to spend all day sleeping when you need it. But if you do feel the urge to do something like rearrange your bedroom or pop to the supermarket then you should capitalise on that positive attitude.

Completing the smallest tasks can feel like a big win when you’re at an all time low. I remember one day following a bad spell of my depression I suddenly felt compelled to clean my windows. It felt like such an achievement and as silly as it sounds, it was such a great day for me and my recovery.

What steps are you taking to help with your mental illness whilst you’re off work?

3 mental health books you MUST read today

best books for mental illness depression anxiety

I’ve spent many an afternoon wandering around the library. To me the library has always been a place of opportunity, and it has helped me find books that ignite new interests and explain unknown worlds to me. I’ve loved collecting books over the years, and looking back at my favourites reminds me if where I was at that point in my life, how I was feeling and what I was doing.

Having depression and anxiety means I often look for answers in the books I read. Recently I reflected on some of the books that helped me make sense of my own mental illness and it’s something that I think you might find helpful, so I’ve listed my top 3 books below.

From Darkness to Light: A Memoir by Nikki Dubose

I only finished reading this memoir last week and I actually posted a full review which you can read here. I was engrossed in this from the moment I picked it up and it’s the quickest I’ve read a book in ages.

Nikki takes us through her life story, starting with when she developed an eating disorder at eight years old to when she finally got help as an adult. During that time she was physically and sexually abused by family members, addicted to drugs and alcohol and struggled with self-harm and body dysmorphia.

As an international top model the pressure to be thin was overwhelming, and only served to exacerbate her eating disorder as well as her psychotic episodes. This painfully honest account is a testament to her strength and offers hope to anyone experiencing even the darkest of times.

Shoot The Damn Dog by Sally Brampton

I read this book back in about 2009, years before I was diagnosed with any form of mental illness. I really can’t say why I felt compelled to pick up a book about depression other than I felt I was becoming unhinged at times, and had taken to drinking during the day to relieve stress.

Sally’s book didn’t point out any glaring symptoms in myself, but I was utterly hooked by her story and how her relationship with alcohol made things so much worse. This combined with a failing marriage and a daughter to look after made for a heartbreaking tale.

I found it upsetting to read, but absolutely essential to my understanding of how powerful depression is at taking over the mind and body. She does well to describe how one cannot simply ‘shake off’ these bad feelings and get on with daily life, something that many non-sufferers could benefit from understanding.

I didn’t know until recently that Sally died from suicide last year, which makes her work even more significant and worth reading.

Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen

I bought this book after I started to become concerned about my eating habits. I was laying in bed one night, sobbing and feeling ashamed after another day of uncontrollable eating when I searched ‘how to stop binge eating’ on You Tube. I came across a video of someone talking about how this book changed their life, so I ordered it immediately.

Kathryn went through years of unsuccessful therapy for binge eating disorder and couldn’t seem to get it under control. The most common theory is that binge eating is a coping mechanism for some underlying psychological issue that must be unearthed in order to stop the pattern.

She spent years following the doctor’s orders, writing down and exploring all her habits and thoughts in an attempt to identify the problem. I won’t spoil the book for you but Kathryn goes on to explain how she developed her own method for stopping the illness in its tracks.

I’ve never been diagnosed with binge eating disorder because honestly, I was too scared to tell anyone about the symptoms and addictions I was developing. I believe I managed to stop the habits from forming by applying the techniques I read in this book.

It was also just incredibly comforting to read someone describe the same urges that I was experiencing, because no one really talks about binge eating openly and I really needed confirmation that there was a problem and I wasn’t just exaggerating things in my head.

What are your favourite books about mental illness?