The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Don’t Let Work Cost You Who You Are …
April 14, 2023, 7:45 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture

There have been a few times in my life where I have felt my brain was full.


That to fit anything new in, meant I had to tip something out.

Obviously I now realise that the occasions I felt that way, my mental health was suffering.

Except I didn’t know about mental health back then.

No one did.

Oh I accepted I was stressed.

I appreciated my workload was out of control.

But I thought the only way to deal with it was to deal with it.

Late nights.
Over-consumption of bad food and cans of Diet Coke.
Pretend everything was OK.

Except it wasn’t.

My girlfriend at the time, Jill – now my wife, saw it and told me it was madness. I had to stop.

But I was in a job I didn’t feel I deserved to have … with a new company … in a new country that had zero understanding about work/life balance … in a new relationship where I had taken her from her home country to somewhere totally new where she knew no one … so I felt I needed to show my commitment and ability.

To Jill. To my new colleagues. To myself.

And the worst thing is, I managed to do just that.

I got through it.

Which meant I wrote the episode off as ‘stress’ and ‘workload’ and believed if it happened again, I could deal with it.

Which is exactly what I did.

Or should I say, I thought I did.

Because as I got older, I have felt the scars it left.

Sometimes hidden. Sometimes in plain sight.

And what I came to realise was it was so much more than stress and workload … but burnout.

Not just in terms of physical tiredness.

But mental and emotional.

I was cut adrift from who I was … where living was surviving.

No one should think they can’t take any more new information in.

No one should finish work at 3am and think it’s OK to be up 2 hours later.

No one should think a weekend without any work is uncomfortable.

No one should feel it’s wrong to say, “I need some help” or “I just can’t do this”.

Doesn’t matter if it’s for a month or a week … it’s just stupid.

Ironically, I owe a great deal of thanks to one of the worst clients I’ve ever worked with.

They worked for a major technology company and basically were a total prick.

Treated me like shit.

Demanding things. Expecting things, Dismissing things.

And while all my other clients were great and we were doing great things … this one sucked all the light out of everything. Almost revelled in doing it.

The breaking point came when he asked me to write up some things we had discussed and agreed on, then wrote an email saying it didn’t make sense and I wasn’t paying attention to his requirements … EVEN THOUGH IT WAS WHAT HE HAD SAID WORD FOR WORD.

Bear in mind, this was also the same person who asked me to present to a room full of his team only to tell a colleague of mine that no one spoke English – so it was simply for their amusement.

I had words with them then.

But this time I snapped.

I rang Jill and told her to pack a bag for us, grab our passports and meet me at the office.

I then met Jill downstairs where we went straight to the airport and boarded a plane to Australia where we spent 5 days away from everyone and everything.

I didn’t even tell work until we landed in Sydney and even then it was via an email – including a bunch of evidence of how I, and the agency, had been treated.

Now you may think this is where I tell you I was sacked.

But I wasn’t … because the CEO was – and remains – an absolutely brilliant human.

He was pissed off … but at the client for acting that way and at me for not telling them about it.

And he dealt with them so I felt OK to come back.

What’s interesting is while you may think I would feel embarrassed by my response, I didn’t.

If anything, I felt euphoric.

Oh I’m sure people were talking behind my back, but I didn’t care … because I’d survived.

It had taken too long.

I’d suffered more than I knew.

But I’d survived.

Ironically, it is only relatively recently that I grasped how terrible it was that I felt good about ‘surviving’, when no job should ever make you feel that way.

The only positive of this whole situation was it had such a profound affect on me that I vowed I’d never allow it to happen to me – or others who work with me – again. And I haven’t. Whether a company or client … receiving money for a service doesn’t equate to ownership of your opinions, self-worth or life, it equates to doing what you have been paid to do in a respectful, conscientious, considerate and honest manner.

That’s it.

And if anyone thinks differently – and there’s a lot of those who do – then they’re wrong, regardless how much they try to shift the blame.

Last year I wrote about depression.

I said that while I appreciate the privilege I have being able to talk openly about this – mainly because I am an old white man so any ramifications will still be far less than if I was a woman, a person of colour, non-binary, a member of the LGBTQ+ community or just younger in age – I hoped by doing it, it may normalise it in some way.

That’s why I’m writing this.

No one is immune from mental health challenges.

To have people feel they can’t acknowledge or discuss their situation doesn’t make it go away.

In fact it makes it worse.

There’s countless stories on Corporate Gaslighting that show that.

Which is why if anyone out there feels they’re in a situation where they don’t know how or who to talk to … or suspect they may be entering this cycle and want to talk it out … or are in a situation where they can’t afford to leave their job but their mental health can’t afford to stay … please drop me a line. I am not qualified to help. But I would be very happy to listen.

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