Don’t really know where to start with this one. So I shall go back to the beginning.
I’m not a very emotional person. I mean I am, but I don’t really let out the deepest darkest emotions that I have. My family might know, but I have never explicitly told them.
If we go back to July/August 2017, it was one of the darkest periods of my life. And without some of my closest friends, I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through.
There was a time once when I absolutely loved my job. I used to love getting up for work, wierd I know. I used to offer to stay late, and stay on if they needed someone. I used to start early if they rang. It caused many arguments with my mother, saying that ‘work was more important with family’. Family always comes first, but I really did love my job.
As I moved up the ladder, slowly for sure, more and more things became my responsibility. I was moved from my home store [I say home, I mean the first store I worked at]. I moved out of the city center and to a brand new store that had opened on the other side of town. It was amazing, and I loved every second of it. I missed a lot of my friends who were back at my home store, but there were plenty of friends at my new, smaller store.
And I had fun. I really enjoyed it. Sure, it wasn’t as busy as my home store was, it was a much smaller store, but I still made the most of every day. Cut to several months later when I was asked if I minded going back to my home store. I said I didn’t mind, and so began my transition back.
It wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t easy transitioning from a much smaller store back to my busy home store. And again, I made a point to enjoy it. If you have to earn a living, you may as well enjoy it, right? There can be work and enjoyment. I don’t understand these miserable people who have to go into work every day and be grumpy for no reason. Sure, everyone has bad times from time to time, myself included. But at my core, I always try to stay positive, and as many of my friends know one of my mantras is ‘positivity’.
I move back to the smaller store at some point, and the transition is much easier for me this time. I really enjoyed it again. Though with the role, and my position at the time, there were also more responsibilities. It was during my second time at my smaller store that I noticed a definite change in general attitudes. Do something not great, you get the tellings off, or get told alternative ways you could have done it. Do something good, you get told ways to do it better. There was a correlation between moving up the ladder and receiving positive feedback. The more up you go, the less you hear it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still trying to enjoy my job, but it was becoming more and more difficult to maintain my outward appearance of positivity. I think people sort of expected me to be the positive happy one all the time, so on the few rare occasions when my mood slipped, I noticed that I had a negative impact on the people around me too. This made me acutely aware of my emotional state, and made me very conscious of when I was feeling negative. So I tried to keep everything locked up. Positivity!!
Things toddled along and at some point I was asked to go back to the home store. This wasn’t a choice I wanted, but I went along with it. And I moved back to my home store. And so began what I count as the darkest years of my life.
I moved back, and felt instantly shunned. Everyone at the home store currently had come from another store in the area, and I most certainly wasn’t one of the ‘cool clique’. I’m not saying it was openly hostile, it wasn’t. In fact I feel I made some friends. And I do still talk to them from time to time, at least some of them. But I most definitely didn’t feel part of the gang at the time.
I don’t know if they just didn’t hide it well, or just didn’t know, but I was well aware that they were talking about me behind my back. Honestly, at this point I didn’t care. I was still the ‘new guy’ in their store, and I felt that this would pass. So I thought nothing of it.
The following months I definitely grew closer to most of them. There was one there from my original time at the home store, but they had changed. They were part of this new ‘clique’ and I knew that they were talking about me too. Again, I don’t know if they just didn’t know I wasn’t stupid, but I was well aware of it.
A few months passed, and I moved up the ladder once more. Some new management system, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It basically broke everything down into more manageable systems, so instead of the manager heading up everything personally, it was delegated out to 3 other managers, so they all had responsibilities of the main manager, but it was broken down. I really loved it.
Then everything changed. Suddenly things that were not in my control were entirely my fault. I could do everything reasonably within my power to get across information to everyone that needed to know. But if they didn’t read it, it was my fault. I’m not saying I couldn’t have done more, but it was around this time that the constant criticism of everything I was doing was taking a very personal, very intense toll on my own mental health. I don’t mind when the boss wasn’t to talk to me, to correct me on something that I stuffed up, or just generally follow up on my. But when people complain to other people about things i could have dealt with there and then, that just pisses me off.
I was hearing complaints from person C through person A, rather than A just come up and say ‘you did this’ or ‘you did that’. I could have fixed the initial issue and it would have been over and done with, but it constantly felt like it was a point scoring exercise.
I was working harder and harder, I was taking stuff home to work on, I was basically in work mode 15+ hours a day, but no one knew that. And if they should ever come to read this, they are probably sitting there bitching and whining about me now ‘He didn’t do this and that’. Well, fuck you guys. I worked my ass off, but it wasn’t done your way, so naturally it was the wrong way.
I also want to emphasise that I know I made mistakes. I know I wasn’t perfect. No one is, no matter how far up you ass the stick is. But I was mature enough to put my hands up and say ‘I stuffed it up, here is how I can fix it’.
My attitude of ‘work first’ was gone. I was already working at home on stuff I should have been doing in work. I just wanted to leave every day. I had bills to pay, so I stayed as long as I needed to. But if anyone asked me to stay on, I would have plans. If they rang me to come in early, I would let it ring out, and go in when I was supposed to. I was no longer invested in the business, I just wanted to do what work was required of me, and nothing more.
I had hung around with some of them socially, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. Who doesn’t enjoy a good drink? And I again want to emphasise that I didn’t hate these people, but in work, their attitudes towards me left a lot to be desired.
I was struggling at work. The constant criticism of every action deemed ‘imperfect’ was beginning to chip away at my positive exterior. Even to a point where one of my best friends could tell, seeing through my every smile hiding the pain underneath. I was hurting inside, and I regret not telling my family this at the time, but with some other issues the family was dealing with, I didn’t want to add my work issues to them.
I don’t remember the day I wanted to kill myself, but I remember waking up feeling awful. Getting up for work was never easy for me. But the past few months had made it harder and harder to get up. I just wanted to lie in bed all day, curtains drawn, and just lie there, basically a prisoner of my own mind. If I didn’t get out of bed, I wouldn’t have to go to work. If I didn’t have to go to work, I wouldn’t have to live up to everyone’s unrealistic expectations of perfections. It was during this time that I knew I was slipping at work. Easily avoided issued were passing over my head, because I was all I wanted to do was the smallest amount possible so that I could escape the place.
I felt worthless. I felt like I wasn’t doing my job properly, and in truth I wasn’t. I never had any energy to do anything, no matter how much I slept. When I was in work, if it was my shift, I tried to maintain positivity. I really did. But I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Even simple decisions, I would take a few seconds longer to make, because I would over analyse every decision. ‘If I do it this way PersonA is going to be pissed at me. If I do it this way PersonB is going to pissed at me.’ It was a back and forth, knowing that whatever decision I made, someone would find fault with it, and then go and talk amongst themselves about how bad I was at everything, not quite realising how bad and useless I already felt, being crippled with making such simple decisions, they didn’t know. They couldn’t know, because I wouldn’t ever tell anyone.
I also want to point out that I didn’t want to die. I don’t think most people ‘want’ to die. But by my own logic, if I was dead, then I wouldn’t have to go to work. Which brought me the smallest pieces of happiness in what was otherwise the darkest time. Every time I felt like I couldn’t get any lower, someone would say something in work, or talk to me like I was a piece of shit, and outwardly I tried to remain stoic. Inside I could feel more pieces of myself, pieces of my armour just being chipped away, until there was none left.
I gave so much to my job, whether you want to believe it or not. Even on my darkest days, when I just wanted to be swallowed up by the world, I still tried my hardest to give my all. Even if it wasn’t perfect, like most who worked with me. Because some of them were perfect, they could do no wrong whatsoever. But I could. I only looked the wrong way and I was useless. Whether I was useless to them, I felt useless to myself.
I didn’t ever phone in sick. I didn’t like to. Having been a manager for so many years, I knew exactly what it was like when people phoned in sick. If you couldn’t cover it, you would struggle. And I hated the thought of other people struggling when I wasn’t there. So I never did. Then in October 2017, I had had a cough for about 2 weeks. I was self medicating at the time, nothing illegal of course. Panadol, ibuprofen and throat lozenges. I never leave the house without my wallet, phone and keys. Those few weeks it was wallet, phone, keys and drugs to get through the day. And I worked through it all. I couldn’t let the people around me down, I had to go to work.It was a Sunday, I had a day shift, 6am-2pm. I didn’t mind those shifts. I had some pretty good ones, even scored some compliments from time to time. I had arrived around 530. I got there earlier so that I could have everything done for 7am, instead of arriving at 6, fucking about for a while and appearing between 730 and 8. I was doing my pre-shift work, and felt awful. I haven’t slept properly the last few nights, as the cough I had was severe enough to not only wake me up in the night, but actually cause me a huge amount of pain in my chest. I think I got maybe 3 or 4 hours sleep that night. But I wouldn’t phone in sick, I couldn’t. I was already useless, so I couldn’t let them down any more.
The last time I checked the clock it was maybe quarter to 6. And I had a small coughing fit in the office. Nothing worse than I had had the last few days, so I thought nothing of it. No one else was in the office, so I just carried on. Then I felt odd. It’s a weird feeling to describe. The next thing I remember, was opening my eyes and looking up to a paramedic. I had apparently been sitting there and then collapsed I don’t remember much, I remember feeling exhausted and I remember talking to some of the staff. But it was mostly fuzzy.
I felt like I was dying. But I had to finish my pre-shift. That’s the attitude I had to work. I was sitting there answering questions from a paramedic, and my first thought was I’m never going to get this finished by 7. That’s the power this job had over me. And I plan to never work in a job like it again. I can’t, because I know how low it can take me. A job I began with enjoyment and excitement, ended up at the point where I collapse get woken up by paramedics, and my first though was I still need to work.
Never again will I ever work a job to the point that I did. Because I am better than that. Anyone who feels anything like I did about a job needs to get out before it consumes them. Because my last few months there I wanted to kill myself just to get out. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either.
Without my family and friends, I honestly don’t know what would have happened. I try not to think about it anymore to be honest. Because it just drags up all these negative thoughts. But without the negative, you can’t have the positive. So whenever a bad thought appears, think of something positive. For me, it’s my family and friends. Whenever I feel a bit low, or even a lot low, I think of my family or friends. When life kicks you in the balls, you get up and move on. No more lying down in pain for me.
And my mantra is still the same.