Returning To Work After A MH Career Gap

Mental health has plagued me for the last 2 and a half years starting when Master 2 was born.

My escape from PND happened to be returning to work in the form of a Level 3 apprenticeship.

It was all going so well until after managing to shake off PND, my existing anxiety developed and along with the medication for that came depression.
No sooner had I finished my apprenticeship before I was getting ready to resign. I wasn’t motivated; I wasn’t happy; I didn’t even want to get up in the morning. At the time, I thought the problem was my job when in reality, the problem was my mind. Exactly a year after I started my job, I resigned. 

Almost 50% of long-term absences from work are the result of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

People who have had or still have mental health problems and have been out of work often worry about going back. Many people with mental health problems, myself included, fear that no matter how good a recovery they have made or are making, their symptoms will be made worse by going back to work.

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For months, I have wondered if I am ready to go back. If I will ever be ready. How will I even know?!

I’m not on medication anymore. I don’t think I still have depression. I don’t think I will ever not have anxiety to varying degrees at various stages in my life. The question is, will it get better or worse with work?

There was a time, probably in January, when even looking at job vacancies could induce an anxiety attack – I knew then I wasn’t ready. Sometimes, it’s obvious. The thought of receiving a phone call and possibly being invited to an interview filled me with fear. There was no way I would be able to function in a job.

So I waited. While I waited, I spoke to Mr Me. We spoke about the work I could do. We talked about whether we thought I was ready. We talked about my motivation for going back to work (I am determined to get on the housing market ASAP).

Over this last weekend, Mr Me found a few vacancies he thought I should apply for. He read them to me. Downloaded the job descriptions. He didn’t push. He encouraged. He gave me reasons why I could do those roles; why I should apply. And yesterday, I found myself applying for multiple roles. 

Am I still anxious? Yes. I can list many reasons why including:

  • I don’t want to answer my phone to talk about a role
  • I’m scared to go to an interview
  • I cut off all my hair and now I don’t think I’m pretty enough to get a job
  • Childcare

Those are just some of the things that used to trigger an anxiety attack for me and prevent me from even reading a vacancy, let alone applying. Now, I still think those thoughts but they’re not debilitating. They don’t take my power away. I am proud that I have taken one step closer to returning to work.

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Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be a massive turnaround. Every step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.

So, if you want to start thinking about going back to work, what small steps can you take?

  • Look at your CV and update it
  • Update your cover letter
  • Look online at articles about returning to work after mental health issues
  • Consider Access to Work
  • Speak to your GP, therapist or mental health worker.
  • Consider some part-time volunteering
  • Just look at vacancies available that you’re interested in
  • Take a free online course to brush up on your skills

Have you had to take a gap from work before? How did you get ready to go back? Let me know in the comments below to maybe inspire someone else!


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