LIFESTYLE | Mental Health & Employment

Mental Health and Employment

Hello lovelies!

It’s been a big week for the ‘mental health’ scene on the Internet. Monday was World Mental Health Day, and it was great to see all of the positive energy surrounding this, all the tweets of illustrations, the story shares… simply everything was portrayed in a good light. Encouraging people to talk, find support, and not to be embarrassed about their thoughts. This is great, but I do agree that it shouldn’t only be ‘one day a year’ where this happens. 

It was also OCD Awareness Week, which holds a truly special place in my heart. Unless you are a new reader of Very Berry Cosmo, I am also certain you all know how passionate I am about breaking the stigma of OCD, and educating as many people as I can about the disorder. Weeks like this are BRILLIANT because as a community we can all come together and spread the word. Little ol’ me can’t make a huge impact, but everyone TOGETHER sure as hell can. 

People still don’t know what OCD is, they think all sufferers are all ‘super clean FREAKS’ and that we go round cleaning all day and everyday, swabbing everything to see the germ count, and that we ENJOY doing these behaviours, which is simply not the case. 

If you enjoy cleaning, you don’t have OCD. You simply like cleaning. 

If you enjoy everything in order, colour coding all your spreadsheets, you don’t have OCD. You simply like being organised.  

I can tell you now, us OCD sufferers do not enjoy our compulsions. We like them because they provide us a sense of relief… for a short amount of time. But then we have to do the compulsion again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again… you get the picture., it get’s tiring. We do not ‘enjoy’ doing them, we have to do them. We will be completely anxious the entire time we act them out, the sheer terror we feel is not enjoyment at all.

I was interview by a local newspaper this week, take a look at the article here!

Mental Health and Employment

Anyway, let’s get into the main point of the blog post shall we? flip I love to babble don’t I. As most of you know, I completed my degree in July earlier this year. These days I am pretty much lounging around the house in my pyjamas trying my HARDEST to get myself a design graduate job. It is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. 

A family member said to be me the other day…. do you think you’re having less luck on the job front because you make it publicly aware that you suffer with OCD? and I sat there for a moment and had a think.

Mental Health and Employment

I will be honest, it is something that has crossed my mind briefly, in the beginning I wanted to write an anonymous mental health blog, but it turns out that just didn’t work out. About a year and half ago I began to open up about my experience with nasty thoughts on this blog. The feedback I received was amazing, people said I was inspiring, refreshing, and educating people a lot about an illness that has so many misconceptions in the media. 

During our conversation it was asked whether or not I would consider removing all my blog posts mentioning my battle with OCD… just until I managed to secure a job…

The answer was no. 

I’m not going to remove them. I try to not let the label OCD define me, but at the end of the day it IS a part of me and I am really not ashamed about it – I have helped out SO many people coming to terms with their own minds! If I’m completely honest, if an employer DID feel this way, I really wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that had those values anyway.  

Mental Health and Employment

In my last couple of jobs I didn’t utter a word to anyone in the offices about my mental health, and I also didn’t tell them about my blog. It made it really really hard for me, and made me feel even worse because I felt completely alone in the workplace. It was also when my mind was at an all time low.  

I was going to therapy at 7am on Monday mornings, a therapy technique that was known to make you feel really drowsy. It also MADE you remember thoughts that were particularly uncomfortable, because that was the point of it, bringing out thoughts and feelings that you may have repressed. Mondays at work were hard, I was seriously tired and seriously worried, with no-one in the office to turn to. I guess that is kinda why I started writing my thoughts on Very Berry Cosmo in the first place. 

From then on, I promised myself that I would be open about my mental health with my next employer, right from the application process. I haven’t been all over my application like… I HAVE OCD,  I SOMETIMES HAVE REALLY NASTY THOUGHTS. I tend to not even mention it in the equal opportunities section, because personally I don’t feel that having OCD makes me disabled, or any less capable of an amazing career. I have simply linked my blog in my application, if they see it, they see it. If they don’t, they don’t. Obviously I also talk about my OCD design project in my interviews too – so they find out there… I am just being honest. I want to be employed for ME and for ALL of me. 

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Then it gets to the point of… SO WHAT if I have a mental illness. It doesn’t make me any less capable. Yes, I might have the odd blip every so often, but who doesn’t? I honestly, truly think that everybody in the world will have some experience of mental health problems in their life. Whether it is themselves directly, or a family member, problems with the mind are far more common than people realise. It doesn’t make you crazy. 

I feel I am one of the most reliable, hard-working people within the workplace. I rarely take days off and I put my all into any project thrown my way. During my placement year I only took one day off, it turns out I was sent home from the office at around 10am because I was really suffering from the flu. But that is the point, I STILL went in, even though I felt awful. 

I NEED to work. Working makes me feel better. Working means I have less time to mope about and overthink EVERYTHING. It provides a distraction for my anxieties. I hope employers realise this.

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Whenever I talk about my OCD design project in interviews, I try to reassure them that I am doing pretty well. Because I am. If I was stood in the interviewees shoes I guess I would be rather freaked. Hearing a little girl talking about how horrible it is to have OCD.. so I try to calm them as much as I can and say that I genuinely am doing okay these days, but it is sadly not always the case for all sufferers.

My anti-depressant medication is AMAAAAZING and has totally changed my life. I rarely act out on my compulsions at all these days. I find I am experiencing more depressed symptoms these days, but I feel that is simply because I am sitting around all day and rarely leave the house.

On Sunday, Jordan and I and his dad and step-mum went for a lovely national trust walk around Wentworth Castle, in Barnsley. I remember feeling so content, surrounded by beautiful scenery, (the photos in this blog post show this) amazing company – and all around amazing day. I had one blip in the public toilet, but then I have to remember SO many people don’t like public toilets.

Life is getting better. I am getting better. I am very capable. 

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Hope you found this post interesting! I would be rather intrigued to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Do you think work-places judge the equal opportunities section of job applications? … even though they say they 100% don’t! Let me know in the comments!

I just want to say, I certainly do worry that my mental health status IS having an impact on my job hunt initially, but I have had interviews at about 11 companies. From general feedback, I have interviewed well – there has just always been another candidate in the process with more appropriate skills for the role. Who knows?

All photos in this post were taken and edited by my lovely boyfriend, Jordan. He is extremely talented at photographing architecture and *things* but I am training (hehe) him to take portraiture photos, who knows – it could be his new hobby! Do give him a follow on his Instagram because his shots and compositions are brilliant, and deserve so much more love! Plus… he’s the reason my mental health has dramatically improved, so why wouldn’t you love him for that? 

Like what you see? Let’s be social media friends! ♥

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  1. October 16, 2016 / 9:33 am

    A few interesting points in there. It's great so many people are speaking out now and helping to raise awareness of mental health illnesses and symptoms. However many of us still do so with fear of it having a negative impact on our professional life's. Appart for the obvious health and mind implications of splitting our life's, this is a real shame because some (most) of our best work, be that photography, writing or something else is done when we apply it to our mental health stories. These skills and experiences in any other field would actually been seen as a massive strength! You would be encouraged to include and talk about these personal experiences and achievements.

    Maybe one day right….

    • October 16, 2016 / 9:39 am

      👍👍👍 I always thought I'd go into teaching but I never bothered going down that route purely because I believed or still do to a point that no-one in education would give me a job with my MH background. Had various people practically say so including some in education already. Sad really how we give ourself limits to what we'll try purely because MH stigma has taught us that's what we need to do.

  2. October 16, 2016 / 9:34 am

    Love this post Kayleigh. I've always had the feeling that you're destined for bigger things and that you would write and illustrate a bestselling book. Maybe you should! Like an illustrated version of reasons to stay alive!? Your art/design work is amazing!! I think you'd also be successful freelance but if you're anything like me with my OCD/anxiety then work with routine and people around me is a must. I need that. I go stir crazy at home in my own thoughts. Curious to know what meds you're on. It's lovely to hear that they've helped you. I'm now on venlafaxine which helps me hugely with my anxiety and mood but not so much my compulsions. Good luck with the job hunt hun. The right job will come along at the right time, I really believe that xxx

  3. October 16, 2016 / 11:02 am

    This speaks to me so much, especially having actually lost a job partially due to my employers fear of my OCD. I became so scared to let potential employers know. I KNOW that my OCD doesn't make me a shit employee – I'm creative and intelligent and hard working. I'm glad you won't take your posts down because that just reinforces the stigma and you're doing a GREAT job xxx

    Teri-May xx

  4. October 16, 2016 / 11:09 am

    You are one of the first bloggers that I found that didn't shy away from discussing mental health and have helped so much in reducing the stigma of OCD, so I'm pleased it is something that you are hoping to continue to do, as personally it has helped me a lot.
    Well done for sticking with what you believe in and I hope the job hunt goes well!

    (Also totally agree with Justine; you're very talented with graphic design and I love how you are making mental health issues more openly discussed with your skill, a book or any future OCD design projects would be great!)

  5. October 17, 2016 / 11:40 am

    I can relate to this post so, so much. Thank you for writing it. I must admit, I have only written a couple of mental health related blog posts and even those have made me incredibly nervous incase they are discovered by anyone that I work with. It's awful that people feel like they need to hide something that is essentially the biggest part of their personality all because of a ridiculous stigma that other people cannot shake. I feel like posts like this help though, the more people that speak openly about it, the more people that will feel comfortable enough to open up to their employers. There's nothing worse than feeling totally alone because you're having a bad day and can't explain to the people you work with why. I am lucky enough now to be in a job where I feel I would be safe even if I did disclose my mental health "issues" but I have also had such bad experience in the past with employers I like to keep my cards close to my chest now. Honestly though, you're doing an amazing thing by writing like this and raising awareness. Elly xxx

  6. October 17, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    You should never hide who you are. And as you say, would you really want to work with a company that weren't understanding of your OCD? I don't think I could.
    Bee |

  7. October 17, 2016 / 2:43 pm

    Interesting post, I would never hide my mental health issues from prospective employers either, but I do think many of them consider it a kind of liability, hiring something with OCD, or Borderline Personality Disorder, or Anxiety etc. There's just this stigma that people with MH issues will be undependable, unreliable, more likely to call in sick. Even if that is 100% not the case. I really hope you find an amazing employer who accepts you for who you are soon Kayleigh, you deserve it! Also, I think that the current job market is oversaturated and that a lot of the time it is a case of someone better qualified beats you to the post. Something will come along for you though! x x

  8. October 27, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    I love this post and feel like you have made some valid points. I feel like a lot of people probably feel uncomfortable discussing it in the workplace and me included. I feel like there's still more to be done stigma-wise to ensure that people feel as though they can get jobs even if they suffer with any kind of mental health issue. It should be able to be talked about with it feeling 'taboo'
    Glad you enjoyed Barnsley!

    Claire xxx

  9. October 31, 2016 / 10:19 am

    Nice flowers, great writing.

  10. October 31, 2016 / 5:00 pm

    Thank you soooo much for writing about this! I don't suffer from OCD, but I do suffer from slight depression and anxiety and always feel like I can't tell anyone at work about it because I feel totally embarrassed. It's stupid for me to think that way though but you just feel like you're going to be judged, when you shouldn't.

    Gorgeous pictures by the way! 🙂

    Melissa x

  11. November 2, 2016 / 9:00 pm

    Great post.
    I defiantly think that employers consider your personal life, mental health and general health before employing someone. I think sometimes it can put employers off but I don't believe it should. I write a blog and my colleagues have read a few posts and so has my boss. They have commented on it whilst at work but have been mainly positive or constructive. However I have been working on a couple of mental health posts as I feel this subject is important and I suffered from depression and still have anxiety but I question what my colleagues will say or think and wonder if they will not trust me with big projects at work because of what they know. I think employers need to be educated in mental health as do a lot of the world. These type of posts help spread the REAL word about it.
    Again really interesting post
    Holly x

  12. November 9, 2016 / 5:17 pm

    I'm a little teary after reading this – oh my goodness THANK-YOU. My parents have expressed concern that my openness about Mental Health could be a stumbling block with employment, but i hold your view – think of who it could HELP. Moreover, while it doesn't define me, it is part of me and i don't want to feel ashamed. I would never hide my diabetes from an employer; why hide this?

    You will get a job girlie – who couldn't fall ib love with you?! Sending gazillions of cuddles xxx

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