Wednesday, 24 February 2021

MENTAL HEALTH & APPLYING FOR A JOB: FROM HOURS TO INTERVIEW TIPS | MY NEW STAFF ROLE WITH ST OSWALD’S HOSPICE


“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value”

Albert Einstein

If you’ve been reading, I’m NOT Disordered for a while you’ll know that whilst lots of things go on behind-the-scenes, you guys get a huge amount of insight into my life (and sometimes the lives of those who I collaborate with!), so imagine how hard it was when I had to keep something a secret for OVER A WEEK!!!

On the 4th February, a member of the lovely Communications Team; Emma, told me there was a vacancy for the position of Kickstart Project Co-ordinator. She told me straightaway that it was neither heavy in mental health nor communications (the areas I’d like to work in) but wondered if I’d be interested. I read the description and some words stood out to me and I thought; ‘this could totally work!’

The Importance of The Hours:

The other aspect of the job which stood out to me was that it was for just 15 hours a week. For a while now, I’ve been saying that getting back into work is going to be so difficult because I knew going from nothing to part-time or full-time would be a huge shock to the system! Which is why I’ve been taking on various voluntary roles – such as my Chair position with the support group, LEAPS, and my role as a Digital Volunteer with St Oswald’s Hospice. I wanted to get used to having a commitment like that, to having some sort of regular routine to my days, to aid my mental health in getting ready for employment. I mean, I’d like to think that from my recent content and especially my social media posts (Twitter and Instagram: @aimes_wilson), it’s obvious that my mental health recovery is very stable, and it has been for a while now (almost six months of no self-harm).

Five Ways to Manage Your Time:

1.      Set yourself deadlines where possible

2.      Utilise the alarm app on your phone to remind you when to switch tasks

3.      Create a routine

4.      Delegate any tasks you’re able to and which you feel overwhelmed by

5.      Ensure you have a good sleep and the energy to carry out your tasks

The Benefits of Having Responsibilities:

I’ve said from the very start of my mental illness in 2009, that once I can work, I will work. I think this attitude comes from having been raised by my Mum who has an incredibly strong work ethic which – I like to think – is something I’ve picked up, and which I try to use in creating and producing content on I’m NOT Disordered. It probably also helps that I enjoy learning and taking on responsibilities. Having been detained under section 3 of the 1983 Mental Health Act for two and a half years, I feel that I have a lot of time to make up for. Time for when I was trusted with absolutely no responsibilities. Time when I felt so belittled and insignificant. Those entire two and a half years I can remember thinking ‘I’m not going to get anywhere in life after being in a psychiatric hospital for so long.’ Even now, I watch my friends have babies and get married and buy homes, and I think ‘what have I done with my life?’ It’s sad, but I try to look at the silver lining and things and I believe that I can use these thoughts and feelings as motivation to drive me forward and to take on important responsibilities for important people and organisations. It makes me proud of myself.

How Essential Passion Is:

Having those experiences of being unemployed, I found it made for an additional interest when I read about the Kickstart Scheme which the role is co-ordinating. It’s basically set up by the government and has the aim of funding employers to create job placements for individuals aged 16 – 24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment (if you want more info: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme). It was strange, it was as though I hadn’t even realised, I was passionate about the topic until I read about it! It felt quite rewarding actually; to find another passion in my life. When I’m passionate about something, I go at it with full force! Just like with I’m NOT Disordered. Blogging has helped my mental health so much that it’s probably only natural I have become so passionate about it. I think that for me, my passion stems from the want to help others who may be in a situation I once was, or who have the circumstances I once had. Whilst working hard through mental illness or in climbing the ladder in your employment or hobby etc, is so important; I think it’s only right that – if I have the ability to – I help others to learn the lessons I had to learn the hard way. 

My passion in blogging, also goes on to be about raising awareness of the strengths and benefits of social media. There are so many stories in the media about online bullying or trolling and it results in suicides or – in some cases – court cases. Yet very rarely do they publish anything about the positives of it and the existence of online support groups, online learning, and people having a platform and the opportunity to communicate with like-minded individuals.

Having that sort of passion in the role you’re applying for, can be a huge ‘selling’ point and actually, a quality many employers often desire. Showing your passion, can illustrate just how much effort and time you’ll put into your role and that will increase the likelihood of you producing work to a high standard.

Why I Don’t Want A Job That Concentrates on Mental Health:

Recently, as my mental health has stabilised and taken a hugely positive turn, a lot of people and organisations I’ve collaborated with have suggested various job roles for me. The issue has been that every single suggestion was for a role completely specialising in mental health. So, I’ve had to repeat myself a few times – though I don’t totally mind because each suggestion has been completely well-meaning – but every time, my point has been understood. I obviously recognise why people would recommend I work in mental health, not least because of my experiences; but also, because I regularly blog about the topic. So, I guess that makes it easy to assume it means I’m interested and keen in contributing to that field in some way.

My thoughts on it though, are that my life has been overwhelmed and completely absorbed by all thing’s mental health; I’ve spent such a huge portion of my time dedicating my attention to it. So, the way I see it is that working in – or engaging in any activity – that is not related to mental health, is so refreshing and therapeutic for me. I mean, I don’t really want to give up I’m NOT Disordered any time soon (though I recognise I may have to somewhere down the employment journey!) so it’d be nice to have a part of my life that’s not dedicated to such a deeply important subject as mental health.

However, having mental health be such a huge part of my life – and there’s absolutely no denying that – I think it’d be extremely difficult for me to not find ways it can be relevant to different parts of my life. This position is one of those parts. The job advert mentions ‘support’ a few times and whilst it is mainly identified as being practical and developmental, I find that closely links to mental health. That’s not to say if it didn’t become relevant, I would lose interest, just that I’m prepared and eager if it were to come into the role.


Five Ways to Discover Which Type of Job Is Right for You:

1.      Reflect on the subjects you’ve studied and the grades you’ve gotten for each

2.      Draw a mind map to creatively consider all of your interests

3.      Create a pros and cons document

4.      Do some research on the roles in your favourite industry through job vacancy websites

5.      Consider work experience placements to test the waters

Recognising the Importance of Your Responsibilities:

The other element which I mentioned earlier that caught my interest in the job advert, was the mention of working with the Communications and Marketing Team. In the advert, this is referred to in connection with sharing the journey or ‘story’ of an individual who has utilised the Kickstart Scheme. This is literally right up my street because I think it’s a very fair summation of what I already do with I’m NOT Disordered; share my experiences. It means I’m already very aware of the fact that doing this, can not only help and encourage others, it can also be therapeutic for the person sharing.

Writing A Letter of Application:

So, after emailing St Oswald’s Hospice HR department to find out how to apply because I was already a volunteer with them, I was told to write a letter of application. Now, my very first thought was ‘oh no!’ These days, it’s very common for employers to want or expect the applicant to include a ‘cover letter’ with their CV; but I’ve only actually written one once! So being told to supply one for St Oswald’s was slightly daunting. Only for a minute, though. After being afraid, I became excited! Being a Blogger and having a book (Everything Disordered; due to be published April 20th, 2021), I think it’s pretty obvious that I enjoy writing – I mean, literally any excuse or any reason to write and I’m there!

I had the idea to note down each of the requirements and responsibilities for the job and then use them as a base for the letter. I took each point and then added examples of occasions where I have demonstrated these skills or taken on similar responsibilities, in the hope that it would illustrate to those evaluating the applications that my experiences meant I was more than capable of carrying out the role.

Thankfully, Emma offered to – and did – look over my letter before I submitted it. I would usually be nervous with that sort of thing (having someone give me feedback on something I’ve written) but I recognized that her thoughts on it could play a really important part in me succeeding with this job application. I did hesitate at first though, I was worried that if she had some big corrections and I changed things to follow her advice and her thoughts, I’d feel that I owed something to her if my letter got me the interview. Fortunately, I ended up so grateful that I took Emma up on this suggestion because it turned out I’d missed some important experiences and skills out that were actually really relevant to the vacancy!

The Basics of My Letter of Application: 

I started the letter with a tiny introduction to myself and how I learnt about the vacancy, and then I went into my passion around the role and why I was applying for it. I then went into each of the qualities, skills, and responsibilities listed in the job advert.

First, I covered the requirement to have experience in co-ordinating with others and I talked about how my experiences with LEAPS in applying for funding, organising therapeutic trips, and fundraising activities, have given me knowledge and the ability to do that, and to support others in doing whatever is necessary to ‘better’ themselves e.g., further education, employment…

I then talked through the responsibility of being privy to confidential information by writing how I’ve experienced this since becoming Chair of LEAPS and that I took the initiative to actually create a Safeguarding Policy for everyone in the group.

Then, I moved onto illustrating that I have one of the requirements for excellent communication skills. I managed to be slightly clever with this one and also tied it into the job’s desire of being skilled with technology and the digital world. I can imagine it’s no surprise to say that this is where I began talking about, I’m NOT Disordered and my abilities with social media in general.

Finally, I covered my experiences relevant to one of the responsibilities with the role; to collaborate with the Learning and Organisational Development team. I decided in this part, to talk about the mental health and suicide awareness training I’ve facilitated with Northumbria Police and the British Transport Police. Since I was talking about education, I decided to cover any skills I’d missed out or aspects I didn’t have experience of, by mentioning my passion for education, how much I enjoy learning, how fast I can learn something new, and how dedicated I am to improve my knowledge and understanding on topics.

I ended the letter with a thank you for the opportunity to apply for the role, for taking the time to read my letter, and a little sentence on how honoured I would be to be trusted with the responsibilities included in the role.

Five Tips to Writing A Letter of Application/Cover Letter:

1.      Dedicate a notebook to the planning and drafting of your letter

2.      List each skill or quality the job requirements mention

3.      Write two examples for each point to show that you embody each skill and quality

4.      Check you have certificates to include and evidence any/all of your qualifications

5.      Ensure you have a helpful atmosphere/environment whilst working on it

Confidence – Fake It ‘til You Make It:

Now, I don’t say this often, but I was really proud of that letter and had high hopes that it would benefit my application. I guess since I’ve been blogging for over eight years now, I’m finally becoming confident in my writing and the content I produce. Some might say ‘it’s about time!’ but ultimately, everyone is different in terms of confidence and how long it can take someone to find it – or even where they find it.

Confidence is definitely a key quality in applying for a job – I think it may go hand-in-hand with passion actually. I mean, I feel that being so passionate about blogging and I’m NOT Disordered brings me courage and confidence. I’ve always said if I were asked to do a speech about myself, I’d be nervous, reluctant, and shaking. Whereas if I were offered the opportunity to talk about blogging, I’d be happy, smiling, and could probably talk forever!

Positive feedback on work you have done, is always a huge aid in boosting your confidence. So, when the HR department told me they were very impressed with my letter and that they wanted to offer me an interview off the back of it, it really set my confidence high for going into the interview.

Top Tip for Building Your Confidence:

Think about what you would say to a loved one in your situation.

Would you say they were useless? Would you label them stupid? Would you ever deem them unworthy of a success? Would you tell them not to ‘even bother’ trying to do/achieve something?

No?

Then why is it ok or fair to say it to yourself?

Preparing for The Interview:

I’ve been incredibly lucky in this scenario because I had Emma as my ‘boss’ in my voluntary role (who suggested applying for the job) so she was a massively knowledgeable and a helpful coach in preparing for the interview. Particularly, when she told me that the staff have been told to start asking interviewees about the values of St Oswald’s and their understanding and experiences connecting with them. That was such a hugely good tip because I honestly might not have thought about considering the values in my interview preparations myself.

I also asked her if she knew more about the role than my understanding of it and I’m so grateful I asked because her reply left me a whole lot more passionate and excited about the job – which is very obviously a perfect quality to have for going into the interview. Emma explained exactly how the 16 – 24-year-olds come to work with the Hospice and various departments within the team and that the role I was applying for was a lot like almost being a mentor for all of them. I remember thinking ‘I thought I loved it before; but now? Wow!’ I’ll be honest though; I was slightly scared after learning just how much I wanted to succeed at the interview. It understandably felt like added pressure.

So, in addition to having the notes of how I can relate to each of the values (compassionate, accountable and authentic, excellence and innovation, positive and can do, and safe and supportive), I also re-read my letter of application but since it was over a page long, I ended up deciding to keep it up on my laptop whilst having the interview on my iPad.

Finally, in my preparation for the interview, I came up with the questions I wanted to ask of the staff interviewing me. I was sort of hesitant about this part because I think it’s a common worry in most situations – but especially in work – to ask questions in case you look as though you don’t know what you’re doing and others – namely your employer – might doubt your abilities and question their decision to hire you! The thing I’ve learnt here though, is that if you don’t ask questions when you’re uncertain, you’re more likely to produce a sub-standard piece of work than if you’d asked and then known what you were doing. Also, if you were to produce work of a poor quality, and your boss asked, if you tell them you didn’t understand the task, they’ll be left wondering why you didn’t speak up and that could look even worse than had you just asked!

My questions were:

How exactly do the hours work with them being listed as ‘flexible’?

Can I still be a volunteer if I’m unsuccessful?

When will I find out if I’ve gotten the job?

Can I have feedback whether I’m successful or not?

Five Tips to Self-Soothe Through the Pre-Interview Stress:

1.      Take a pamper day/night and indulge in your favourite hygiene/beauty activities

2.      Do something creative like an adult colouring book, scrapbooking, writing etc.

3.      Talk to or spend time with a loved one

4.      Let your attention focus on a movie, Netflix series, or a book

5.      Take a walk or go for a run; spend some time outside

Wondering What to Wear?

This one, is very much about your specific situation; if you have an exact fashion style already, the type of job you’re interviewing for, the ranking of who is conducting the interview, the place and even time of your interview, the type of interview you’re having…

Honestly, my general thoughts on this, is to always dress up, because I think it’s so much easier to cope with feeling over-dressed than under-dressed! If anything, it makes the other person feel awkward!

However, as talked about earlier, confidence is so important in interviews so really, you should just make sure you’re comfortable in what you decide to wear…

If you’re wondering; I just went for black leggings and a jumper! On my volunteer interview I dressed quite smart but from working there, I’ve seen what the staff tend to wear so I knew what would be acceptable and appropriate for this interview to become staff.

And… It’s Interview Time!

After introductions, the first thing I was asked was about my rationale for applying – why I was passionate about the role. Initially, I had a pause because I thought (and said!) “you mean everything I wrote in my application letter?” I worried I was going to end up just repeating everything but, since that phone call with Emma when she elaborated on the role for me happened after I submitted the letter, it meant I had a few things to say that I hadn’t written about. So, I explained that and told my interviewers that because of my mental health, I had been unemployed for some time, so I felt I could really relate to the individuals I’d be co-ordinating/mentoring/supporting. I told them that my biggest goal in taking on the role was to be the person for them who I had needed at their age and in their position. I noticed some smiles and it gave me a little nudge of confidence to feel that I could do this – I could succeed with this interview!

The questions then began taking the typical form of interview questions these days around: ‘tell us about one instance when you…’ and then they’d list a quality, skill, or situation that they were looking for or which could arise in the role. I understand the purpose is to check how you’ll respond in particular situations, but sometimes they’re very… they kind of put you on the spot in asking you to think of examples off the top of your head. Then again, they also need to see how you’d react under that sort of ‘pressure’ or on-the-spot instances. However, I think that I managed to answer these questions without too long of a pause and I only had the occasional worry where I thought I was repeating my answers!

Talking About Mental Health in The Interview:

One question was to talk about a time where a challenge had arisen whilst co-ordinating others. I chose the occasion when I was helping staff from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and a Northumbria Police Inspector to provide mental health training for the force’s new recruits. During it, one of the officers made a derogatory comment about a person with a mental illness and I explained that I had remained calm and professional, and that after speaking up and correcting the officer, I still utilised support from my Mum because I feel it’s important that you don’t take responsibility for absolutely everything – sometimes you have to acknowledge that you need help.

In getting this point across, I added that the Crisis Team had once told me that you should never consider something to be a mistake if you can learn something from it. Not only did saying this, leave the interviewers smiling, but it also made me smile because it felt so good to be able to tell them something about my mental health without the fear that it would impact whether or not I was successful in the interview.

I think that my work with St Oswald’s is the first occasion where I feel I have the ability to be so honest and open about my mental health to an employer. I think that this is the case for two reasons…

Firstly, my confidence in talking publicly about my experiences has seemingly naturally grown and improved alongside, I’m NOT Disordered. Sometimes it’s surreal to consider how far I’ve come in this respect; only nine years ago I first told my Facebook friends and family that I had a mental illness and was being hospitalised for it. Now, I have over 850,000 readers who have read my content that has ranged from memories with my pets, to talk about sex!

Secondly, talking about mental health has become so much more acceptable. Of course, it still isn’t good enough – there’s still so much discrimination and stigma, but I think it’s important to at least recognise that there has been improvements. And I think that the best change is that if someone is discriminatory around mental health, people are not only more likely to speak up, but the other person is more likely to experience some sort of consequence or punishment for their attitude and behaviours.

In mentioning mental health in the interview, I did have a slight worry about whether doing so would leave the interviewers wondering if I really understood the actual role and responsibilities that I was applying for. I worried they’d think that my life was so focused on mental health, I would – wrongly – make it a concentration if I were to take on the job. So, I tried to explicitly tell them that I was purely recognising that mental health related issues could arise in the role, and that if they did; I would be more than capable of coping and managing them.

The Values Questions:

After a few more scenario-based questions, the interviewers went on to talk about the values of St Oswald’s and I was instantly so grateful to Emma for giving me a nudge on this! The first question was along the lines of what I had assumed and had made notes on; ways that I embody a particular value. They chose the positive and can-do value.

I began by talking about the fact that I see myself as positive because I’m someone who will always look for the silver lining in a potentially difficult or negative, situation. I related it back to the example of the Crisis Team’s advice and how, if I were to have an experience that some might label a mistake or regret, I’d find a lesson I could learn from it and a way to do better in the future.

I then focused on the ‘can-do’ part of the value and talked about how I’m someone who will take on, and create, opportunities for myself. I don’t sit and wait for others to suggest or offer me them. I go out there, and I make them happen; because sometimes that’s so much more rewarding. I added that when organisations or individuals have approached me with opportunities, and particularly collaborations for my blog, if I’ve been hesitant and unsure that I was capable or knowledgeable enough to take them on; I’ve been willing to learn whatever is necessary in order to take them on.

This, led me on to talking about my excitement and passion for learning and I gave examples of online courses I’ve completed, and my subsequent collaborations with FutureLearn and Centre of Excellence.  One of the interviewers looked very happy and she explained that with her job role being Head of Learning and Organisational Development, my talk about education was ‘music’ to her ears! Another confidence boost!

Finally, they changed things up a bit on talking about the values, and rather than ask how I embodied them, they asked how I thought another of them (the accountable and authentic one) would become relevant in the job role…

I was a little caught off-guard because it wasn’t the perspective on the values that I’d prepared for, but I still didn’t need much thinking time for my answer. I explained my prediction that perhaps the individuals coming into their role from being unemployment, will need support in them finding themselves suddenly responsible and accountable to St Oswald’s; as well as having new responsibilities to learn how to best take on. I illustrated that I felt I would be an efficient and affective support for the individuals because I feel I’ve had similar experiences and can empathise and understand how they might be feeling and what they really need – what will really help them in that situation.

Five Tips for Conquering an Interview:

1.      Feeling nervous? Just tell your interviewer – it might make it less of an ‘issue’ if you just recognize and accept it

2.      Make sure you feel confident in your interview outfit – it might sound superficial, but it can affect how comfortable you feel which may impact your mood

3.      Plan as detailed as possible in advance – you can’t predict their questions, but you can gather a good assumption of them from the information on the role you’re applying for

4.      Try not to have plans for after the interview in case you end up distracted in thinking about them, or you feel the need to rush the interview

5.      Turn off – or put to silent – all technology devices

The Come Down After the Interview:

I don’t know if ‘come down’ is the right phrase for this, but the minute my interview ended, I felt very strange… It was kind of like at the end of Christmas Day when you realise what you’ve been building up to for such a long time, is just over in a second! And no matter how well it has gone, it almost leaves you automatically thinking ‘was this even worth all that build-up?’

I think another factor in my struggle with the ‘come down’ is that I live alone. It means that when I get exciting news, when something good happens, when I achieve something, or when I’m offered an incredible opportunity, there’s no one here to be happy and excited with! Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the time I love living alone and knowing that everything in my home is mine; but for things like this? Well, it makes me wish I had someone to celebrate with…

Mentally Reviewing the Interview:

There are so many instances in life where you can go through something – have some sort of experience – and then later, you start questioning it. After my interview I was wondering whether what I’d said was efficient? Were all my words and actions correct? Had I represented myself the way I wanted to? Most importantly, had I said or asked everything I had wanted to?

I think that’s such a typical worry; not just in interviews but also in appointments – particularly health related occasions. It’s the reason why everyone I spoke to before the interview recommended that I make some notes to remind me, and then keep them in sight during it. This proved to be really helpful because honestly, after the interview I couldn’t think of a single thing I hadn’t asked nor an experience or skill I hadn’t mentioned. That feeling was so comforting and left me convinced that I had done my very best at the interview, which was what was most important to me. Of course, whether I was successful or not was a big factor, but it was almost as though not getting the job would be easier to accept if I knew I’d done and said everything I wanted to.

There were then two worries or uncertainties I had around the interview in general. The first was whether I had paused too many times after losing my train of thought, or from being unable to think of the word I wanted to say. However, that’s happened before in interviews, meetings, and speeches, so I’ve learnt a little trick. When it happens, rather than pause for ages mentally searching high and low for the word I want, I just repat something I’ve already said because it fills the quiet space and gives me a chance to think of what I had wanted to say!

My second worry about the interview was that at one point, one of my interviewers said she couldn’t keep up making notes! I immediately became very conscious of how fast I’d spoken; I think it was partly because I had so much to say and also because as well as I thought it was going, I wanted it offer ASAP! I offered to slow down but they laughed and said, “we’ll just have to write faster!” That really helped me to not lose so much confidence and it built a bit of a rapport between myself and the interviewers.

The Decision and Feedback:

You’ve probably deduced by now that I was successful at the interview and I received a call a few hours later offering me the job!

When I first answered the phone, my new boss (Laura) asked if I had a ‘few minutes to talk’ and I remember thinking ‘if I’d got it, why would we need to talk for a few minutes?’ So, I actually wasn’t expecting her to then say they wanted to offer me the role! With my shock, it felt as though her words came out in slow motion and I think my first words were “honestly?!”

Laura went on to tell me that I was really ‘impressive’ and gave ‘insightful’ answers. She then told me that since the post had been internal, I ended up being the only applicant but assured me that didn’t mean I was automatically successful – hence still having to do an interview. She went on to explain just how impressive I had been by telling me that if there’d been even five other people, they would’ve had a ‘run for their money!’

Some Thoughts on at ‘Congratulations’

I’ve not been someone who has taken on compliments or even positive feedback very well, until recently. I guess it makes sense since I’ve not been a fan of blowing my own trumpet either. I think a lot of that has stemmed from the abuse I experienced when I was younger and how I spent many years blaming myself for it. It definitely left me with difficult – and sometimes contradictory – thoughts and feelings around responsibility, blame, consequences, praise, and success.

I think that a lot of the confusion was also influenced by my mental state at the time because now that I’m so stable, I don’t have those thoughts and feelings and I’m completely appreciative of each area in its own right. It’s meant that I’ve started to recognize the importance of, and the benefit you receive from, compliments, success, and positive feedback. I think it was this, which drove me to ring a whole bunch of people to tell them I’d gotten the job!

It was sort of strange at first because aside from things to do with I’m NOT Disordered, I’ve not had anything to really boast about for years. Not being used to this meant that even though I chose to ring people, I was still a little unsure on coping with everyone’s congratulations. I mean, a lot of the things I’ve done over the years have been things that if anything, you’d encourage someone not to do. You definitely wouldn’t congratulate them on doing it. Which kind of reminded me about this one instance I was in a psychiatric hospital and I was given leave from the hospital to walk around the grounds unescorted. When I came back to the ward, I was so happy and proud of myself for resisting all the urges to run away, and a Nursing Assistant turned around and said, “I’m not praising you for something you should be doing anyway!”

Securing this job though, no one batted an eyelid at my bragging and boasting! No one said I was undeserving of praise and congratulations for it. I wonder though, if it’s also down to the fact that getting a job is a much more understandable and relatable achievement than returning to the hospital after your walk. I mean, there are actual cards for people who get a job! It’s something others can identify with and really recognize the time and effort that goes into achieving this.

What the Job Means to Me:

 I think that when I spoke about almost crying at the news, I’d got the position, is probably a hint as to how much this job means to me…

There’s not been a whole lot of instances in my life where I can be proud and feel deserving of the pride other people have shown me. I know that my Mum reassures me that she’s always proud of me, and my friends acknowledge and celebrate my achievements, but until my mental health stabilised, all I could see were the number of times I had failed those people. The number of times I had disappointed them, or made them cry, or angered them… With a stable mental health, I can now appreciate the little wins I have every day, and I’ve learnt that no matter how ‘little’ I deem them to be, they’re always worthy of consideration and acknowledgement.

Another aspect of being successful in my application for this job is the cause of feeling deserving of pride, my hard work and huge effort. I think that from creating I’m NOT Disordered, I’ve learnt a lot about dedication and passion, and have really seen how it can lead to reaching enormous milestones, successes, and achievements. I also saw this in volunteering with LEAPS. I saw that you can climb the ladder and if you work hard at one role, you can earn more responsibilities. I think that with this experience with St Oswald’s though, some of the hard work I felt rewarded for, was the effort I had put into my letter of application.

There’s been another side to the hard work in this; it isn’t all about how much effort I put into writing over a page… It’s also been about mental effort. I’ve found this to be especially true around my medication. I’ve had a few instances where my auditory hallucinations influenced my thoughts around taking my prescribed medications to such a degree that they have left me refusing to take them. These instances – and especially the one from the pharmacy’s error last year – have really taught me how important my medication is for my mental health and how well it stabilises things. With this, I recognize that I’m extremely lucky to have medication play such a hugely helpful role in my mental health recovery, when a lot of people with a Personality Disorder have been known to experience absolutely no benefit from taking them.

In connection to this luck around my medication, succeeding at the interview and being given the job has also made me feel really lucky, but for the fact that all my suicide attempts haven’t ‘worked.’ There’s been far too many instances where I could have lost my life because I was so convinced that things would never get better. It’s like that saying though; that suicide not only stops things from getting worse, it also prevents you having the opportunity to see it get better.

Ideas for New Job Gifts


www.amazon.co.uk

Five Ways to Cope If You’re Unsuccessful

1.      Ask for feedback to feel that you’ve still gained something from the experience

2.      Utilise self-soothing activities to remind yourself that you’re deserving of positivity

3.      Do something that will help you to not lose any amount of confidence

4.      Seek help and advice from a relevant person in your support network

5.      And when the time is right, get yourself online and find another job to apply for!

The Next Steps

This final piece of this blog post from me, is just a little chat about the next steps after being offered the position…

These steps are mostly practical; I’ve honestly had about 20+ pages of paperwork from HR, and then they have to decide my start date, complete my contract and create my new ID badge! Fortunately, since I was a volunteer for them, I’ve already done the mandatory training and have had a DBS check so that’s a few other practical bits out of the way!

Then there’s the emotional side of things, and having not been employed for so long, I felt that this part was only right to be written by someone who has more experience…

Five Tips for Managing Your Mental Health While Working by Emma Wharfe, Clinical Communications Officer for St Oswald’s Hospice:

1.      Have a tidy workspace – for me, I feel mentally much more prepared for whatever the day brings if I have a clean, clutter-free workspace

2.      Try to have phone/email free lunch breaks – I think this is possibly one of the hardest things to do when working from home. Most days I try to have lunch in a separate room away from devices or go for a walk

3.      Be honest about your time and workload and ask for help if you need it – I find it much easier to be realistic about what I can achieve in certain timescales rather than make promises that I can’t deliver. I also find organising and prioritising helps.

4.      Connect with others – there’s been times it had been really tough working from home but having catch ups with colleagues (not just about work) has really helped to motivate me

5.      Be kind – similar to connecting with others, I don’t think we can underestimate the impact of saying hi or asking how others are feeling, especially during the pandemic. It’s also important to be kind to yourself, take a break if you feel you need it and make a cuppa/go for a walk… whatever it is that will help you feel better

 

 

For more info, or to follow St Oswald’s Hospice on online:

Website: https://www.stoswaldsuk.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stoswaldshospice

Twitter: https://twitter.com/stoswaldsuk

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stoswaldsuk/?hl=en