Looking for Work and Managing Anxiety and Trauma Symptoms – Interview

Being multilingual and digitally adept can enable one to work from home as a self-employed person but, as this interview suggests, maintaining a stable income can be difficult. Whilst the social demands of office and other types of job can be difficult for someone who experiences anxiety and/or trauma symptoms, an isolated work environment presents its own challenges. The following is a collation of answers provided to me via an online interview with a multilingual individual who has been self-employed for the past few years and experiences anxiety and trauma symptoms and who is currently looking for a full-time job.

I am technically self-employed and have been for a long time but I’m currently not getting enough work to actually make a living. Therefore I’ve been applying for jobs as I’m hoping to find a full-time job. I look at job advertisements at least once a week, usually more often than that and see if there is anything interesting. I normally use Google search to find ads but I sometimes look at more specific websites, such as Reed. I also have a Linkedin profile and I think it’s pretty good for finding ads for roles that match your experience. The role I’m looking for doesn’t necessarily have to be similar to my earlier jobs. I am hoping to find something office-based and the most interesting sectors for me are IT, languages and finance.

I had a video call interview some weeks ago. I remember being awfully nervous but once it started everything went quite well in my opinion. The person who interviewed me was very positive and smiled a lot which I think made it easier for me. There were a few questions about what I’m currently doing and what I know about the role so far. In terms of experience and language skills it would have been really ideal for me as they were looking for a bilingual person. I still don’t know the actual reason why I wasn’t put forward to the next interview, I imagine the recruitment agency had already found someone suitable as I soon noticed the ad was not open for applications anymore. It came as a surprise and I obviously wasn’t happy about it but job search has never been particularly easy for me so part of me is aware that things like this can happen.

They hadn’t scheduled a second interview with me but I received an email saying that I’ve been successful and they’re happy to have another interview with me. I received this email from the recruitment agency. Then a few days later I received another email telling me that there is no interview due to an earlier application for a different role I applied for directly with the same company and that because they already have my CV and profile on their system the recruitment agency cannot do anything about it. It sounded quite bizarre but I think they already found someone for the role as I saw the advertisement wasn’t open for new applications. Or maybe they simply didn’t like my earlier CV.

My experience includes working in customer service in call centres, sales and a short while working as a market research analyst. I’ve been self-employed for almost three years now I think although it hasn’t always been a very stable income as there’s not always enough work or projects. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me but it also made me quite isolated as I’ve been working from home. My work has involved different types of language and IT projects, such as audio transcription, search engine result evaluation and data entry.

I feel I got lucky. I was headhunted for my first (self-employed) project as they were looking for people with specific language skills. They must have found my details on one of the job sites. Once I took part in more projects I would get contacted by companies. There are also websites where I have applied for similar work. I didn’t require any other financial support until recently when my health got worse so I was on Universal Credit but I am feeling better now.

I am a native speaker of Finnish. I also speak Swedish, Russian and French although not fluently. I’ve always enjoyed learning languages. So I guess that makes five languages with English included. It’s mainly been language-related work but I guess good knowledge of grammar and writing skills can help too. Although those are related to languages.

I suffer from anxiety and trauma. I have had to leave a job before when I was feeling too anxious. There have also been managers who have not understood mental health very well. My energy levels have not always been great either because of not getting enough sleep so keeping a full-time job often has required a lot of effort. Currently I am in a much better place. Last winter was a difficult time for my mental health but I’ve had some therapy since then which has helped me a lot.

I have worked in call centres before so I should be used to talking on the phone. It really depends on the type of phone call. In call centre jobs it wasn’t as hard as I learnt what I was meant to say in each situation. However, I once had an analyst role where I had to make phone calls to companies and request data, that made me very nervous and I had to leave the role in two months. Social interactions in general can be difficult too with colleagues but it really depends on the type of people I work with. There was once a colleague that could be considered a bully.

I mentioned in some of my jobs that I have issues with anxiety but there was no particular support that I wanted. In one company the HR person was very understanding as she had similar issues herself. However, I ended up leaving that job in two months as it was very stressful. I was never directed to any kind of therapy or counselling by managers or colleagues and to some of them I had already told I was getting therapy through the NHS. My symptoms would include sleeping difficulties due to anxiety and feeling very tense.

 I did really well in school until around the age of 14 or 15. I struggled a lot with presentations we had to make for school as I got really anxious. Exams weren’t that easy either. I had some friends but they changed throughout the years as I went to different schools. I went to university in Scotland and I studied economics. I didn’t do well at all. I felt tired most of the time.

I grew up in Finland and moved to the UK to go to university at the age of 19. Whilst culturally those countries aren’t that hugely different as they’re both in Europe I still found the transition of moving here difficult because of anxiety issues and low energy levels. I feel comfortable these days.

The only support I had was the GP clinic. I wasn’t very well aware back then how bad my mental health was and I was more focused on physical health and energy levels. I only got help for mental health after I had graduated from university. I’m glad I have more knowledge on mental health these days.

I probably got into photography when I had my second mobile phone and the camera it had was much better than in the first one I had. I started making YouTube videos one winter as I didn’t have many other interesting activities or hobbies. The frequency varies depending on if I have work and my energy levels. I often run out of ideas on what type of videos to make. Some other interests I have would be museums and I guess languages.

Sunshine Blogger Award – Interview and Nominees

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Thank you, Laura Cyrena of Lotus Laura for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! I have recently started writing about mental health issues, particularly, social anxiety and isolation. It is great to know that I can be part of a supportive blogger community.

A note to my nominees there is no obligation to reply to this nomination because, I appreciate, you may be busy or it might not fit your blogging schedule or subject matter.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

“Once nominated for the award, in order to accept you need to write a post where you:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog”

QUESTIONS…

  1. What is your morning routine?

If I wake early enough, I like to listen to a comedy podcast to ease negative feelings. I then wash, change and have breakfast, if I have time, and then take the train to work. On the train, I like to read a free newspaper. On weekends, I normally lie in.

     2. What is your favorite thing to write about?

One of my favourite blog-posts I have published so far is an interview with a young Polish woman, Anna, who experiences social anxiety symptoms. She talked to me about moving to England with her partner and the difficulties she experienced, from, initially, working on farms in some dire work conditions, to finally finding herself a job in a fast food outlet.

She writes of her her current job: “It is a very stressful environment, when managers are telling you to speed up every time and be as quick as possible. But I’m not letting it to get to me, because I have to think how to survive my whole 8 hours shift, not to finish one burger 5 seconds faster. Since I became a team trainer, it’s a little better for me, because managers know that they can count on me and give me more responsible jobs (like checking quality of food or managing stocks). And it’s been a few months since I started working only evening and nights shifts and it’s why better. On overnights we have less customers, we don’t really have to focus on the speed, and we basically clean the store and all equipment.”

      3. What is your favorite fruit?

Probably, mango.

     4. Do you believe in destiny?

I don’t think so – but I haven’t thought about it much.

     5. What pets would you have — if money/space/time was not a concern?

I find looking after and playing with (calm) cats very therapeutic. I have always wanted a tortoise and recently, been thinking about rabbits. So, I think any of those!

I also enjoy watching wild animals and have been inspired by Ian Young’s blog. He experiences dyspraxia, anxiety and depression symptoms and writes about his experiences of bird-watching.

He writes in a recent blog-post that bird-watching can be both comforting and difficult, as the lives of wild animals, though fascinating and inspiring, can be harsh. Bird-watching has also been a way for him to experience the outdoors and make connections with people: “The other week I had a more positive experience in identifying birds. I was in St James’s Park looking idly at the lake when a woman approached me and politely asked me what she described as a random question: could I identify that bird? Well, I could. It was a Moorhen…We had a lovely discussion about the similarities and differences between these two related birds. She said that, for the first time, she had come into the park to watch nature. I hope I helped make her visit more enjoyable.”

6. If you had to live in another country, where would you go?

I would find it very difficult if I couldn’t speak the language and didn’t have any acquaintances to support me. That said, another part of me dreams of adventure. I will say, New York or Berlin.

7. Have you ever seen someone’s doppelgänger?

I don’t think so.

8. Have you ever had a spooky moment where it felt like there was a ghost?

I am easily frightened but I think it’s just me. Sometimes I feel like the ghost!

9. What’s a song you could put on repeat and never get sick of?

I get bored of songs after I repeat them too often. Recently, I have been listening to Brazilian folk music.

10. Do you prefer to be alone, with someone, or in a group?

I like all of these. Due to my anxiety symptoms, being in groups can be frightening and stressful but there are occasions that it can be enjoyable.

11. What’s your favorite tea?

I like Chamomile.

NOMINEES…

A note to my nominees – there is no obligation to reply to this nomination because, I appreciate, you may be busy or it might not fit your blogging schedule or subject matter.

  1. Timelapse – Thoughtful observations from the streets of London, in particular, Tim Free, ‘micro-blogs’ through Twitter @Timelapse95 and writes about the Timelapse team’s public art projects, including the upcoming Berlin art exhibition, “Postcards from Berlin” presenting Berlin through the eyes of migrants and visitors. (Disclosure, Tim Free is a personal friend of mine).

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2. Being Edie’s Mum – Written by a new mother and nurse in training, Chloe Lawrence,  discusses the challenges, achievements and rewards she experiences raising her baby daughter, whilst dealing with social anxiety symptoms, in a town in the UK. She writes in a recent post: “I might still lack confidence but I am getting there with the help of my family, friends and my daughter who has made me grow up hugely in the past few months. I now have to push myself to be that outgoing person, I have to speak to people, go to appointments, speak on the telephone because who else is going to do that for my daughter?”

3. A Craichead in Dublin – American student, Ellie McCarthy, writes about her experiences having recently started a course at Trinity College Dublin. Her posts are full of exploration, insight, character, scenery and information.

4. Tearing at the Fabric – A blog about the writer’s struggles and victories against trauma, dealing with the end of a thirty-year or so relationship and betrayal, being a mother and commencing a new life with a new partner. The writer is very open about her difficulties: “That three decades, an entire adulthood, meant nothing. That you were always entirely disposable. Always on borrowed time.”

5. VanillaLingLing –  This new blogger writes openly and thoughtfully about raising her two young children whilst managing her social anxiety symptoms: “Very recently I made the decision that I was going to start taking my 2.5 year old son to fun kid groups so that he could start learning how to interact with children his own age. Yesterday we went to our first Story Time at the library and he did have so much fun and was the last kid to leave, I am sure that will become our default. But for me, I had a very difficult time socializing with the other adults. In the moment I can keep it together okay, sometimes I can’t find something to say and blurt out something I would deem weird, but it probably doesn’t come off as THAT weird, I’m hoping.”

6. Anxious Birding – Ian Young writes of and photographs wild birds in Britain as a hobby and an antidote to the pressures of worklife and his anxiety, dyspraxia and depression symptoms.

7. Alqamar Alwardi – The diary and thoughts of a young woman living in Denmark chronicling her life as she enters her new Islamic faith. Recently, the writer has discussed her conflict with family members and the anxiety she experiences, at times, wearing the hijab: “So as it turns out, my granddad doesn’t know anything yet about me converting, which probably is for the best. Not because of Islam, but because of religion. He doesn’t like them, and to give an example, when my grandma died he was very, very upset that there would be crosses on almost all the coffins we could choose from.”

8. Catherine Hume – Writer and social care worker, Catherine is a disability rights advocate and has recently written about the need for a disability rights movement to campaign for protection of civil rights of people experiencing disability: “For every disabled person, from a wheelchair using child to a grandmother with dementia, to get the care and support they need billions more pounds must be poured into the social care budget. Carers are generally good people who do their best and genuinely do care. Most go the extra mile, staying long after the allotted times given to care for their clients. Yet they are paid the minimum wage or less for what can be an extremely demanding job in which knowledge of several laws and regulations is mandatory as well as specialised training on medical conditions and the administration of medications.”

9. Limitless Stimulus – Writer and poet who covers issues of personal life, depression and anxiety. I was particularly moved by their recent post, “If you love someone, let them nap.”

10. Anniversaries and Grief –  An informative blog full of links and personal accounts, written by two sisters dealing with grief and questions of medical negligence following the death of their father.

11. Tamra K. Garcia – Tamra writes about living with multi-morbidity, that is, a number of concurrent illnesses, including diabetes, social anxiety, depression and agorophobia. She has also experienced bereavement and a number of major surgeries. She writes with a great deal of perspective and insight: “I write this blog and live as an open book because I want to let others who struggle with chronic illnesses understand they are not alone. There are many, many of us out here and we understand what you are going through and we want to be there for you. You are not alone!”

MY QUESTIONS…

  1. What caused you to start your blog/artistic project?
  2. Where do you see your blog or writing in two years time?
  3. Do you have any upcoming projects, blog ideas or events that you are particularly hopeful about?
  4. Is there a book you have read recently which you particularly enjoyed or found useful?
  5. Is there a website, not necessarily a blog, which you have found particularly useful or interesting?
  6. What challenges do you face with writing/blogging?
  7. Is there anything that has surprised you about writing/blogging that you had not anticipated?
  8. What do you do when you have writers’ block?
  9. What helps you relax?
  10. What makes you laugh?
  11. What makes you cry?

Again, thanks so much for the nomination! Keep bloggin’ on!

Requesting Mental Health Support At Work and Becoming an Advocate

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A pier in Essex, UK, by Ian Young (@ianyoung33)

Workplaces can be competitive, crowded, hierarchical, undemocratic and pressurised environments in which multi-tasking skills and personal organisation are put under particularly intense pressure. Workplace legal rights and employer sympathy can mean very little unless workers are able to advocate for themselves and their peers. The blogger linked below has experiences generalised and social anxiety, depression and dyspraxia symptoms and has become a mental health advocate at work.

A UK government civil service employee, blogger, Ian Young, has discussed his childhood difficulties with mental health, undiagnosed dyspraxia and bullying at boarding school: “I had never felt isolated until I went to boarding school. There I found myself among a group of unfamiliar people with whom I had little in common. I went to a public school which selected pupils to be ambitious and self-confident. This was just impossible for me: I was desperately homesick and every day was just a question of survival.”

Once in the workplace, Ian could not find support for his difficulties. He was missing deadlines and withdrawing. Finally, he took time off work when his depression symptoms got too much but when he felt ready to return, things continued to be difficult:  “I wasn’t offered a proper return to work interview and was just given a pile of papers to deal with. I found it very difficult to speak to my manager or colleagues about what had happened. Although work wasn’t solely to blame for my illness, the lack of support on my return hindered my recovery and made me feel even more isolated and vulnerable.”

Later in his career, coming off medication triggered another more difficult period for his mental health. Ian contrasts his treatment following being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder with what occurred previously: “My manager encouraged me to make use of the Employee Assistance Programme. Making that first call was terrifying; I am not very confident on the phone at the best of times, and the prospect of speaking to a complete stranger about deeply personal issues was very scary. But I made that call and although I was trembling, I wasn’t made to feel silly and I was able to speak to a qualified counsellor that same day.”

He goes on to say: “I received several free sessions of counselling; I was treated with kindness and respect by my managers; if I needed to escape from the office, I was allowed to go and wander round the park. When my mother died during this period (a terrible shock), my managers allowed me to take a generous amount of compassionate leave. When I had another serious meltdown at work, a manager came along with me to A&E and waited with me until I was seen.”

Ian is now able to discuss his difficulties at work more openly with managers and occupational therapists. He has disability adjustments in place to make work more comfortable. His dyspraxia diagnosis only occurred in his late 50s. He had been struggling with personal organisation: “I have to manage large quantities of fast changing information and this is very challenging. Working out priorities and sticking to them is really difficult. I’m good at starting tasks and very poor at finishing them. My typing is messy and I can’t see my mistakes. Sometimes I miss out whole words even though my brain tells me I’ve typed them.”

He has workplace adjustments in place now: “Work has given a lot of support including mind mapping, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software. The IT is great for helping me organise myself. I now prioritise my to-do list using a mind map, with all my tasks colour -coded. It only takes a few seconds to see what I’m meant to be doing next. The bright colours make the tasks seem more ‘friendly’ and less of a threat.”

Ian is now a mental health advocate at work and beyond, writing openly about his difficulties on Twitter and his blogs, as well as his passion for bird-watching. In the workplace, he has joined forces with colleagues as part of a Wellbeing and Mental Health Group. Working alongside his workplace’s HR department, he has given talks about his experiences to colleagues. The blog-post linked below is a revised version of an article he wrote for publication on his workplace’s staff intranet during Mental Health Week in 2017.

Outside of work, Ian has found like-minded individuals with whom he has been able to connect with over their fascination with bird-life: “I’ve found birdwatching is a friendlier activity because everyone has the same aim. People are happy to share their discoveries. I have only been able to see Bitterns through the kindness of fellow birders who let me watch these rare birds through their telescopes.”

To read Ian Young’s bird-watching blog, “Anxious Birding,” click here. To read his blog focused on mental health issues, click the link below.

Image taken from AnxiousBirding.wordpress.com, Ian Young (c)

 

Me and my Mental Health

Note: this is a revised version of the blog I wrote for our work intranet during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2017.

I want to tell you a little about myself: I work here in the Civil Service. Outside work, my interests include birdwatching, running, drinking real ale (the good stuff) with my friends, and countryside walking. People describe me as easy going, dependable, cheerful. I have also lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. I’m telling my story now to promote Mental Health Awareness Week. I have long been an advocate of talking and being open about mental health issues but this was not always the case.
Looking back now, I’m sure that I was trying to cope with depression a long time before I visited my GP. I felt my depression was chipping away at the more positive aspects of my character. With hindsight, I…

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Seasonal work in Europe – a young worker with social anxiety symptoms shares her passion

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Howth by Hanna* ©

25-year old Hanna* has just returned to her au pair job in Ireland having spent Christmas with her family in Hungary. She has been working in Ireland since early 2019 and spoke to me about her experiences of seasonal and fixed term jobs in different European countries. She has not been diagnosed with social anxiety but considers herself socially anxious.

I work for a family like au pair (minding kids, doing housework etc.). This is my first time working like au pair. My duties are cleaning the house, mind kids, cooking meals, doing the laundry. That’s a pretty tiring job, especially minding 4 kids but the family is very friendly. I like it so far. 

In my current job I work 9 hours per day, I have 2.5 hour lunch break and my weekends are free but some Sunday I have to babysit a few hours. Very tiring job but anyway not that stressful. They are nice but the kids are crazy :_D Sometimes I really stressed out because of them…but you know one day I will go home and don’t give a shit about them anymore 😀

Sometimes it’s really uncomfortable (having meals with the family).. but I got used with it. I’m very bad at small talk so I just try to answer shortly and close it down xD I more like to eat alone. (When talking to people) I feel nervous and sometimes I talk stupid things or just forget the words what I wanted to say.

I don’t like to go to crowded places but it’s getting easier with time. For me practise helped a lot, I interacted more and more with people so after a while it wasn’t that bad. But if I spend a lot of time alone it’s hard again. I had sleepless nights too 😀 I always have. Sometimes it’s really hard…. I could sleep only with sleeping pills.

I don’t think I’m a strong character I’m just able to adapt to most of the situations. After a while I get used with things. I try to solve it alone (social anxiety).

I had to be learn how to be capable under pressure…

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Image by Hanna* ©

When I was in High School I didn’t really think about it (working abroad). I started to learn cosmetology so I needed practise in it. I’ve seen how bad are the Hungarian payments so I decided I will try to get a job abroad. I always loved traveling anyway.

I was 21 years old (when I first worked abroad). I’ve got a job in a restaurant like bartender and I also had to prepare food like cutting fruits, cakes etc. At first it was very scary, this restaurant was a very busy place most of the time but we had so much to do that I was more tired than anxious. Living with strangers wasn’t a big deal because I had my own room so I could spend some time alone. 

I worked usually 9 hours (per day, in catering roles) but sometimes I had to do overtime what usually wasn’t paid at all. It was told that we have to stay (as long as) we having guests but we got the same money in the end of the month. I had 1 day off. 

I had to learn how to be capable under pressure but at first it was really hard to work like this. That’s not a surprise why some hotel/restaurant looking for workers all the time. People spend there working some months and they’ve enough 😀 

My boss was an idiot again (in my last job, as a cleaner and receptionist in a hotel in Switzerland) but I getting used with it.. it’s always the same. When a workplace was really bad I just quit. 

I like traveling itself and discover a new country

I worked like receptionist in Norway, but I only had to work in the reception in the mornings then I cleaned the rooms. I didn’t have fix hours, it depended on how busy was the hotel but I worked maximum 8 hours per day and sometimes I had even 2 or 3 freedays.

My workmates (there) was the best, they were kind, sometimes we watched movies together or went to car trip. I don’t like parties I rather go hiking or watch a movie at home. I made some (friends) but I don’t really keep contact with all of them. It feels like we were connected because of the same job and after a while we don’t have any common themes anymore.

I have some friend in Hungary. When I’m at home we usually meet and go somewhere but anyway we keep contact on Facebook. 

I gonna stay in my country (after the au pair contract in Ireland ends this year) for a while just to relax after it so I don’t think I gonna apply for anything. 

I have a long list about countries what I want to visit. I like traveling itself and discover a new country. I visited some really nice place (in Ireland) like Howth, Tick nock, Enniskerry, Drogheda etc. (When travelling), I try to avoid dangerous situations. Always having a map with me so I won’t lost in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately never had any bad situations, I think it’s not only about how do you prepare (there are things what you can’t be prepared of) but maybe about luck as well.

For me the most important is to get meal and accommodation where I work because anyway a lot of money would go on them. Then I check the tasks if I having any experience in them. Then the payment.

*The interview with Hanna (not her real name) was conducted online during December 2019 and January 2020.

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Poolbeg by Hanna* ©

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Dublin Mountains by Hanna* ©