Mental Health and Unemployment

My mental health was already skewed from the moment I began secondary school, but long term unemployment definitely did not help this. Not only does everybody look down at you as useless and lazy, but very very few people are actually willing to help you unless they get some direct benefit out of it.

I was unemployed for three years (from 2011 till 2014). I aspired to be a journalist and as such was looking as ways to boost my experience because I already had the University Education, it was just the experience holding me back. I decided that I wanted to start a YouTube channel focusing on interviewing people. I wrote off to a number of well known (and at the time lesser known) YouTube personalities asking for an interview (I figured they would be the most down-to-earth and contactable people rather than Hollywood Celebs). I explained that I would be willing to travel to them (if they were in the UK) or we could do it over Skype if they preferred that. I didn’t hear a single thing from any of the people I contacted. No acknowledgement at all that I even existed. This, for an unemployed person with mental illness, did nothing to help my self-esteem and I believe was a factor in my prolonged unemployment. I’m not saying everybody needed to agree to the interview but people need to realise their actions (or inaction) have consequences. Had they agreed to an interview it may have only taken 10 minutes out of their day and changed my life completely. Had they even acknowledged my existence it might have had a different outcome. By totally ignoring a perfectly innocent and professional request it made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything, like I wasn’t important enough for their time.

This may not seem like a big deal to most people because most people don’t wish to be journalists or work in the entertainment industry, I do. This was my first step onto a ladder. It was an inventive way for me to get myself out there and gain the experience I had been told I needed to get. Nope. Nothing. And on top of that I was turned down for internships at Newspapers and Radio Stations for no real reason other than “we don’t take people” and no explanation as to why. I was devastated after these interactions that sometimes I didn’t leave my house for weeks on end.

On top of this the Job Centre did absolutely nothing to help my predicament. In the three years I was unemployed I received absolutely no help in getting a job (which is what their job is). They decided that finding a job would be easier if everything was mandatory. I went on three different CV courses that they told me I had to attend. Every time I went to a new course they told me my CV was wrong, which was odd because it had been professionally written by another person working for a CV course. Eventually I ran my course in the Job Centre (12 months I think it was) and then they threw me over to a company that wasn’t even part of the Job Centre. There was no communication between the Job Centre and this new company and as such I spent a lot of my time there repeating stuff I had already done at the Job Centre and whenever I tried to explain that I had done it they simply replied with “But it’s mandatory”. This is the Job Centre’s way of helping. They don’t actively help you, they just make everything mandatory. It really became too much when, having told them I suffer with mental illness, depression and anxiety, they told me that I would have to work full time at a recycling plant (a dump) for free or lose my benefits. This is a horrific notion – how was working full time at a recycling plant supposed to improve my prospects of getting a job in journalism? The answer? It wasn’t. At this point the Job Centre had stopped caring about finding me a job that was relevant to me (or even paid) and just wanted to force me off of their books and into an unpaid role.

Fortunately for me a vacancy opened up at a supermarket near where I lived. I applied for and got a job working there (although this didn’t come without its problems). I feel sorry for anybody unemployed now because the world has taken a dramatically sharp turn towards “It’s not what you know but who you know” and unless you know people in the right places you could be looking at years of unemployment and mental health problems.

Please, as always, if you know anybody in a similar predicament please feel free to share this link with them. This blog is set up to make sure that people don’t feel alone and know that other people have gone through similar things and come out on the other side.

Sticks and Stones

As I was growing up the only advice I got about bullying was to “not let it affect you” which is the single most unhelpful piece of advice you can give a person. I would rather you showed me how to not let it affect me because now, at twenty seven years old, I still don’t know how to “forgive and forget” or how to “move on” from a situation. I still get bouts of anger and hatred stemming from something that happened to me when I was at school. I still find my mind flashing back to the school playground every time I see an overly loud and/or obnoxious child.

I was bullied throughout high-school and I don’t remember having one single good day at the school. I was terrified to go into school, I didn’t want to leave the house and I felt alone in the world because I had no friends. Even the “friends” I did have were the most appalling bunch of two-faced dicks you could ever hope to meet. The sad thing? They’re living their lives now without any sort of repercussions regarding their actions and I’m the one that is crippled with self-doubt, anxiety, depression and hatred.

The bullying I endured at school was not physical. I had one or two altercations but I never wanted to resort to violence because I know I have a temper and I was always afraid of pushing my temper that little bit too far and causing some actual, proper harm to somebody. That’s why I don’t like getting angry, to this day I’m still very reserved when it comes to actual violence because I don’t know whether my mind would stop me if I was ever going to go too far.

The bullying I endured at school was mental and I don’t care what anybody says about “sticks and stones may break my bones etc.” because that shit isn’t true. More damage has been done to me with words than it ever was with violence.

My “friends” at school were on and off but I was stupid enough to believe that when we weren’t fighting that we were actually friends. No. This was never the case. I don’t believe during the five years we spent together at school that we were ever actually friends but I feel I was the only one that suffered this misconception. They had no qualms about playing me and my naivety, asking to borrow my stuff and then destroying it and claiming it wasn’t them. I would later find out that if I ever lent them anything they would wait until a class I wasn’t in and then just crush it under a chair and claim that they lost it or that somebody else in the class did it.

But I was a fool. I had nobody else and this was a time in my life where I needed people. I needed people to feel like I had a purpose or I may have done something I would later regret. So I clung to these people and when they wanted to be my friend I would take them back. They would use and abuse my friendship every time and I would just accept it because I had nobody else to turn to.

The bullying policy at my school was horrific. It was practically non-existent and the teachers wouldn’t physically do anything to stop it happening. If you told a teacher you would simply have both kid’s parents called, everybody would sit down together, you’d talk through what happened, shake hands at the end and that would be the end of it. The next day you would walk into school and the bullying would just continue, or even get worse in some circumstances.

Nobody teaches you how to deal with it properly. I wish I could tell you how to deal with it but I still don’t know. I still can’t forgive and forget. I still hate those people that made my life at school a nightmare. I still wish horrific things on them as some sort of redemption for bullying me and crippling my social abilities. It’s not fair that they get to go on and live their life while I’m struggling to wake up in the morning because it’s become almost routine that I feel downtrodden and unworthy of living.

Even to this day I can’t make friends. I’m scared people I make friends with are secretly talking about me behind my back. I’m scared that I’m just a placeholder in their lives. I’m scared that they don’t really take our friendship as seriously as I do. And I’m scared that I really don’t mean anything to them.

Bullying is a poison. Go to a doctor and they may not be able to see a few traces of it in your system but over time it’ll build up inside of you and then, when they can see it, it’s too late because it’s already infected your body and broken down anything good you once had inside of you. Your body and mind are now just a toxic wasteland of hatred and foulness.

How can we prevent this? I can’t give you a definite answer but I can tell you that bullying needs to be taken seriously. I’m not just talking “tell a teacher”, I’m talking about people actually doing something about it. Nobody ever got suspended or expelled for bullying me (even on those times they were physically violent towards me). These need to stop being used as threats and be used a lot more seriously. More people would think twice about bullying if their were honest-to-god consequences for their actions. In some instances I even believe police intervention should be used because some children can be quite psychopathic and need a firm hand to be dealt with.

We also need to educate the victims of bullying. We need to help them understand how to get on with their lives without letting the toxic hate build up inside of them and corrupt their minds. We need to stop assuming bullying builds character and actually pay attention to the needs and wants of those being bullied.

And I don’t care for excuses. There are no excuses to why your child is a bully. Address the problem. Too many times people just say things like “he’s going through some things” or “he’s got a bad home life” or “he’s just a teenager, they do these things.” No. Address the underlying issue and don’t just pretend that a half-an-hour conversation in the headteacher’s office is going to solve it for good. Make your school a safe place to go. Don’t let those that value education be too afraid to go into school and get it.

I say this as somebody dealing with mental health issues as a result of school bullying. I say this as somebody who still harbours hatred and anger towards people he hasn’t seen in over ten years. I say this as somebody who can’t form proper friendships out of fear and self-hatred. I say this as somebody who never wants a child’s mind and mental health to be twisted and warped by bullying ever again.

Please share this if you know or anybody who is or has been bullied. And make sure you offer help to those that might be going through hard times as a result of bullying. Even if it’s just pointing them in the direction of somebody who might be able to help, it’s better than pretending they’ll outgrow it.