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Mental Health and Work/Life Balance

As some people may know, I’ve had some mental health issues in the past. I won’t go into too much details about the experiences, and symptoms, as that’s for trained professionals to deal with. However the fact is that I have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. That sounds pretty bad right? It’s a condition that’s very poorly understood by most people, which explains why it took me such a long time to get diagnosed.

You often hear about the worst cases, where people are unable to live a normal life, with employment and a normal social life. You don’t however hear as much about the people who are on top of the condition and are living a relatively healthy and functional life. I would say that I am one of those people (they do exist).

I suspect I’m also lucky in that my symptoms have been milder than most with the condition. That could be due to environmental factors such as my family and friends being supportive and a mostly good influence on me, despite my social issues and other issues functioning in society in the past.

I’ve just decided to take a relatively strong approach to looking after my mental health and well-being. Now I know what my condition is, and how bad some people have it, I feel it’s wise to take a strong approach.

Working for myself I feel is a perfect fit for me. I can control the amount of time I work. I know that if I were to work in something like a full-time basis, my mental health would be compromised. My strongest skills are in IT, and that involves a lot of concentration and sitting in front of a computer for extended periods. With my condition, I do have a sensitivity to stress and a limited amount of concentration per day. Solving tricky problems and not having the flexibility to take breaks when I need to would not be good for me. I know this from experience before my diagnosis, and also after, when I have been required to work longer hours for an extended period.

I also have my bumps. Times when my mental health dips to levels that affect my mood and ability to function, including doing my work. This is just the norm for me, I can expect to have a few bad days where I get very little done. They’re not too often, maybe once a fortnight or so.

I’m also sensitive to external factors, such as dramatic/traumatic events and other interpersonal issues. I worry a lot, and when I have a good reason to worry, I worry more than most. If this goes on for too long, it can burn me out and I start to be unwell again. Some of my symptoms may come back, but of course I can increase my medication if they do.

So I don’t think a full-time position would work for me, unless it’s extremely supportive of my mental health. Which I hear is rather uncommon in the IT/software industry. They often want you to work as much as possible, to the point of almost burning out. You also don’t see much talk in job advertisements about how they support the mental health of their employees. The four-day work week may work alright for me, as long as the four days aren’t too stressful. But even that’s not that common.

I want to stay in IT, where I get to make cool projects and help people in an effective way, with my rare and valuable skill-set. If I went off in a different direction, say in technical support or system admin, I’d be using my most valuable and enjoyable skills a lot less. I’d be developing them less as well. Different kinds of work would be less ideal for me.

Some have suggested the idea of working part-time, as well as running my business. My main argument to that is that I’m already working the minimum I can for my business. I get about 1-3 hours per day for my clients, and that’s sometimes not enough. If I sacrificed even a day per week for something else, my own business would start to suffer. I’m already at capacity and I want to keep pushing it to see how much work I can do in a week before I start thinking about part-time work.

So for now I’m stuck with working for myself. It’s not very lucrative, I’m not able to save for a house just yet. But it’s my only safe option for my mental health so far. 

The thing about having complete control over my work is that I can experiment. I can try working on a passive income generator, or I can start offering new services that could pay me more per week. This is probably the best way forward, but it’s more up to me, not another business dictating what I do. The independence in that is great, but it comes at a cost of income for me I suppose. 

I am also currently receiving the Disability Support Pension, which has been a life-saver. It’s taking the stress off of needing to work to support myself fully. It has been a significant boost for my mental health. I’m still not super wealthy, but I have ticked off a few bucket list shopping items, such as electric bike and VR headset (both which I purchased to help me with my physical health and to lose weight). 

Looking back, it’s been about 5 years since the tail-end of a mental illness I had, that lead to me getting help and me steering my life in this direction. It was a pretty bad time, as bad as you may hear from people with my condition. But I got better, and have remained relatively mentally healthy overall since then, thanks to my initiatives. It is possible I could regress. More possible since I’ve been seriously ill once in my life already. But I haven’t regressed. I’ve also had a lot of support from others along the way, but my lifestyle is my choice ultimately, and it’s lead to stability and sustainability. The best mental health I’ve had in my life (for extended periods). Forgive me if I am adamant to stick to my plans, and try other work options, as I certainly don’t want to go backwards.

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