4 misconceptions about being unemployed because of mental illness

4 misconceptions about being unemployed because of mental illness

Being unemployed because of mental illness is hard. I am now self-employed but when my mental health reached such a low that I had to leave my job, it was awful. There’s more on my personal experience here.

As with a lot of things relating to mental illness, there seems to be some misconceptions about the whole scenario and I want to explore that today.

1. We’re being lazy.

I have no issue with going to work. By nature, I am a hard worker. I strive to do the best I can in whatever I take on. In the jobs I’ve done, I’ve given it my all. (You may have noticed that with my blog, too…)

I never pictured a situation where I’d have to leave work because I couldn’t cope, but that’s what happened.

I have a lot of flaws, but laziness isn’t one of them. When I didn’t feel up to going to work, or doing much once I got there, I knew something was wrong. Not enjoying a job has never stopped me from trying my best, until I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

2. It’s easy.

Being unemployed is never a walk in the park. Being employed because of mental illness is even worse. You already feel like a burden, and now you find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay your way.

I have found this so hard over the last few months. I’ve felt very uncomfortable about Neal having to pay for everything, and I’ve even taken to selling some things so I can help.

Guilt aside, it’s no fun not having an income. You can’t help out, you can’t treat yourself. Everything just feels pretty miserable.

Oh, and by the way, we’re alone with our brains a lot of the time and our brains aren’t very well. So, they’re not really our friends. Thankfully, blogging gave me something to do to distract myself from all that negative noise.

3. We’re being too picky.

When your mental health plummets, the last thing you want to do is feel that way again. So, yes, if you’ve been in a job which resulted in your mental health taking a nosedive, you do become reluctant to take on any old thing.

I think it’s a fact that some people, particularly creatives, are not suited to jobs like retail or office work. Forcing themselves into that, when they’re already in a vulnerable place, is likely to result in a downward spiral.

It’s not a case of being picky. It’s a case of being cautious.

I, personally, don’t see this as a negative thing. I think one of the best acts of self-care is to find a job you enjoy. We spend way too much time in our lives working. I just don’t think it’s worth doing something that comes at the cost of your mental health.

4. We just need to get on with it.

You can hear it now, can’t you? The chorus of older generations saying we don’t know how lucky we are. At least we haven’t been sent down a mine or shipped off to war.

We know. 

And it doesn’t change anything because we’re still unwell.

We’d love to just get on with it. Trust me. I don’t know anybody who is out of work because of their mental health who sits at home and thinks what a blast it is. It is awful to wake up and know everyone else is heading off to work and you don’t feel able to.

On the other hand, if we did that, the result would probably be a vicious cycle. We accept a job we’re not ready for, we dread turning up every day until eventually we leave and – look at that – we’re back to square one. Somebody else lost out on a job, and the company now has to spend time and money finding a replacement. What was the point?

It’s also really hard to sell yourself when everything inside your head tells you you’re worthless. The whole recruitment process is built on the idea of putting your best self forward, but what about when you can’t find it?

By this point, cynics amongst you may be thinking:

What’s the plan here? You’re never going to work again?

We’ve got to work on ourselves first. We need to get to a place where we feel ready to take on the challenge, rather than diving in when we know it’s not right. All we want in return is a little compassion.

I don’t want anybody to misunderstand: I do think employment is generally beneficial for most people’s mental health. My first job did wonders for my confidence, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. In fact, it can be the complete opposite in some situations.

Also, the two can be completely unrelated. A job, or lack thereof, might not be the root cause of somebody’s mental illness. You need to keep in mind that mental illness can be a chemical imbalance, or the result of a trauma. Without the help of medication and/or therapy to go alongside it to tackle deeper issues, a job isn’t suddenly going to solve somebody’s problems.

Perhaps if companies were more understanding about the difficulties of living with a mental illness, it wouldn’t seem so intimidating. The truth is, they’re not. In a lot of cases, calling up to say you can’t come in because anxiety is off the charts and you’re scared to go outside just isn’t going to fly.

Maybe it’s time we looked at that side of things, rather than blaming those who are struggling.

4 misconceptions about being unemployed because of mental illness



  1. 22nd August 2018 / 11:11 am

    As ever a real and insightful post Ruth 🙂

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 1:11 pm

      Thank you Hayley! 😊

  2. 22nd August 2018 / 11:22 am

    OH MY GOD this is the perfect post! I’ve never had a job where I didn’t feel sick with nerves every morning or cry at the thought of going in, because I’m just so anxious in new situations and the workplace was a new one every day I was bullied in my first role and actually fired for my mental illness, which made everything 10 times worse.

    I wish my anxiety was visible, that I’d turn green the worse it became, so people could see how difficult I find it and that I’m not lazy, sponging, or weak xx

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 1:12 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear that about your first job! That’s awful!!

      I agree, it would be much easier if there were indicators for how bad it gets. 🙁 xx

  3. 22nd August 2018 / 11:24 am

    I love this post Ruth. I struggle with working because of my mental health, but I’m more afraid of what my family would say if I didn’t work and so I have always forced myself to go in, often to the detriment of how I’m feeling. I’m also very good at just giving myself too much to do and then getting so stressed out and anxious I spiral down! I honestly admire anyone who can put their hand up and say what they need to do to look after themselves, because for me the easier option has always been ignoring it and pushing through regardless, which isn’t healthy.

    Cordelia || cordeliamoor.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 1:13 pm

      I know what you mean. It’s not necessarily my family, but there are other people who I worry about when it comes to what they must think of me. You need to try and take care of yourself, though, love!

  4. 22nd August 2018 / 11:38 am

    This was such a personal post, but I’m glad you wrote it as it’s something I’ve been faced with a lot recently. I’ve been suffering from two mental illnesses for the last decade of my life so I’ve never had traditional employment, and with the NHS admitting they don’t have any treatment suitable for me, I’ll probably be battling with my brain for the rest of my life. Now that I’ve finished formal education, I’m constantly being asked questions about where I’m going next, and when I tell people I can’t go into traditional employment they’re always implying that I’m lazy by saying, “Well, everyone else can handle it”. I’ve gone down the self-employment route too, and even if it’s not a permanent solution for either of us, I think it works quite well for people with mental illnesses or disabilities that make traditional workplaces inaccessible. Thank you so much for writing this, and I’m sorry that I’ve left something of an essay in response!

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 1:16 pm

      Oh, you never need to apologise, Rebekah! 😊 It’s hard to navigate the pressure of it, especially with you being at the age of finishing education. I hate the implications of laziness because I know it’s anything BUT that. Hopefully, we can both find our way somehow. ❤️

      • 22nd August 2018 / 9:53 pm

        Yeah, it’s definitely been an experience, that’s for sure! I can’t imagine it’s been easy at a point where people assume you have life figured out, either. I once read a quote about laziness, and it went something along the lines of, “I’ve met 100 so-called lazy people, and not one of them was really lazy. Burnt out? Yep. Stressed? Yep. But never lazy.” and I completely believe in it. Nobody’s unmotivated and unproductive without a reason. Fingers crossed we both find a path in life we’re happy with!

  5. 22nd August 2018 / 12:39 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Ruth. I think more needs to be said about working/not working with a mental illness, so well done. I have a similar story to yours, I had to leave my last job due to depression & anxiety, hence why like you, I’m putting everything into blogging as the thought of going back to a job that’s makes me so ill mentally is worrying. The line about creatives not being suited to retail or office is 100% true and I think that’s one of the reasons I was so unhappy in my job. I totally understand the guilt thing too, my dad is supporting me massively at the moment as he just wants to see me do something that makes me happy, but I do feel like a burden at times. Thank you so much for sharing and being so open & honest. It’s nice to know there’s others out there in a similar situation as me 💖 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 1:20 pm

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been in a similar situation, Bexa. I must admit, not wanting to go back to that kind of job is a good motivator! There have been plenty of times when I’ve thought about the possibility of going back, and it’s definitely driven me forward. Neal says the same thing about me wanting to be happy, which is really sweet, but the guilt is still there. I suppose we can take comfort in the fact we’re doing something productive with our time, which encourages us to make goals and keep pushing forward. ❤️ Thank you for such an honest and insightful response. xx

  6. 22nd August 2018 / 1:55 pm

    Wow, it’s like you climbed inside my mind! I had to leave my job earlier this year for mental health reasons and it was a very strange time. I’ve now found a job in another industry where I feel much happier, but I totally relate to everything you’ve said. The wonderful thing is that despite how hard it was, I feel like that time to grow and heal has been so beneficial, and made me a more resilient person. Sending love to everyone who finds themselves in this situation and thank you so much for sharing.

    • ruthinrevolt
      22nd August 2018 / 2:24 pm

      I’m so glad to know you’re happier and that the experience helped you to grow, despite how challenging it would have been at the time!

  7. 22nd August 2018 / 8:06 pm

    This blogpost I found so relatable and important to write. Thank-you for honestly sharing your insights about the misconceptions of Mental Illness and Returning to Work. It’s been reassuring as well, reading that someone else has gone through the experience of leaving a job after not being able to cope; and echoes my own concerns and feelings about going back to work.

    So thank-you again for sharing.

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:28 am

      My pleasure. Sorry to hear you’ve had a tough time as well. ❤️ Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

      • 23rd August 2018 / 3:47 pm

        Thank-you. It’s been a slow, gradual process of building my confidence back up and feeling okay enough to get back out there after taking a break. What’s helped is finding smaller ways to get involved and do so at my own pace.

        You’re welcome as well. Hope you’re able to find your way back as well. 🙂

  8. 22nd August 2018 / 9:17 pm

    This was really interesting to read your point of view on these topics. It is such a shame that companies don’t understand the issues you have mentioned 🙁 my sister struggles quite a lot with anxiety, so I can see how much it affects her with general things like leaving the house to go to work etc. it did cause her to leave her job about a year ago or so. Luckily she’s found another one which is much nicer and she feels so much more comfortable there. It is great to see her happier.


    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:26 am

      I’m so glad she’s found a job which makes her happy! That’s wonderful. Thank you for reading and commenting 😀

  9. 22nd August 2018 / 10:53 pm

    I totally agree with this I work in an office which is now more like a call centre and I’m off sick at the moment due to mental health that is making me physically dizzy. I also get told to call everyday even though it makes me feel even worse and my manager seems to think because I’ve had tablets for a week I should be fine and coming back in to do 10 hour shifts. More companies need to be aware of this and support people! Great post Ruth xx

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:25 am

      Calling every day seems very excessive and unfair to you! There definitely seems to be an assumption of a quick fix and then everything is good again. Sorry you’re in that situation, I hope things start to turn around soon. 💜

  10. Sheila Anderson
    22nd August 2018 / 11:33 pm

    Thought your post was very insightful Ruth. It can be soul destroying being in a job that adds to the anxiety and the sense of worthlessness. I had to leave my very first job because of a move I thought was going to be great and it turned out a nightmare. However I did get another job where I met the man of my dreans and we will have been married 36yrs that is your Dad love. So it can be a scary time being in the land of uncertainty however I firmly believe that you can change direction and with the correct support find the correct place for you. I think it is really great to use your experiences Ruth to help and encourage other people around you. Well done love, from a very proud Momma Bear!!

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:24 am

      Awwwww, thank you, Mum! Love you millions! ❤️

  11. 23rd August 2018 / 12:02 am

    This post is SPOT ON! Your an amazing writer and speak for many of us! I hope your blog takes you somewhere because it’s really amazing.

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:23 am

      You are so sweet! Thank you so much!

  12. 23rd August 2018 / 1:26 am

    Honest post, Ruth. Some people have the same mentality toward stay at home mom…it’s easy to judge when you haven’t lived it. Insightful post. Take care.

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:23 am

      That’s true, I imagine that can be difficult as well. I think it’s great when mums make the choice to stay at home with their kids, though!

  13. 23rd August 2018 / 5:09 am

    It’s so important that we talk about this stuff! I’m glad that people like you are sharing, and putting it out there. Especially for young people, it’s so helpful! I think you are doing such an amazing job of being positive and real about things at the same time. Way to go, girl. You’ll get there! Hugs!

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:21 am

      Awww, thank you so much!! ❤️

  14. 23rd August 2018 / 6:11 am

    Yup yup yup. All of the above. I was in a situation where I was open and honest about how I was struggling and it was effectively used against me. There’s a lot of employers who need a proper education about mental illnesses.
    Fab post as usual Ruth 😀

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:20 am

      That’s so awful it was used against you! I really hope employer attitudes and actions around mental health start to shift.

  15. 23rd August 2018 / 10:05 am

    LOVED this post, Ruth! It’s so difficult for me in my place of work because they claim to have this understanding and patience for mental health issues but their actions don’t reflect that. The approach I’ve taken is to force it upon them lol if they want to claim that they get anxiety then I’m going to talk about it! They can hardly reprimand me when they preach what they do! Probably a bit childish but I feel I have to use my voice because there are so many who don’t feel confident in using theirs! If employers recognised that it’s in their companies best interest to care for their employees mental-health then it would be a game changer for both the employee and the employer.

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 10:19 am

      I completely agree and good on you for using your voice! I almost think claiming to have patience and understanding is worse than not acknowledging it at all. It’s giving people a false sense of security, only to find it’s not delivered in their actions.

  16. 23rd August 2018 / 3:36 pm

    This is such a personal post, Ruth!

    I definitely understand what you mean! It’s been about a year and half since I graduated from my Diploma and I haven’t got or even applied for a job. It isn’t that I don’t want to work and get money to support myself, but my anxiety chews away at me from the inside out.

    And the problem is that I’m not even sure if I’m suffering from anxiety and depression since I’ve never went to get it confirmed. Mainly it’s because I grew up in a very traditional Asian country and my parents don’t believe these mental illnesses exist. It’s difficult for me to talk about it to anyone and every time I try to hint that my anxiety is acting up, my parents brush it off as though it doesn’t exist. And I’m afraid of going on my own to get it confirmed because I have a ton of fears about it being confirmed as well.

    My anxiety scares me to no end and it always seem to make things scarier than they actually are, and it really sucks. I do want to get a job that I would love and hate that I can’t and I know that it kinda isn’t really my fault, I didn’t choose for anxiety to invade my life, I guess I just wish more people would understand and more people could be more aware of anxiety and mental illness in general and all the symptoms. Most of us just want to be understood and cared for, and I think the world sometimes forget that people with mental illnesses are humans too.

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 8:03 pm

      Awww, Michelle, I’m so sorry you feel like this. It must be really difficult for you. What I would say is that, scary as it seems, the good thing about having confirmation is you can start to get help. It’s a step you’ll know in yourself when you’re ready to take and I completely understand why you’re hesitant (especially given the situation with your parents) but it was be very beneficial.

      Anxiety is really hard to live with, so just know you’re not alone in what you’re going through. There are people who understand, although I do agree I wish more people would show the compassion we need.

  17. 23rd August 2018 / 6:13 pm

    This was such a relatable post, Ruth. I worked in a couple of jobs where I was incredibly unhappy because my immediate bosses were bullies. I know that’s a whole different area but the reason I mention it is because when I left both jobs, my esteem was at rock bottom and it was very hard to pick myself up again. The lack of income and knowing I couldn’t contribute was also very hard, and I’m so lucky to have such a supportive husband. I realise not everyone has that rock, but it sounds like Neal is one too. I loved reading this, you write so well and so eloquently. I’m not at all surprised your Mum is so proud of you! xx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 8:01 pm

      I’m so sorry you were bullied! I honestly can’t get my head around that when you seem like such a wonderful person. It’s unsurprising you found yourself in a bad place in the aftermath, though, and I’m really happy your husband supported you through it. Awww, thank you so much, Lisa – I always appreciate your feedback. ❤️

  18. 23rd August 2018 / 6:24 pm

    I can definitely relate to this, it’s so very hard and the shame of feeling I couldn’t cope (or in my case, juggle too many balls all at the same time as a carer) is really difficult to overcome and I still allow that negative thought in sometimes.

    Some companies are wonderfully supportive of mental health and understand the adaptations that help when employees are struggling but I’ve seen friends and myself find many are inflexible and only make things worse in their approach which ultimately means they miss out on trained, experienced staff that go through a tough time but would contribute so much if only they were given a fair chance.

    There’s a long way to go to improve flexible working arrangements

    • ruthinrevolt
      23rd August 2018 / 7:59 pm

      You’re absolutely right. I suppose it’s a good sign that there are some out there, but equally a shame there’s still so much work to be done before it’s standard.

  19. 23rd August 2018 / 11:35 pm

    I could totally relate. My anxiety makes the little work I can do so much more difficult. I’m self-employed technically so I have more flexibility, but that can also be a doubled edged sword financially and mentally. Thanks for sharing your perspective. 🙂


    • ruthinrevolt
      24th August 2018 / 10:34 am

      That’s a good point about self-employment. Sorry to hear you struggle, too. ❤️

  20. 27th August 2018 / 10:04 am

    It makes me both sad, angry and frustrated that there are people out there that still think this way. I’m hoping that in future more and more people become better educated about mental health so that this way of thinking can be eradicated!

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

    • ruthinrevolt
      27th August 2018 / 10:13 am

      I completely agree! I’d love to see a change in attitudes! 😊

  21. 28th August 2018 / 2:23 pm

    Yes, yes, and yes. I was fired fro my job in June because I had to cut my hours for the second time in a year due to my mental health. I don’t blame them, in a way, but they had said they would work with me and then suddenly changed their mind. I, too, started a blog and two weeks ago started working as a courier. I just pick things up and drop them off. I’m still anxious all the time but at least I can cry in the car! I was sick of feeling like a burden to my wife.
    Thank you for speaking the truth!!

  22. Laura
    29th August 2018 / 12:34 am

    I have had a mental illness my whole life but just got diagnosed because of a suicide attempt. I’m in school on line right now but even that is hard most day. When I realized I was in school and wouldn’t be ble to use my degree it almost killed me. My anxiety is so bad I only leave my house if I have to. Thanks for writing this because it makes me feel better. 💜

  23. 9th September 2018 / 8:54 am

    Great post! Thank you for sharing part of your mental health journey.
    I had some time off work due to my mental health earlier in the year and work were understanding. They even reduced my hours and we gradually increase them and I’m now back working full time, although I think I came back too soon. At my last meeting with HR I was told it “wouldn’t go down very well” if I had more time off or changed my hours due to depression. It was also implied that as it’s been 6 months, I should be better now.

  24. 22nd March 2019 / 3:11 am

    THIS! This is so important and thank you for sharing your story!

    I really relate with this and haven’t gotten a job after I graduated from my diploma because my mental health is so debilitating! It feels horrible and my family doesn’t understand because I come from a conservative country that doesn’t believe that things like anxiety and depression exist.

    Thus, I pour my soul out onto my blog and focus on reading to try to help me cope.

  25. 22nd March 2019 / 11:35 am

    Thank you for writing about this! Being unemployed due to mental illness comes with a set of challenges, one of which is the judgements and misconceptions on the part of others. You nailed it.

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