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September 16, 2020

My Mental Illness Got me Fired—& Saved my Life.

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

Whether good or bad, there is an explanation for how it will serve you at a later date, whether you realize that in a week, a month, a year, a lifetime.

You can’t get down on yourself for the ways you feel you fall short. If you trust in the process, and practice patience while riding out the hardships, life works out the way it’s supposed to. All of your struggles are eventually repaid in what was always meant for you.

I tried to remind myself this when I was fired for not coming into work this Labor Day.

I didn’t call out because I was cooking out with friends, drinking White Claws, and playing spike ball like the rest of the holiday enthusiasts.

I wasn’t pounding mimosas at brunch, or ordering breakfast shots for the table. I wasn’t camping, hiking, boating, or any other typical activity that might require skipping work for the night. I wasn’t doing anything worth missing a shift—I was once again dealing with a mental illness that is crippling at worst, some days requiring medication and a long cry; and manageable at best, mild enough to slap on a positive attitude for my tables.

I won’t be the first to say that 2020 has been a snowball year of challenges and setbacks. With the coronavirus at the beginning of the year, unjust Black deaths, rampant wildfires that remain uncontained, monstrous hurricanes seizing the shores, murder hornets on the loose, and a political sh*t storm, we’ve been subjected to for the past four years (with a possible repeat impending), nothing feels safe anymore.

Life is a gamble every day that you step out of your front door. Anxiety came naturally in these kinds of conditions.

And maybe it feels more fragile now with the constant reminders of just how wrong things can get. Nothing has taught us that more than the loss, grief, and chaos of this year and pandemic season. We’ve been watching the world burn for months and wonder when—if—it will ever stop. Losing my job was just another unexpected item to add to the list of “2020 sucks.”

Originally I moved to Denver for opportunity; I knew where big cities exist, so do chances at improvising your life for the better.

I found my opportunity pretty quickly through a job posting on Poached Jobs. The brewery-eatery that I interviewed at sits next to Jefferson Square, a gentrified corner of town where the green lawns are well-manicured, the labradoodles walk the streets with their pair of owners, and the mountains are in full view from the charming rooftop bar. It was the idyllic place to rest while I figured out the rest.

And yet, driving to work, I couldn’t help but hear the self-doubt I had about the path that I was on.

Hadn’t I come to Denver to grow—not settle into what’s been comfortable for a decade? Hadn’t I spent all quarantine writing, learning, and crafting to pursue work that aligned with what I felt was my purpose?

I battled these negative thoughts daily—I was doing what I had to. The brewery was a great place to work. The people were kind and they worked harmoniously as a team, helping when needed because they wanted each other to succeed, and wanted their workplace to thrive.

It seemed to be the crème of the crop as far as service industry jobs go. And I could still take courses online in my spare time. This was my plan. It was all part of the plan in place toward the future I had envisioned upon arriving here.

Yet as I drove to work, I found myself panicking, feeling stuck back in a role I’d been aching to escape. The work wasn’t the problem—it was ignoring the desire to do what I knew I needed to be doing instead, that crushed my soul and led me down a dark path.

When I had my panic attack on that recent Monday, I wasn’t necessarily self-sabotaging. I wouldn’t wish those reality-warping, out of body moments on the worst person I know. No one deserves to feel that dark mental state and it’s no one’s fault when they do.

But when I felt myself spiraling, I knew that I needed to allow myself the rest and recovery period my brain and body insisted on. How was I supposed to serve beers and burgers while light-headed and on the verge of tears?

I’d put myself second for long enough to know that denying the issues I was having wasn’t working for my mental health. Not asking for help was no longer an option. So I did what was necessary, or rather my roommate did—she swaddled me in my weighted blanket, grabbed my phone, and texted my boss that I was feeling unwell and couldn’t come in.

As I lay there, chugging water and trying to sleep away the shakes and dread, I was responded with, “We have decided your services are not needed and you are no longer employed here. Return your shirts within two days or they will be docked from your next paycheck.”

I wasn’t necessarily surprised that I was fired. Calling out of work when you’re scheduled is typically inexcusable. I never had before this point, and hated leaving my amazing team short-staffed and stressed out by my absence. I figured that there would be repercussions for doing so, and second to calling out came the embarrassment of explaining my condition and the feelings of shame in dealing with something that most people had no idea about.

I apologized and explained as best as I could and was not replied to anymore, confirming that I had indeed been let go. And just like that, I was out of work and a part of the unemployed community again.

I expected to feel sad, wreaked with guilt and shame.

I was met with relief instead. The positives flooded my brain, assuring me that this didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It was just a thing that had happened, and I could move on. I think that knowing that I wasn’t necessarily happy in my position allowed me to see the silver lining in getting let go. I had felt held back from my potential, and now I was free to explore different pursuits that were more authentic to the person I am creating and becoming.

Without working every day, I could continue digital marketing and technical writing courses I’d started online but hadn’t had the time or energy for on my one or two days off a week. With my days freed up, I could find a doctor to talk to my issues about—it was long overdue, and it was time to face the mental music.

Without working doubles, I was able to explore more of this beautiful state I’d moved to and fully enjoy the last weeks of summer before snow season comes. Without a set schedule, I could write more, read more than five pages of my book a day, and give more time to the things that made my anxieties a distant memory.

This was a welcome new leaf, and the beginning of a chapter that it seemed I had manifested.

Getting fired sucks. Getting your heart broken feels like the end of the world. Losing an old way of life can seem like the worst thing—but it can be the medicine you need in your life.

I don’t feel sad or sorry for this happening because I know that life is full of surprises, and this was just one of them.

What comes around the bend next, I’m not quite sure.

But I’m willing to bet it’s worth waiting for.

~

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