I worked hard, I worked two shifts a day for nearly five years…

“I worked hard, I worked two shifts a day for nearly five years. Day shift in the hotel and night shift in the bar. I only got to sleep 3-4 hours a night but I didn’t complain. I liked my jobs. I needed to pay my loan back in Poland and I earned good money here. I didn’t have time to go out to meet people, all my friends were my colleagues and I loved them. We had lots of fun working together and I didn’t even think about slowing down. Everything was going great until I started having problems with food. I was losing weight and work was becoming more and more stressful. Without realizing I was slowly burning out and falling into depression. I tried to ask for help but my colleagues, my friends turned away from me. One day, I was feeling so sick that I started to sob at work. My manager asked me what was going on. Why did I look so bad? She said she would have to cut my hours because I was damaging the image of the hotel. She called a taxi and took me to the hospital. That was my first admission. I remember the doctor sitting in front of me, laying back in his chair barely listening to what I’m saying… I was in for maybe 20 minutes, he barely asked me any questions. He prescribed antidepressants and put me on illness benefit for nine months. Suddenly, I was completely alone and none of my colleges called or asked if I was okay. I thought I would receive some treatment and I would get better but I just became more and more distant from people. The only people I saw were the nurses checking on me to see if I’m taking my medications properly. I could go on about my experiences forever, but it’s nothing new. Once you enter the mental health care system, you are just a cog. I researched how to take care of myself to get better. And now with yoga, better diet and more sleep, my issues feel so much smaller. But the system needs to be changed.”

Justyna is now a community health worker with Cairde, a development organisation working to tackle health inequalities among ethnic minority communities.
‘Let’s open up about mental health together!’
This post was highlighted by First Fortnight