I was running. I wasn’t ready to process what happened to me at my company, and so I left. I was ready to process what happened in September 2017, but the present was far too painful. This is the funny thing about mental health. It can sit there quietly, like a kitten getting fatter and fatter, and then suddenly turn into a python, and swallow you whole.
That’s what happened to me. It happened to me at my company. It happened to me yesterday. Yesterday, I had another mental breakdown. I went to go get legal advice at the Citizens Advice Bureau, the only free legal advice service in England, and it was, well, an experience…
I had tried to go on Wednesday, the 12th, but I was feeling sad that morning and couldn’t wake up in time. I arrived at 9:30, but it was too late.
“Sorry honey, we don’t have any tickets for today. Come back on Monday.” I felt hopeless and turned to go when he said, “But what’s your problem. Maybe I can give you a number.”
“Here,” and handed me the paper about ACAS and their hotline. At this point, I was desperate. I couldn’t wait five days to speak to someone.
After googling my workplace rights – finally! why this is not mandatory training, as well as course at university is beyond me – I found the words to describe what had happened to me at my company, justifying why I had handed in my notice, despite the fact I was suffering from mental health problems and would be making myself unemployed.
“Some people who are bullied may feel angry and frustrated at not being able to cope with the situation whereas others may become frightened and de-motivated. Loss of self-esteem and loss of self-confidence are common fallouts of bullying and can lead to frequent absence from work due to illness, stressed relations at home and job insecurity. Job performance is almost always affected and some people feel forced to resign because they find the situation unbearable.”– Bullying in the Workplace
Shit. So that’s what I experienced…and more.
As I scrolled further, I read that I only had three months minus a day to make a claim. The clock was ticking.
Well actually, it was already past. I had contacted HR about my problems within the time frame, but they had taken three weeks to respond. Their response was upsetting. The person made it clear that they thought giving me a hotline after having a mental breakdown at work was enough support. I didn’t really know what I was meant to do with the number, and didn’t bother calling. Also, at that time phone calls of that sort made me anxious. I could barely tell my parents on the phone how I was feeling, let alone some rando being paid to listen to me. What could that person do to help my mental breakdown? Probably nothing.
But now, I was desperate. It was hotline or nothing. I dialed.
After a brief waiting period, I spoke to someone and told them as much as i could. Sitting in a council tenant park on a bench. All of London listening.
The woman advised me, “You either have a duty of care case or a disability case. Call the Equality Advisory Support Service hotline. Then go back to the Citizens Advice Bureau, as they are the only ones who can refer you for free legal aid.”
Finally, I had someone, someone with legal knowledge, telling me what I had known somewhere deep inside me. My employee rights had been violated. This what I had called me to Greece, I too was a human rights victim. Albeit, privileged as shit. And nowhere near as bad. But, still true.
After calling the EASS hotline, they confirmed that I did not have a mental health disability, but that I could still have a duty of care case, and to call ACAS hotline or go to Citizens Advice Bureau. I decided to wait and go to CAB.
For five days, I waited. I told my story back to myself over and over again. On Monday, I woke up at 6:30am and went to wait outside the Citizens Advice Bureau.
I was going to be seen.