First off let me say again (as in the title) this post is NOT book or music related, so feel completely free to ignore it if you wish. It is something I need to write and put out there. It’s cathartic, it’s healing, it is, perhaps, that word so loved by psychologists and generally hated by me – closure (of a kind).
Several years ago I was made redundant. At the time I was very bitter, felt betrayed and angry. I had almost paid-off my debts but needed that regular wage for another 6 months or so to finish it. For the first time in our married life, both myself and Cathy were working, sorting out our money problems and beginning to feel a little secure. The redundancy hit us hard – even with the payout and me cashing in my work pension etc. Yes I paid off those debts with the money, but afterwards we had no financial security to enjoy. My physical health, and particularly my mental health, have gone rapidly downhill since then too. I have been unable to find work. My doctor tells me that, in his opinion, I am not currently fit for work. Physically I could do it I’m sure, despite angina, arthritis in the hands, carpal tunnel, lower back pain, high blood pressure etc. etc. Lots of people work through similar or worse. But mentally I’m fucked. Between depression and social anxiety, plus the raft of pills I’m on to deal with it all, I have difficulty concentrating and even more difficulty coping with the idea of dealing on a day to day basis with other people. I think a part time job would be perfect to bring a little money in without the stress of a full-time position. But most part time jobs seem to be shop work which I just couldn’t do – too many people coming in and out, even thinking about it now makes me anxious. Or there are positions in care homes (both physically and mentally unsuitable for me) or that require certain qualifications. It’s understandable, no employer wants to spend time and money training up a part time worker when there are so many out there who can already do the job. I don’t qualify for the government’s new Personal Independence Payment as my brief assessment by an ATOS assessor found nothing wrong with me – after all I could walk, count backwards from 10 and was not about to throw myself under a truck. Physically and mentally I was fine. Tick the boxes and DWP crossed me off their list.
So, as you can see, times have been a bit hard. However, after much thought and various therapy sessions I have come to the, perhaps, surprising conclusion that they were right to make me redundant! Not from my point of view, but from theirs. I can now understand the good reasoning and the business decision behind making me redundant. After all, I was one person and they had a whole company of workers to consider. Here’s my reasoning.
First – financial. I was one of the highest paid employees in the company and times were getting very hard for the business. Costs were going up, income going down. The recession was hitting everyone hard. The prospect of redundancies had been announced and, in time, people started to go. I was one of them. It made sense. I was expensive and I had recently overseen the implementation of new systems that replaced those I had written many years before, plus I had helped train an assistant to the stage where he could do the required reports and basic programming behind those reports to customise them. In difficult financial times, it made no sense to keep someone as highly paid as me on, now that many of my roles had either diminished or disappeared altogether.
Second – my work. I can now see, in hindsight, how my mental health was worsening over the last 6 to 12 months of my working for the company. My depression was getting worse – there were more days when I just couldn’t face going in to work. Luckily I could do some of my work remotely from home, but it wasn’t the same for them as having their employee in the office. I was beginning to have great difficulty in concentrating on any task. The nature of my job at the time meant there was always a list of tasks on the whiteboard waiting to be done. But now I was struggling to get through that list and people who were waiting for things began, understandably, to ask questions. I believe there were people in management and on the board who resented the money I was being paid and the level of autonomy I had developed over the years for myself. I answered to one particular member of the board and he did his best to protect me from interference and undue pressure. However, I was beginning to fail at my job due to my mental problems. And my social anxiety had grown to the point where I declined various opportunities to attend courses, take part in company activities outside the office etc. I had never been overly sociable (not in my nature) but now it was getting much worse. To anyone looking from the outside, and not in a position to understand the battles and emotions I fought daily in my head, I had the knowledge and skills but I was no longer using them to the best of my ability, and I was not a team player. I was NOT a particularly good employee, especially when you took into consideration my salary.
The members of the board and others in the company knew about my long term struggle with depression – I never made it a secret and, even if I had tried, the scars on my arm from self harm when I was younger sort of gave the game away! But even I did not realise how much my mental health was failing, or how fast. How could anyone else, untrained in such things, possibly understand what was going on when I didn’t myself?
I had already received one official verbal warning for not doing my job (because of my depression, but I couldn’t explain that at the time) and it is quite possible that, had I not been made redundant, I could have eventually have got myself sacked. I really think there was a danger of it getting that bad if I had stayed working there and my mental condition had continued to deteriorate. At least with redundancy I got a payout which helped us through the first few months.
So I was expensive to the company and I was struggling to do my job at an acceptable level. At a time when money needed to be saved so the company survived and the majority were kept in employment, I was an obvious candidate for redundancy.
I no longer feel bitter or angry about it. I understand the decision and, even though it has crippled my family financially, I believe it was the right and only decision to be made. If the company had gone under, a lot more people than just me would have been placed in difficult, perhaps impossible, situations. Sacrifices had to be made to ensure survival. I was one of those sacrifices and it made sense. I am even ‘friends’ on Facebook with the person who had the unpleasant task of telling me I was being made redundant. I feel no animosity towards them or the company any more. In fact I still follow what’s going on, am connected on various social platforms with several people still working there and am very glad that they have not only survived but seem to be building things back up to where they once were. I wish them all the best.
I believe I am now on a suitably high dose of pills that my depression is a little more manageable and I am very lucky to have excellent doctors to help me at our local GP surgery. I go there every fortnight just to talk and deal with any immediate problems I may be facing. I always feel better afterwards. We are fortunate with the doctors we have. They care.
So, to conclude – as strange as it may seem I do now believe they were right to make me redundant when they did. They had little choice in the matter and their responsibilities were to the whole workforce, not just one person. I understand, I no longer feel bitter or angry. My illness was affecting my work anyway. I’m not sure how much longer I would have been able to do the job to anything even resembling an acceptable standard.
That’s all. I needed to write this down and I needed to at least feel there was a chance of somebody connected with the whole thing seeing it so they would know that I have no animosity towards them at all. Not any more. I couldn’t have handled the stress of that job in the state I am currently in anyway.
So I write books and I play and write music with my son and I love doing those things. They don’t bring in enough money to make a difference but at least I’m not sitting at home staring at the walls. And writing is something I’ve always done, always needed to do. I’m mentally active. If I could get physically active as well I would probably feel a lot better in general. I am morbidly obese, sedentary, frightened of groups of people, run away from social situations when possible and have times when everything seems hopeless, useless and worthless – particularly me. But I’m still here and I have a wonderful wife and equally wonderful children. I have a dad who supports me and without whose help we would not get through a month without missing bills or going hungry. And I have a small group of readers out there who say nice things about my writing and make me feel proud and almost have me believing I’m actually good at something. And there is one company (and one person in particular in that company) who still trusts me enough to send occasional freelance computer work my way. That bit of extra money and the chance to keep my ‘hand’ in with the programming is very much appreciated.
I’ve taken up enough of your time and I’ve said what I wanted to say. Thank you for reading, if you still are. And I’m sorry this post is not really about this blog (which is there for my writing and music thoughts), but it felt like the best medium for doing what I needed to do.
P.S. Cathy will hate this post and almost certainly think I shouldn’t have written it. I apologise unreservedly to her. She is the total, complete love of my life, but this had to be done.