By Lisa Gilliam, September 12, 2017
Job stress led me to a point in my life where I had to make some tough decisions about my future and mental health. A few years ago, I was employed as a crisis counselor. While I truly enjoyed this work, I was burnt out from working double shifts, overnight shifts, and quick turn-around shifts. There were plenty of times when I did not get home until 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM, but still had to be back at work by 8:00 AM. I had the most difficult time trying to sleep and when I did go to sleep I was restless. To add insult to injury, I was not getting along with some of my coworkers.
I have diabetes and my blood sugar levels were, at times, dangerously high. I would wake up tired and fall asleep the same way. I did speak to my primary physician, but spent more time trying to get my blood sugar under control than I did focusing on why I was not able to sleep or the unusual feelings I had.
My health, job, and financial woes were just the tip of the iceberg. I would often speak to my boyfriend at the time about the situations taking place and he would listen, but I think I put too much on him as well and that later caused some regret. My relationship ended and I was heartbroken. However, he remained supportive as I looked for new employment opportunities.
I started applying and interviewing for other jobs in and out of state. I was hired in a program coordinator position, but quickly realized that the position I had been given was not what I thought it would be. I found myself crying all the time, snapping at my co-workers and I did not feel supported at all! Six weeks after I started work I was informed that I was not a good fit for the position and that they were letting me go. They gave me a few weeks to look for another job, so during that time I had a lot of time to think.
Here I was Master’s degree educated and possibly struggling financially again. I was happy to have a job and a paycheck with time to look for employment, but I no longer felt like I belonged or was useful there. I was often given miscellaneous tasks to complete. On top of all of that, we would hear random gunshots in the neighborhood several times a week.
It was about 11am on a nice October day when I heard the sound of gunshots. They were like a wake-up call. I did not feel safe and I was anxious. Even as a trained counselor, it did not dawn on me that what I was experiencing was difficulty adjusting to what was happening in my life which led to depression. What I did know is that I needed help and I called a counselor and asked if she could see me that day and she did! It was good to get things off of my chest. I eventually switched to another therapist with whom I connected better. Therapy really helped in my healing process.
Through it all, my faith in God is what keeps me going. When I can, I exercise, but daily I pray and read the Bible for encouragement and peace, especially after my job finally ended.
My experiences led me to be a mental health advocate helping others who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD or other trauma related mental illnesses. I co-facilitate a support group that helps to educate others, and continue to co-sponsor an annual suicide prevention event at my church. I was able to get a part time job as a counselor with a former employer and things started working out. There is still struggle, but God continues to provide and my family has been extremely supportive during this time. They listen and pray for me and that means a lot to me. The love of my family and my faith in God are what I use to make it through times of depression.
I may not be completely out of the woods yet, but I am no longer lost.
Lisa Gilliam is a speaker, mental health advocate, vocalist, writer and poet. Find Lisa on Twitter (#CelebrateLifeToday), Facebook, Instagram and Periscope @1singinglady or Youtube @OneSingingLady.
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