I’ve got a history of mental health problems. There I said it. Shocked? It seems to be a topic that is slowly coming more into the open in recent years. However its one that can instil fear into many if brought up and an awkward attempt to change subject. Whether it’s taboo or not, the problem exists. Many people live with mental health problems everyday, I was just one of them. Now I’ve quit the 9 to 5 existence and about to travel the world, living the van life.
My Story and why I quit work
At the age of 35 I’ve worked in the financial services sector for almost fifteen years. That’s a long time for a job I never intended on doing long term. In fact people serve shorter prison sentences for quite serious crimes. Having covered everything from investment banking, to finance and even digital marketing. Its fair to say I have been around the block in a career that’s taken me around four different cities. Life has a habit of speeding by if you aren’t paying close attention.
Feelings don’t happen out of nowhere
At different times of my life I’ve faced periods of anxiety and depression. I couldn’t always identify them at the time but looking back it happened as soon as early childhood. I won’t sit here and tell you I had a horrible upbringing, I had good parents. Sure they got divorced into my late teens but those things happen. It was my inability to recognise my own issues and reach out for help that saw mental health challenges continue into adulthood.
For months on end I’d live with daily battles to get out of the house and simply go to work. Crippling anxiety saw me avoid certain situations and depression told me there wasn’t a solution. Or perhaps if I was even worth fixing. Getting off buses and returning home, fleeing restaurants and doing everything to get out of meetings. I’ve lived through a lot of behaviour you may consider strange. In the most recent period it was clear I was ill and needed support.
Finding help and support
I’m not an expert in sorting peoples life out but I can tell what worked for me. It was a combination of things. The right medical advice from my doctor, attending talking therapy and a local support group. Even focusing on something like exercise has helped me improve dramatically.
In my opinion though the desire to get better has to come from within. The smartest people can give you all kinds of advice and medication but if you don’t want to listen or make an effort, there won’t be a turn around. There is no magic wand.
Life is just a ride. I quit my job
One of my favourite comedians, Bill Hicks, said, ‘Life is just a ride’. It can however feel like a ride you want to get off. During a failed long term relationship I began to use the period to reevaluate where my life was headed.
My conclusion was, life is a short ride and you better make the most to have fun. By fun I don’t mean getting wasted every night, I mean do something that makes you happy and you find fulfilling. Don’t wake up in ten, twenty or thirty years time and regret not changing what made you miserable. I saw too many of those people on the train every day in the city.
Getting worse before getting better
I started taking anti depressants. Stertraline to be exact. I’m not a recreational drug addict but wow starting that was horrendous. I can sympathise with anyone ever addicted to heroin. My anxiety symptoms were through the roof and it took weeks before I saw any positive effect.
I was determined to see it through this time and give it my best shot. Appointments with a councillor followed and gave me for probably the first time to talk through anything without fear of judgement or politics.
A truly neutral person to have a discussion with. Without a doubt I would recommend anyone suffering from mental health problems to try this. If you can’t afford or find a therapist a local support group would also be a good choice. I did both. Attending regularly was the key to success and together with the medication helped me get back on track.
Forming a plan and setting goals
Almost a year passed, month after month I picked apart every part of my life in detail. I formed a plan of action around how I wanted to tackle my self improvement. I made goals and milestones of targets I wanted to hit and what I wanted to achieve.
I started to get my life back under my own control, quite possibly for the first time. In doing so I began to look at situations differently, relationships, friends, work, even interactions with strangers. Notice I’ve used ‘I’ frequently there.
Living only to please others
For too long I had been caught up solely with trying to please other people. Even at the expense of my own mental health. If a report needed finishing at work I’d get it done even if it meant working till midnight. No one asked me to, it was just in my personality to ‘succeed’ and people take advantage of that. I should have quit a long time ago.
The same circumstances were replicated in a lot of my relationships, entirely of my own doing. Recognising this truth was one of steps to improvement. Life became more about me. My goals, my ambitions, what brought me joy. Not in a completely selfish way but it should be a big overarching factor. If you aren’t having fun, being fulfilled, why be there?
Quitting work and hitting the open road
We arrive at a point almost two years from when it started. I write this in a good state of mental wellbeing, free from medication and happier than ever. It will be a full time mission to keep myself on course and use the strong foundation I have built out. With the support of those around me I feel I can continue forward.
Over the last year I’ve been planning on taking time off to quit 9 – 5 work. I want a period to reevaluate my future direction and what the next chapter might be. Secondly I feel a desire to experience new things and see more of the world after fifteen years trapped in an office.
Combining both of these together I ended up fulfilling a dream of buying and converting a VW camper van. Soon I will give up my day job to climb mountains, live new experiences and explore new places. I can’t wait.
Join the ‘I quit work’ experience
Sounds like an amazing time to be alive right? Living my best life as social media would say. Quit work and live life. Want to make a similar decision but scared or don’t know where to start? Here’s a few things to consider that might help;
- Take a career break or quit– Don’t simply quit work. More companies are offering these now and it gives you the chance to take time off unpaid but a job to come back to.
- Make the most of weekends – Holidays don’t need to be just once a year. Go on an adventures every weekend you can. Buying a camper van was the best thing I ever did.
- Rethink your priorities – Is saving for that big house really your goal? It won’t matter if you’re miserable and in a bad relationship.
- Become a financial whizz – No don’t become an accountant but do get closer to your spending. People make excuses about not being able to save money but pay out more than they need.
- Set yourself targets and goals – They can be as detailed as you like but have something to work towards. It will make your dreams seem achievable.