So I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately. Mainly due to the fact that I was focusing on both setting up a new business while finishing out a full-time job.
This on top of doing some voluntary roles, oh and trying to look after myself too, meant things have been a little hectic to say the least!
The exciting news is that I have now finished my full-time job. Over the past year I have gone from:
- having a full-time job in a University to
- having a full-time job in a University with a lot more stuff on top outside of that in the mental health field to
- not having any full-time job, but now having a mental health career instead.
In my workplace I said to people ‘I have been doing a lot in mental health over the past few years, and I feel it’s time to make that break and focus purely on my mental health roles.
What I didn’t (usually) disclose is that I have established my mental health roles only within the past year, and that before a year ago what I had actually just being doing in the mental health area was living with a mental illness. I wasn’t giving mental health training. I wasn’t blogging. I wasn’t running a support group. I wasn’t doing any of that stuff. I was just being mentally unwell.
But I do say ‘I have been doing a lot in mental health over the past few years…’ because before the past year what I had been doing in mental health i.e. living with a mental illness and learning from it, is the best preparation that anyone can get for a mental health career.
So how do I feel now I have made the break?
I feel very excited. A part of me thinks ‘well, if I have established a mental health career in less than a year, who knows what else is to come? This time least year I had not even heard of the Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid course. Since then I’ve done the course, trained as an instructor and set up a business running courses around Scotland. And who knows what else I’ve yet to hear about and will be doing with time… That is exciting – knowing that I have so much to give and that I am going to use what I am good at to make a difference to others – and it feels amazing.
I also feel scared. As the title of this blog post says ‘It’s a risky business‘. I finished my University degree in May 2006, and literally every single month since then I have had a guaranteed income each month. And it was a quite decent income at that. I no longer have that security and that is a massive risk to take. There is absolutely no guarantee that I will get work. There is no guarantee that people will sign up for my training courses. And I also have two casual roles with a mental health charity – but there is no real guarantee that I will get much work from them either.
I will earn money, of course I will. But at least for now I am taking quite a salary drop. I will need to live on a lot less.
But it is not just about money. When I was most unwell the weekends were awful for me. I really struggled with the weekends. Why? Mostly because I didn’t have work to go to. During the week I was able to go to work, to focus on work and to switch off from all the shite that was going on in my head. Work also made sure I was interacting with people – and of course that is a huge part of keeping me well.
I didn’t take much time off work, even though I was very unwell. The main reason that I didn’t take much time off work is because I felt that people were depending on me.
Now I am left with the question of ‘how will I cope without the structure of work? How will I cope with less interactions? When I don’t feel that anyone is depending on me, am I going to be able to make myself get up and out of bed each morning?’ and many other questions that ultimately boil down to:
What impact is this new career move going to have on my mental health?
That is perhaps the biggest risk of all.
Oh, I know deep down that I will probably be fine. Actually, scrap that I know that I will be fine. I know that I have the passion and enthusiasm to make this work. I know that I have the business sense to make it work. I know that I will achieve great things.
But the risks are still there. All of it – financial risks, personal risks, all sorts of risk.
But I could have chosen to not made this move because of those risks. I could have stayed with the familiar, too scared to make the move.
I could have decided that the financial risk was too risky. I could have decided that the salary drop was too high.
I could have let my fears take over.
But what I ultimately realise is that:
The risks of not making this change are greater than the risks of not making it.
The full-time job that I gave up? It had a decent salary attached to it, but I hadn’t been happy in it for a long time. So what about the risk that if I didn’t make this move now, when I feel the time is right for it, that I would end up spending several years in a job that I was not happy in? I see that risk as much greater than the risks that I am taking my making this move.
So I am taking a risk that this new move – in particular the instability, the lack of structure, the lack of routine, the lack of interaction with others on a daily basis – will have a negative impact on my mental health. But realistically – I see the risk that I would have taken by staying in my full-time job as much more likely – the risk that possibly staying for several years in a job where I wasn’t happy, would have a much more negative impact on my mental health.
And there is a risk for others… For a long while now I have been doing a full-time job, and working non stop outside of that in the mental health area. I know that I couldn’t continue working at that momentum. Something would have to give. And if I stayed in my full-time job it would have to be that that would have to stay – because it’s the one that pays the bills, after all. With time, I would see myself needing to give up the mental health stuff – including some voluntary roles which really help others. And that would be wrong. I have too much to give to others to give all that up. That is a massive risk I would be taking by staying in my full-time job.
The financial risk? I know that I will make money in my new business. I am also pretty certain that, at least in the short-term, I will earn much less than I had been earning in that full-time job. But can I live on this lower salary? Given that I moved to a place late last year which costs much less to live in, then yes I do believe I can earn enough self-employed on which to live. So as long as I am earning enough to live on, does it really, really matter that I am taking a salary drop?
After all, that extra money that I was earning above what I will now be earning – did it make me happy? Would it make me happier than my new career will? In my new career I am taking control and doing what I want to do with my life – I am certain that will make me much happier than that money could have ever made me.
And if I don’t follow my heart? What I would likely end up with is looking back and regretting not having done it. I truly believe that it is better to regret having done something than to regret not having done it. I believe that life is for living and no way do I want to look back and think ‘I should have done that. I should have followed my heart but I was too scared to do so’.
So yes I am taking a leap – setting up my own business, and leaving a steady, secure full-time job behind. And yes that is a very risky business. But for me it’s a matter of weighing up the risks – not just focusing on the risks I am taking my making this move, but also looking at the risks I would be taking by staying. And I see the risks I would be taking by staying as much greater.
And you know what really clinches it for me?
The fact that even though technically I have never faced a bigger period of instability – I have never felt more in control!
In my eyes, that really says a lot…