Ziggy is a Certified Peer Specialist in PA and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Let’s Act committee, a group of peers devoted to raising awareness about mental health care. In his downtime, he enjoys reading novels and watching nature documentaries.View all posts
I’m not really the type to give myself a pat on the back. I’m always trying and pushing forward because I sometimes think my only value is what I can contribute. That isn’t a great mindset to have because it puts an undue mental and physical strain on a person. Being able to take a break and rest properly is just as important, and I’ve been learning that as I’ve gone through life.
My first job was a retail job. It was stressful because I wasn’t only a cashier but someone who set up planograms for the store, listened to manager requests via a walkie-talkie and of course guest service with customers. Keep in mind, that I wasn’t diagnosed with autism then or even depression or anxiety. But what bothered me the most was the lighting in the store. High power fluorescent bulbs flooded the store with bright luminescence, that disoriented me, gave me a headache and sometimes I would lose track of time. All of those things added up and I thought, well, this is normal you’re supposed to be tired and exhausted from your job.
Things reached a tipping point when a relative of mine noticed that I appeared to be tired and very thin, I explained how I was feeling and they told me that it wasn’t normal to feel that way all the time. Working is something most people have to do, but feeling horrible before you even get in the car to drive to work isn’t. So, after making arrangements with my job, I took a leave of absence to get things sorted out. And I’m grateful for the fact that I was able to take that leave because I learned about my mental health and limits and skills to help me deal with a variety of situations.
Moving forward from that experience, I was more cognizant of my limits. With other jobs, I would arrange for my days off to be in the middle of the week, and I would sometimes have weeks where I only worked 25 hours or less. I just couldn’t do 40+ hours back to back without feeling mentally fatigued. The lingering feeling that I should do more was still there but I just remembered the great toll it took on me in the past and said: You gotta take a break. Breathe. Relax.
Currently, I’m juggling a wide variety of things. I have the time to volunteer and I’m even able to help family members who are dealing with similar stressors that I’ve dealt with. And I tell them, you’re doing that best you can, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you need to take a mental health day or even asking for accommodations. Work is not something that should ruin you, and your health, mental or physical is important to take care of.