Yes, work can make you sick. I know.

Reading this post on Mumbrella today about a young lady whose health is suffering due to the long hours she’s putting in at work made me think of my own story. I bet most people have one.

In 2009 I had lost more than 10 kilos (I was already slim) and was admitted to hospital after collapsing on the road and almost being hit by a taxi.

It only took six months for me to reach that state. It felt like my health was taking a downturn along with the economy when I was in the UK in 2008. I was at ‘the bank’.

I’d leave the office at 5pm but I started work at home straight after dinner. Soon I just didn’t bother eating. I walked in the door, switched on the laptop and before I knew it, I had drunk a bottle of wine and it was midnight.

I didn’t sleep much. When I did it was very light and easily disturbed by noises or just my thoughts.

Then there was my ‘relationship’. That’s in commas for a reason and it’s a story for another time but it was the third variable in my downfall.

I went to the UK with a lot of experience in my role for someone my age. At 26 I had been a journalist, a magazine editor and a media advisor for a State government Minister. I did think highly of myself, I admit that and I felt confident in my job at ‘the bank’. But then the global financial crisis happened and everything fell apart. It wasn’t something any of us had experienced before, not even senior management or the Chief Executive Officer of our division.

I was thrown into a role I was not prepared for and could only go on gut instinct really. I had to protect the reputation of a bank that had been greedy and was lying to the public. Then I also had to hide the truth from friends and colleagues in my own team. I knew who was being made redundant, I knew when and I also knew there was no money for redundancies at that point.

I am a moral person so living with this knowledge was extremely difficult. I think I lost what was left of my mind when I had to sit in a tiny room and write scripts for managers to read to staff they were making redundant.

Over those months I was constantly physically ill; fatigued, low in iron, dizzy, breathless, getting colds and viruses.

I lost so much weight I couldn’t sit on hard chairs for long because my tail bone hurt. I was always cold. My size 12 trousers fell of when I put them on.

Then there were the mental effects: I cried every morning before work. I cried when I got home. I talked to myself in the street and people consequently crossed over to avoid me.

I lay in bed at night with loneliness eating at me. I didn’t want to wake up. I just wanted to sleep, forever.

On Christmas Eve 2008 the director of our team said I could be on call because I didn’t have anyone to spend Christmas with,’ being single and from Australia you are the best option’ I think her words were.

Well, I wasn’t single but they didn’t know that. She was right though and that’s what cut deep, I didn’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. I had bought a big stuffed reindeer to cuddle at night so I didn’t feel as alone. I just felt worse.

I can’t tell you now what I actually worked on over those months. I was doing three fulltime jobs though: media relations, magazine editor and internal communications and change consultant.

For those in the industry you’ll understand what that work load means.

In January 2009 I collapsed in the street, right on the corner of a fairly busy road. I hit my head on the cobblestones and the last thing I remembered was seeing a lot of feet running toward me and the screech of brakes.

The nurse told me that they were concerned about something I said upon waking at the hospital. I asked if I were alive and apparently I was quite disappointed when they said yes.

I don’t remember that but I don’t dispute it either. There is an extremely high probability I was disappointed.  I collapsed due to dehydration, lack of food and anxiety and a taxi nearly hit me as I fell to the ground.

It wasn’t the wake-up call a lot of people might take that as. It took me a little while longer to admit work was taking its toll on me. It took even longer to repair my self-esteem enough to realise that I was worth more than this.

Now, nearly five years later I can say no job will ever take over my life like that again. It’s easier now that I have family around me and a loving partner who not only notices when I start going down ‘that route’ but also kindly of course, remind me that I am worth more than that, especially to him and my family. It’s hard when you are on your own, in another country or just withdrawing from the world around you because you are under pressure. Try and remember though, someone will miss you if you aren’t here. You are special enough to have a good work/life balance.

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