“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back again.” – Nelson Mandela
I don’t believe I am a success at what I do – in my career, my studies, my personal life – I believe I am a determined, committed, passionate individual whose life has been built from hardship, and severe depression. These have made me who I am – a single Mum of many years, a full time employee, a university graduate – these have been my achievements, my life. While these are the fundamental basis of who I am and what I am, they have not been what people have chosen to judge me by.
Judgement in our society is so often negative, often based on ill founded information, perception and gossip. We are not judged on the facts nor judged from talking to each other to learn about someone, we are judged by what we only want to know because in most cases judgement becomes what shapes the image of who people think we are. Often incorrect, often fuelled by inappropriate behaviour, and with the aim of destroying someone who doesn’t fit into their clicky little group.
I was that person. I worked in workplaces where judgement cruelly changed who I was seen to be. Where I wasn’t measured by my performance or abilities but fuelled by incorrect perceptions because severe depression didn’t belong in the workplace. It was in these environments that it didn’t matter what I achieved, what was important was the judgements made about me because I took sick leave, ended up in hospital from a suicide attempt and where my subdued mood, tears, self-harm, and constant depression became the tools to drive me out of the organisation, a toxic anti-mental illness environment that didn’t want me to be a part of.
People in these workplaces didn’t see my pain, they didn’t see how much depression was affecting me, and they didn’t see the signs when depression took me. Instead they saw the preconceived judgement made about me, and despite apparently being a workplace that supported health and well being they were in fact environments breeding discrimination, bullying, and issues that drive away the ill, and contribute to their suffering. These people knew of my ups and downs, you couldn’t miss it when I was on sick leave for long periods of time, they knew I had fallen down, slowly breaking but it wasn’t about my ability to find the strength I needed to get back up it was always about their need to succeed in getting me to resign, leave despite my work ethic, performance, and my commitment to create change, all because they were so determined to judge me!
Too often people with mental illness are judged based on their inability to learn the truth, know the facts, and understand an illness. It’s too easy to see the negative, to change a perception, than to see someone and a circumstance, an illness for what it really is.