After leaving university with third class honours in chemistry, I toured Southern Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco for four weeks. A cannabis smoking friend from home travelled with me. The destination was great, and it wasn't my friend's fault that the holiday didn't really work. In a sense it wasn't my fault either. l was chronically depressed before setting off, and I made bad company. The failure of the holiday could only have lowered my confidence and mood further. So before starting a paid job, surprisingly, I still had some hope that things would work out!!
Social pressures meant I had to work. Soon after the holiday I became a programmer in the pharmacy department of a local university. I wrote Computer Aided Learning (CAL) software for undergraduates. Mostly I was alone in a small computer room featuring constant buzzing and no natural light. The position was technical alone, and I soon became dissatisfied.
During this employment I made one of the best decisions of my life. At the age of 21 I started learning to read music and play the piano. In my fifties the piano is still a daily source of joy in my life. My mother insists it saved my life. She was right, because nothing else at that time in my life, was worth living for. Music gave me some order, and I was in control. It was the "career" or vocation that I'd perhaps never find elsewhere. I was quickly hooked. It was "The light though the dark."
No-one ever suggested to me what I might expect from life. At eighteen I received a letter from my father which said, "good luck." Both him and my mother had long careers which they loved. Perhaps they assumed I would also be lucky like that, but for me work was always drudgery. And my wages never counterbalanced the feeling of toil.
I soon hated my job. It didn't help that my line manager seemed to be very unprofessional and disinterested. I started drinking at lunchtime and night. A gay man began regularly joining me in the pub behind the work's library. I had no friends, and I was vulnerable. He began trying to groom me.
I was getting increasingly anxious most of the time, including thinking that my line manager was psychologically bullying me. "I think non-bizarre paranoia is when you're convinced that other people are knowingly and maliciously controlling your anxiety levels."
Such work situation are difficult. Allegations are easily denied, and psychological malice is hard to prove. Things could even backfire in a judgement of medical unfitness for work. Damage at the beginning of any notion of a career might be serious, and with psychiatric issues often appearing early on in people's twenties, such illnesses can destroy work aspirations.Admittion of psychological turmoil requries massive levels of trust, because it could lead to greater anxiety. You might be loading the guns that are shooting you.
Trust, and whether the world seems safe or dangerous, is paramount. I didn't speak about how I was feeling. Instead, I visited a recruitment consultancy. I had one interview and was offered a job as a 'C' programmer.
After my month's notice I was out of the room I called the "cell." My line manager was out of my life. After being touched on the groin by my gay drinking friend, I ended that too. I still thought things would work out. I didn't yet understand, that I was my own problem.
Due to my level of illness, I never completely understood what happened in this second job. Clearly I sat behind a computer for 18 months. Some people left, and some came. It was a company, i.e. commercial. There were technical staff like me,sales, support and managers, etc. I was very anxious to begin with. After a few weeks the person to my left asked me if I was happy. I was wretched, but couldn't trust a new colleague with that information.
In a large open plan office,with people programming computers, and with almost no conversation, and the realisation that everyone was intelligent, I became quite delusional. I thought there were conspiracies against me. I thought people were referring to me in the third person in derogatory ways, for example, by suggesting that I had messed up my career, or that aspects of my personality were wrong.
Third person references started to happen outside of work. Even my own father seemed to say -
"he's a rogue and a vagabond."
Later in life a nurse seemed to say "magic mushrooms" as he walked past my hospital bed. It was loud and clear, but like many such hallucinations, very unlikely to have been said.
An eventual CPNs told me it was common in schizophrenia.
I resigned after 18 months in that second job. My first psychiatrist, could barely believe I even lasted that long. I was very poorly when I saw her for the first time. I was utterly broken. I left work with no plan, and I was certainly void of mental nsight. I scared my GP when my mum took me to see him. He said "milkman," and then assuned a look of terror, due to the perceive threat my facial expression posed, as I asked my mum why he said "milkman."
As mentioned above, I was sent to a psychiatrist. She suggested that my dad should ring my old company to ask, "did you not know he was ill?" Dad told them I'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and wondered what they thought. They claimed complete ignorance.
Constructive dismissal cases are tricky, but nevertheless, my ex-employer might have considered that my resignation leading to unemployment, was a first step to such proceedings. That would have explained their unhelpfulness.
I was guilty of these things -
"I made decisions when I was in a bad state. I thought the grass would be greener. I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. I ignored that the devil you know is (often) better."