Sometimes a Step Back Is the Only Way Forward

Silhouette of woman walking by the pier overlooking the cityscape at night

The word ‘backward’ is often associated with negativity. When managing a mental health illness, we need to reduce as much negativity from our lives as possible: negative people, negative vibes and negative habits. Yet, to be positive, sometimes it is worthwhile stopping for a moment and considering taking a step back as the being the only way forward.

Let’s look at how a step back can be the only way forward we can take.

Only Way Forward From Taking a Step Back

For all of my adult life, I have worked full-time hours. In the restaurant trade, financial services, housing sector and administration of a public service. In the restaurant industry, I often worked 80 hours a week. I was salaried, so that meant I was earning little for my endeavours. I left the industry due to the realisation that I was feeling tired and becoming ill. When I finally left I weighed a mere 8 stone. For a person six feet tall, that is not good. I felt that it was time to make a move in career: no management and no long hours. I got another job but I did not stop and think. It could be said that I moved forward, but what if I had taken a step back?

Heading for a Breakdown

When I moved to the financial services, I was adamant that I no longer wanted managerial responsibilities. After three months, I was back in a managerial role. And my depression was becoming worse. My drinking was becoming more regular. Self-medication and stress were driving me forward in one sense but also repelling me backward mentally. In 2011, I, along with hundreds of others, was made redundant. This was my chance to take a break. A proper break. It took me eight months to find a job. That was soul destroying.

The job I finally took was cleaning a pub. It was 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. It meant early starts, but it meant I had the rest of the day to do with what I pleased. Even now I look back and for a horrible job, it gave me a more relaxed outlook on life. But the salary was never going to be enough to be able to live comfortably in the long term. Of course, living comfortably is a matter of opinion. I had not been diagnosed with bipolar at this stage, but I was heading for a breakdown.

Step Back to Become Part Time

With the help of my partner, I took a step back. Once bipolar was diagnosed, medication prescribed, it was apparent that working part-time was too much for me. Every day, I would be shattered. Every day, I would be emotional, anxious, fearful.

I managed to get a part-time job, 25 hours per week within the housing sector. This worked for me, and I was relaxed. But then the opportunity to step up and do full-time hours came along. I took them. Within three weeks, I was off work ill. I couldn’t focus; I was tired. A vicious cycle was taking its effect.

Backward Is Not Always Negative – Take That Step Back

If I had taken a step back earlier, I may have seen that my way forward was right in front of me. Part-time hours worked for me. It was not about being lazy or not wanting to work full time. It was about being able to see what helped to make me feel well.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But it also means that what happened can only ever be learned from. Taking that step back may just be the best thing you do today. It may also prove to be your positive and only way forward.

For more articles on mental health and wellness, check out LWOS Life: Health and Fitness.

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