#Personal Stories

Why Do We Prioritise Work Over Mental Health?

Postpartum Depression In New Moms
I have been suffering from depression, Obsessive-compulsive disorder and Post-traumatic stress disorder for more than two years now. When I was diagnosed, I couldn’t believe it and so I reached out to many doctors to confirm. But things happened against my expectations. In fact, I was told that I have been suffering from this illness years before I realised and it has only intensified. At first, I thought it is just another illness and will go away with a few days of medicines. But I was wrong again. It took years for me to understand how my mind is functioning. My work, daily life activities, and private and social life everything got affected. I was just like a helpless woman sitting amidst the ruins of a building that was once strong.

*Trigger Warning: This article contains thoughts about self-harm. Discretion advised. 

The biggest worry during my battle with depression was not the pace of my recovery but my inability to do my work. I was more affected by not being able to write good articles or write at all than my regular anxieties and suicidal urges. I was stuck in a vicious cycle. On one hand, I was already anxious because of my illness, on the other hand, the symptoms worsened because of my constant self-sabotaging and pushing myself to work. Although my boss and colleagues were very supportive and constantly gave me advice and breaks from work, I couldn’t digest the fact that after going so far into adulthood I am not able to earn. I felt the anxiety due to my “unemployed” status, and being a woman, that anxiety increased as I predicted a toxic and dependent marriage in the offing.

But now, I am beginning to realise that valuing oneself is more important than valuing work. My therapist taught me a very important life lesson about personal and professional life. She said that I and my work are not different people. If I am healthy and good, my work will be fine too. But if I am not there, so will my work. This lesson made me unlearn the idea that professional life is separate from personal life. That no matter what happens in personal life, one should exert themselves and give one hundred percent in professional life.

Prioritise mental health: It’s never too late

Venturing into adulthood, we all want to be financially independent as soon as possible. We all run with full effort in the rat race of earning more than the others. We want to prove to others that we are responsible and self-sufficient. That we can take care of ourselves without financial help from parents. But in the rat race, we forget our well-being. We forget that bank balance will not fill the emptiness inside our hearts. We forget that success will not help us when we are mentally exhausted. In trying to achieve our goal, we leave ourselves behind. It is just the goal that remains in our hands; not our identity, emotional stability and happiness.

Suggested Reading: When Will We Stop Celebrating Women’s Sacrifices?

But who is to be blamed here? Why are adults so obsessed with earning money? Why do they forget that self-care is an important part of independence?

The blame is partly on the adults themselves and the social pressure to be successful in less time. While society commits the mistake of defining success through bank balance, adults go wrong when they internalise this perception of success. Society never teaches us about self-care. It believes that well-being is all about having enough money to go on tours and to parties. It is rarely about giving time to oneself to recuperate from the pressures of life with and value mental health more than anything else.

Even the toxic work culture at some workplaces is to be the blamed. Many workplaces do not consider the mental health of their employees. Output and performance are bigger priorities than employee happiness and work satisfaction.

It is high time that we rework our understanding of mental health issues and stop seeing them as a sign of weakness. It is a warning from the body that the person is overworked, and needs some rest, support and love. And dear society, success is not about bank balance and glamorous life. Success is about good mental and physical health, satisfaction with life and happiness. And lastly dear adults, you have the entire life ahead of you to succeed and follow your dreams. If your body demands rest now, please listen to it. It is only when your mind and body are fit that you can truly cherish your accomplishments.

Views expressed are the author’s own.