A Note on Mental Health: Transcriber Lindsay’s Story
In our series discussing mental health, we hear from proofreader Lindsay and her own personal story.
I want to start by thanking Take Note for taking the time to address the issue of mental health, and for letting us talk about it like this. Not many companies do.
I first began experiencing mental health issues when I was 22. I’m now 36 and sadly I still experience a multitude of different things including severe anxiety, heat intolerance, insomnia, MDD (major depressive disorder) and acute social anxiety. I’m one of those people who spends over 90% of their time alone. Being around others, even just two or three people, is too much for me and to be honest, exhausting. You wouldn’t believe I used to be a social butterfly.
Work and mental health
Suffering from the above made it very hard to find work. How can you go to the city centre, especially one as busy as Manchester, to work? Hundreds of people walking past you, and sometimes attempting to walk through you. The hustle and bustle, the noise, even the smell… and nowhere to escape to. No safe haven. No sanctuary. It’s something I find impossible these days. Even if you manage to get to the office, the call centre, the shop, there are dozens of people around you. You can’t focus because all you concentrate on is your surroundings. The panic is overwhelming. You begin to sweat, feel light-headed, your body shakes, your stomach ties itself in some bizarre knots. Your mouth is so dry that you could drink a lake dry. You stutter when spoken to, even though you know what you want to say. Communication can become almost impossible. Maybe the person in front of you will understand, but in my own experience, most don’t. Of course, this only increases your already sky-high anxiety levels. Your own brain is trying to rationalise everything, “I’m fine. What is there to worry about? Everything will be okay, just calm yourself down,” but your body doesn’t follow. It’s like it has a mind entirely of its own.
This is how I felt every single day I was in work after suffering a nervous breakdown. I was fine one minute and gone the next. My life changed overnight. Those feelings I mentioned above only ever seemed to intensify until, in the end, I had to leave my job. Then came the depression. I had nothing but time on my hands. I began to overthink everything. At one point, due to the dizzy spells brought on by the breakdown, I had convinced myself I had a brain tumour. Thankfully, a CT scan ruled that out.
Years passed. I sold Avon to family and neighbours to try and bring some money in. Debts mounted, friends became increasingly frustrated with me, and in the end, I lost them all. I’m sad to say that not a single one of those “friends” ever tried to help or understand me. I was at the lowest point a person can get to, even contemplating suicide. I was at the bottom of a hole so deep that light became an illusion. I spent close to ten years like that. I so desperately wanted to get my life back, but my body and brain wouldn’t let me.
When my niece was born eight years ago, I started fighting more. It was a hard battle, but after a few years, I was able to get out of the house again for a small amount of time. I ended a very abusive relationship and tried to find work. Again, I was unable to get into the city centre or even smaller town centres. I couldn’t travel alone and the sheer thought of having people around me on a daily basis filled me with dread. After months of searching, I found Take Note. I’d been a touch typist for years. I had a good understanding of English Literature due to writing, at the time, four novels. I figured it was worth giving it a try. In March 2016 I passed the tests and within a few days, I was contacted by Cat and offered a job as a transcriber. Within three months I became a proofreader… and I’ve never looked back. They never judged me. My problems were never an issue. They sent me the work and I happily completed it. I finally began to get my independence back. My confidence started to grow and the stress of debts eased. I could feel the depression starting to lift and I had some form of control back over my life. Instead of spending my day overthinking, I spent it concentrating on work.
Many times I’ve been asked how I can work from home, motivate myself and cope with being alone while working all day. I understand that some people may struggle with that, and I’ll be completely honest, due to having sleep issues, I sometimes dread going on earlier shifts. I have to drag myself out of bed, but it’s completely worth it. For the most part, though, I find it easy to be motivated. I’m in my comfort zone, my safe haven. Yes, I work alone in my bedroom, at my desk, with nobody around me… but I’m not alone. I’m part of a large team who all work together harmoniously. If I need help with anything, I don’t have to walk through waves of people to find a manager only to stutter my words when I stand in from of them. I send an email and someone at the office is always happy to help me out and give me advice. So, in reality, I’m not alone. Never. The other perks are that I can eat cake and drink tea to my heart’s content, and there is nobody glaring over their desk at me.
For people who suffer from the things I suffer with on a daily basis, and fight the internal battle I fight, there is no better job in this world. To feel safe, comfortable, as part of a team, yet never have to be in those surroundings which cause your blood to run cold through your veins, is just remarkable. The war inside my own head may not be over yet, but several battles have been won since I started working from home with Take Note. My independence has grown so much, and thanks to this job, I was finally able to do the one thing I’d waited seventeen years for. In November 2017 I passed my driving test and got my first car: a nice little Corsa which my niece has named Connie. I can get out of the house! Yes, most of the time I’m on my own, but just having that bit of freedom after being a prisoner for so long is simply amazing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll forever say it. My love for Take Note runs very deep. They don’t judge you because you’re not “perfect”. You can gain some independence and build your confidence. You don’t feel useless anymore. The work is interesting and sometimes, depending on the topic, rather exciting. Who doesn’t love listening to a heated disciplinary or argument? No two files are ever the same. You learn new things every day. More important than this though, for me anyway, Take Note gave me a chance to get my life back when nobody else would. They will have my everlasting gratitude, love and loyalty, and I hope to be part of this team for many, many years to come. I hope you will feel that way too, and that this will help you to start the healing processes that so many of us have to go through with so little understanding at times. It definitely worked for me.
Thank you, Lindsay, for taking the time to share your experience with us. If anyone else would like to share something with us, to open the conversation around mental health and bring more light to the difficulties many people face when living with mental health issues, please get in touch over email.