Ill with stress

We hear lots about stress in the workplace. When you’re effectively ‘trapped’ in a job and can’t escape the cause of the stress, it’s a terrible thing. But recently I’ve discovered that stress can creep up on you slowly and unexpectedly.

As far as work is concerned, I’ve been lucky. In February it will be 20 years since I went full-time self-employed. Originally on the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme.

If you’re self-employed, sooner or later you learn to get organised, manage your time, be reliable and deliver. Or you go out of business. It’s as simple as that…

For most of the last two decades, I’ve been able to manage my work effectively and, to a large extent, avoid stress. There have been a couple of exceptions, such as in 1990, when a magazine went out of business owing me a lot of money.

Occasionally there have been the inevitable stressful family-related times: my mum died from cancer in 2004.

But the strange and really rather sad thing is that some of my worst experiences over the past 30 years (since I was a teenager) have been when I’ve given up my time and done things for free. You might think that people would show more respect and thanks when they aren’t paying you. But no, the opposite seems to be true. They don’t value or respect you, your skills or your time. They take you for granted and treat you as something cheap and disposable.

In September I started to feel ill with very real physical symptoms. This continued for about six weeks, during which time I couldn’t do much. At one point it seemed that it could be food poisoning. But, in the end, the verdict from two different doctors was that it was all stress-related.

The cause? Not paid work at all nor my life in general. Over the summer I made the mistake of volunteering to help a group of people, some of whom were very disorganised, unreliable and didn’t know what they wanted. Worst of all, apparently they didn’t care about the effect they were having on others. Their own participation was the top priority.

Slowly, and in quite a sinister way, it built up. One small thing after another… Foolishly, while others gave up, I stayed around longer than I should have and in the end I paid the price. Not only several weeks of ill health, but also financially as I was pretty much unable to do any work for six weeks in September and October.

It seems there is a serious problem amongst LGBT ‘activists’ in Manchester. People repeatedly put themselves forward to ‘organise’, fail to deliver and no one says anything. Though they’re apt to casually dismiss and gloss over their failure, there is a price to pay in terms of damage to the credibility and success of future events, not to mention the human cost.

Needless to say, it’s ironic and just plain laughable to claim to be helping people and making a difference while, at the same time, seriously hurting others through your actions.

The worst part is that this was evident a year previously. And while some people ran a mile from getting involved again in 2008, I chose to ignore the warning signs and so left myself open to being screwed over in a much more serious way this summer.

So that is why there have been few posts recently. Being so ill has been something unusual for me and a shock. But also a lesson and a wake up call. Now I’m fine and have bounced back.

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