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What It's Like to Work in Customer Service With a Mental Illness


It’s not easy being me. I admit that I have some problems, and I accept them as who I am. But there is one thing I struggle with each and every week, and that is having a job.

I work as a customer service team member in a fast food restaurant, and it gets difficult. Some shifts are easier than others, but I tend to manage. It was my last shift that has brought me to this topic. On my last shift I realized it has almost been two years since I started working, and those two years have been some of the best and worst times of my life. In those last two years I have battled depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a multitude of other mental illnesses. In the past two years I went through the most important time of my life and that was graduating high school and transitioning to adulthood, and in the past two years I have also learned how to deal with most of my problems.

Having to work in customer service has both helped me and brought me down. Some shifts are a lot easier than others. When we are short staffed and it suddenly gets busy, that stresses me out because it means I have to do twice the amount of work I would normally do compared to a quiet day where we have everyone on the floor.

There was this one shift where we were really short-staffed. I mean it was just me, the manager and one other staff member. We had to call in others from another store to come and help, and I am really grateful for them. But that night, we got so much abuse and by the time we closed both the manager and I were in tears because of the stress. But there was this one lady who saw me crying and reassured me and said it was going to be OK and I would get through it.

Ever since that night I have gotten stronger and haven’t had as many meltdowns. But if I am close to one and the store manager is working, she knows how to prevent it. I have my days, but I know how to deal with them. I just have to take a step back and relax for a moment, though I’m not always successful.

People always seem to ask me if I’m OK because I’m not as happy as I normally am, and I just say, “I’m just tired, thats all,” and people just put it behind them, not thinking it’s a problem. There are only a few people who I can actually come out to and vent to and know they won’t judge, but I sadly don’t work with them that often. But in a way, having a job in customer service is helping me in my recovery.

Working with a mental illness is hard, but it is in no means impossible. Yes, there are some good days and bad days, but that is life and I have to learn how to deal with it every day. It’s like a two-steps-forward-one-step-back sort of thing. I can have two good shifts and then have one bad one, but I learn from those bad shifts and work towards getting better at what I do.

For those of you who have a mental illness, such as anxiety, and work in customer service, you are by no means alone in your battles. Just remember to try your hardest, and that will be more than enough to take a step forward.

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Thinkstock photo by RL Productions