- For Lindsay Patton-Carson, being fired from her job ended up being a blessing in disguise – she was finally able to get control of her health.
- As a full-time freelancer, she can now make appointments without asking permission and rest and exercise when she needs to.
- She’s able to work on a wide range of projects with clients she respects and enjoys.
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I needed to get fired to finally get control of my health.
I spent all of 2019 experiencing chronic depression and chronic pain – most of it stemming from the most dysfunctional, toxic work environment I have ever been in. I had done the most millennial thing I could do: I got burnt out. I’m not alone, either. In a Deloitte survey, 77% of respondents admitted they have experienced burnout in their current job.
In July, I’d had enough and left my toxic job for a social media position at an agency, hoping a change of pace and new environment would “fix” me. It didn’t. I couldn’t perform a job I had all the tools to do. The residual anxiety from my previous job affected me so much I could not perform, even though I had less stress in the new role.
Within three months I was let go. I was deeply saddened – but I wasn’t mad. I realised jumping to any ol’ job would not get me out of my funk. Being let go was the catalyst for me to create the change I needed.
Through social media, I humbly announced I lost my job and was desperate to pick up anything. Dozens of people shared my posts and a few offered me work and introduced me to potential clients within the writing and social media worlds.
With some work already on my plate, I realised that if I picked up a few more opportunities, I could be a freelancer full time for however long I needed. I had already spent the past six years doing freelance writing or social media on nights and weekends, so I wasn’t a rookie. I decided to go for it, and as a result, my mental and physical health have greatly improved. Here’s why.
I don’t have to ask for permission to go to my appointments
Earlier this year, my psychologist recognised how my job had affected my health. She wrote a doctor’s note to my boss and HR requesting weekly therapy sessions in order to best function at my job. It was humiliating to send such a personal note, and even more humiliating when HR dismissed it and made no accommodations for me to take one hour per week to address my mental health.
As someone who advocates for migraine and mental health, I am open about my struggles in order to erase stigma. However, I do this when I have control of what information I am sharing. It’s different when I have to ask someone in a power position to accommodate my health needs. By having to ask for permission, my access to care is in the hands of a person with no medical background. That’s humiliating.
If I have a bad chronic pain day, I don’t feel guilty for taking the day to rest
Stress affects me physically. When I’m at capacity, I often lose weight, get stomach aches, and my migraine attacks turn chronic. This became a point of contention at my previous job, as the environment became so stressful that my attacks jumped to 12 a month. My job punished me by taking away my sick policy and refusing to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Unfortunately, it was legal because the company had fewer than 15 employees.) I left two months later.
Since I went freelance, I no longer feel guilty taking a day off because it’s on me to catch up. I know the work will get done and it will get done well, so I listen to my body and take care of it as needed. Guess what happened when I was allowed to choose what’s best for my body and workflow? Less migraine attacks and more time to focus on my work. I went from 14 migraine days in October to seven in November and four in December. I’m hopeful for a good January, but I’ll take four attacks a month after the 12 migraines a month I’ve been used to the past year.
No more anxiety-causing micromanaging
I have managed a lot of people in my career. One thing I refuse to do is micromanage. I know from experience what it’s like to have eyes on you at all times, and the anxiety it causes. You’re so afraid of messing up or hearing negative feedback that work quality suffers. The people I currently work with are hands off and trust me to use my skills. In two months, I’ve done the best work I have done in at least two years – and it’s because nobody is looking over my shoulder.
Diverse projects keep me excited
I’m not someone who can do the same thing every day and be happy. I love learning from other people in different industries and having a wide range of projects.
Since I’ve started working for myself, I have ambition I thought I lost forever. I’m excited about work again because every day (and even every hour) is different. I have technical and higher-ed clients that are constantly challenging me, as well as highly creative projects that cater to my fun, experimental side. They all give each day a wonderful balance and keep me engaged.
It’s easier to fit exercise into my day
Having to be at a desk for eight hours straight does a lot to your mind and body. There are times where I actually felt trapped.
Freelancing freed me. I can start or stop a project whenever I like. If I’m feeling drained, I can step away and devote 30 minutes or an hour to fitness until I feel recharged enough to get back to work and give it my all. My body has thanked me.
I work with wonderful people
Last week, I had a four-day migraine that was so intense I couldn’t read. I felt horrible for going M.I.A. on clients. When I came out of my migraine fog and updated colleagues, they were incredible. One person I admire responded with, “Your health matters most and the world won’t end if we run a couple days behind schedule.” My heart burst.
In fact, this has been a trend with the people I’m working with. They are kind, encouraging, and great coaches when I don’t quite hit the mark. By building a healthy network of colleagues, I am eager and ambitious to present them with results.
I’m not the only one finding happiness through freelance. WiseBrand’s 2018 “State of the Freelance Nation” survey found 54% of freelancers have no interest in returning to full-time employment, and in a 2019 Upwork survey, 76% say they are happier freelancing than they felt in a traditional job.
While I don’t know what my future holds for my career, I’m happy with where I’ve landed.
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