Editor’s Note: Work stress can affect us more than we realise, and it can be especially difficult to cope with after a vacation or festive holiday.

Our reader, Erica, shares her story on how work stress, along with family and financial struggles, had led to her first episode of depression and self-harm. Self-harm is a cry for help and a way of coping with emotional pain.

But there are more effective ways of resolving the pain. We are heartened to know that she is willing to seek professional help, which will go a long way in empowering her (and her family) when it comes to coping with life’s challenges.

I am glad that there is finally a platform for everybody to share their stories anonymously, while at the same time know about someone else facing similar issues.

I am a working mother of two young children. Being able to provide for them has always been my utmost priority. My husband is not earning much and hence, the burden of household expenses and debts falls on me heavily. Therefore, with a promotion in place for me a couple of years back, I accepted it, hoping that I will be able to provide more for my family and lighten up my financial load.

work stress

Things seemed to work out fine. I was working as a sales manager and constantly meet clients to achieve my monthly target. The best part for me was that I was earning more than my husband. Plus I was able to spend more money on my children, indulging them on what they wanted and needed. Also, I could finally afford the bag I had always wanted!

Upon completing my probation as a sales manager, expectations and pressure started to build on me. I could not achieve my monthly targets. My superiors had been calling me into their office, talked to me and saying that I was not working hard enough. I bit my tongue every time I was called into their office and braced myself for the insults.

Slowly, I started to lose sleep. I was not able to sleep at night and was hoping that the morning will not come. I lost interest in the things I used to enjoy doing and I was easily irritated. My relationship with my husband was getting from bad to worse as I had not been spending time with him.

I dreaded going to work everyday. There were times when I told my superiors that I was not able to go to work, with various excuses. I would switch my phone to silent mode and stay in my bedroom, not wanting to meet or talk to anyone. As much as I love my children, there were moments when I wanted to open the window and just end my life so that I do not have to face my work the next day.

I confided my issues with my good friend, who meets up with me occasionally. Even though I appreciated her taking her time out to lend me a listening ear, I felt that my issues were not resolved.

One day, my children were fighting, as most siblings do at times. I remember screaming at them, along with those frustrations I had built up at work. The next thing I knew, my husband appeared, grabbed a shirt hanger and started hitting them. I remembered clearly that my youngest son, who was only 2 or 3 years old at that time, was jumping because of the pain and crying away, his hands placed on the part where my husband hit him. It was a heartbreaking sight.

At night, after my children were fast asleep, I went to the bathroom with the intention to hurt myself, wanting to relieve the pain I had. I was crying away and scratched my arms with my fingernails, and dug my fingernails into the flesh till I am able to see reddish marks or blood appearing on my skin. I was in the bathroom for two whole hours.

Things were still going downhill. My superiors were de-motivating me verbally, and one of them telling me this phrase “You will not be able to achieve your target this month, and I swear to God that you will not be able to achieve your target this month”. It hit me very hard but yet I still persevered with my work.

The final straw came when my husband accused me of infidelity even though I did nothing wrong. He was going through my phone messages. He accused me of being flirtatious and that he has no idea who I really am. This accusation hit me hard.

The next day, I went to my superiors and told them that I would like to become an administrative staff again, since there was a vacant position available. My husband felt guilty when he heard that I decided to step down due to his accusation. However, I did not regret moving down and getting lower pay.

I only learnt that I developed depression after I read up on the signs and symptoms online one particular day. I know that my condition will occur again if I do not consult a therapist or counsellor, but I cannot have my family members know that I have depression, especially my parents. People of the older generation are less accepting of one having this condition. I did not officially tell my husband on my condition either. Perhaps in the future, I guess?

It’s been more than two years since I stepped down to be an administrative staff. Recently, I was asked to be in the sales team again but I rejected my superiors immediately without thinking. I never want history to repeat itself.

One thing for sure now is that I am happier now and my relationship with my family is so much better today.

Erica has been in the hospitality industry for over 10 years and is currently working as an administrative assistant in a renowned hotel. She only gets to spend time with her two young children on the weekends. On weekdays, she enjoys having dinner by herself after work to relish the quiet moments.

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