Men Tell Their Stories

Working Over Time

I was 23-year-old. I had just had the most successful period of my life professionally. I had gained promotion after promotion after impressing my regional manager and the company’s CEO. I was now the youngest branch manager in the area. Things looked like they could only get better. That was true for a while.

I took over my new shop. It had been struggling for sales for a while, but by the end of the Christmas period, things seemed to have turned around. This is where it all started to fall apart. This was the start of the hardest 3 years of my life.

At the start of the year, I failed an audit. At this stage of my life, I had not failed at anything. I did not handle it well, this was not helped by my manager reinforcing all the negative things that I was telling myself. I had let him down, I have let myself down and I am a terrible manager. I was a failure. I was incredibly stressed and the stress just seemed to grow. All I needed was support, but I had none.

The stress started to affect my sleep. I was exhausted, but I could not sleep. I had so much work to do, but I was too tired to do it all. I became more stressed as I could not get the work done. I was stuck in a trap.

As the stress increased, the less sleep I got, the less work I could do but because I was exhausted and the stress just kept on increasing. I started to drink three bottles of cider a night. Not enough to get really drunk, but enough to get me off to sleep. People around me thought I had a problem with alcohol, they suggested that I may be an alcoholic. On reflection, I just did not have enough effective coping strategies in my life to cope with the level of stress I was facing. I could not switch my brain off at night.

At the time, I did not think the drinking was a problem. I did what I needed to do to get to sleep. This went on for 3 years.

I felt like a zombie, staggering half-heartedly from one task to the next, one day to the another. There was a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. A new manager was in charge. He was supposed to re-energise the team and get sales going up again. He did, for a while. However, I started to get the feeling that he did not like me and he wanted me gone. My face no longer fitted and that glimmer of hope soon disappeared.

On the 24th of April 2014 at 11:00am while in a meeting with this manage,r I had a moment of clarity, a moment so pure that it seemed to stop time. Within that moment I knew exactly what I had to do.... and that was quit.

Just 30 minutes after starting my shift I walked out of the door of the shop. As I crossed the threshold something strange happened, I stood a little taller, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I smiled a big idiotic grin from ear to ear. I was feeling happy for the first time in a long time.

Now, 3 and a half years later I have completed a degree, I have a new job that I love and a partner who loves me. My life has changed completely.

While working in retail I did not see any opportunity. Now my life is full of opportunities and excitement. Quitting my job was the best thing that I ever did. It was a risky decision, but one that has paid off.

I have used the last 3 and a half years to learn about myself. I am now better equipped to cope with life stressors as I have found many more coping strategies. Some of the most powerful include mindfulness, keeping a journal and going for a walk down the sea front, where I can just stare out into the sea with a bag of chips.


Do you recognise anything that Ryan has been through in your own life? Has work impact on your mental health, for better or for worse? Did it send you on a new career path? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter, where he's @ryan_olley. Ryan also helps run our Grimsby SpeakEasy, which takes place on the first Thursday of the month at Riverhead Coffee in, well, Grimsby. Why not go along, have a chat and get a free cuppa from 5pm. #BetterToShare