On hospitality and mental health
It’s a funny old game this business of slinging drinks. As I speedily approach my ten year “hospoversary” (hospitality anniversary), I spend more time reflecting on my time in the industry, what it has given to me, and what it has taken from me.
At its core, I love it with all my heart. Through my interactions with the many amazing customers and co-workers I’ve met throughout the years, I’ve become close to people from all walks of life. From discussing Camus in the dishpit, to talking footy over the bar, between front and back of house we’ve solved all of the world’s problems. The people with whom I have engaged in discourse with have opened my eyes, shared some amazing things with me, and I do my absolute best to reiterate this, giving the best of myself to every interaction. Some of the best times I have had in my life have been enjoyed on both sides of the bar, with the people I have worked with, and the people who I have worked for: my eternal boss, the customers. I love it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
However there is a darker side to this industry, particularly for those suffering from mental health disorders. This dark side is one that I rarely share with people in my professional capacity, as no-one wants to hear about their bartender’s shitty day when they’re enjoying a beer. But at the same time, this industry can run you into the ground and spit you out. The long hours, late nights, hectic work environments, constant excuses to drink, and anti-social schedules can force a person into seclusion.
When you’re working, your friends are drinking and socialising. When your friends are drinking and socialising, you’re working. So you drink when you’re not working. Whether it’s pounding beers till 7am after your shift, or sitting on 3 bottles of red wine on your day off because it’s a Tuesday and everyone else is at their “real jobs”.
As someone living with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder, this “routine” has led to some very self-destructive periods in my life. It isolated me, it got in the way of friendships and relationships, and threw me into a hole that I was lucky enough to make it out of. Some are not so lucky. The immense lows that a bipolar sufferer endures were compounded by the drinking, the lack of sleep, and the separation from my loved ones.
But as I’ve been told so many times, the key to everything is balance. The highs that this industry offers me more than make up for the crushing lows, and it’s a game that I’ll play for a long while yet. While the industry intrinsically has its problems, the people that I’ve met and shared my time behind the bar with and the moments we’ve shared have made it all worth it. It’s a simple as a customer enjoying a beer I’ve poured them, a thank you as they leave the bar, a wind-down beer with a co-worker after a shift. As I grow older, the balance is shifting more in my favour, and the good times are outweighing the bad.
Keep your chin up, and let’s grab a beer sometime.