My name is Leanne, however I am only referred to as this by my parents or if someone is really trying to get my attention. So, Lea is great.
I worked in the Travel Industry for many years, 23 in fact, until I followed my passion of raising awareness for mental health and joined TalkOut as Head of Client Relationships and Training. In every role I have gratefully fulfilled, I always found myself being an advocate for mental health awareness. I recall campaigning along with like minded individuals within my organisation for inclusivity for those with mental ill health, as physical health was more understood and often treated as a priority. I managed numerous individuals, but the role I enjoyed most was training colleagues to understand the impact of human factors and aviation safety.
My mental ill health appeared during the year of 2001 after the attack of the Twin Towers. I was cabin crew at the time and like all of those watching this catastrophe unfold, we experienced this event in many ways. Mine began with an inner feeling of anxiety. My thought process was unbalanced as I overthought many situations. I tried to logically think situations through however this resulted in me thinking quite often about a worse case scenario. I managed to supress these feelings by continuing to work as hard as I could and putting these thoughts to the back of my head. I worked in a male dominated environment where I had great experiences with many of the team, although certain members made me feel inadequate, probably without their own knowledge of this. ‘Banter’ (as it was) is a term used for some to admit fun. Banter can also be an expression of derogatory comments, and with continual use these comments can really affect a person’s feeling of worth and wellbeing. This too impacted my mental health.
Implication of the above resulted in me experiencing feelings of turmoil. I lovingly labelled my mental ill health as anxiety and stress within the workplace, however this was never diagnosed. I felt I could not talk out as I was the support for others and quite often, we were experiencing similar things within the organisation. I felt emotionally drained, with my tummy often whirling like a washing machine. The thought of being in an environment with certain individuals made me feel extremely anxious – so much so, I would anticipate the worst outcome even before it began.
I had a great way of masking my feelings where only my closest confidants would know what was really going on. The mask I would paint on for my day’s duty would often be my armour. I honestly believed I smiled the most to deflect from that. I felt like I was always trying to prove my worth and please others. I am a smiler naturally anyway (I do not feel I need to wear that mask now). My self-worth and esteem were easily knocked back then.
My road to recovery included a very good friend, who supported me in challenging head on individual behaviours and how I was made to feel. I did this with their support and for this I will be eternally grateful. I only fully trusted certain individuals of whom I am honoured to call my friends to this day. I regret not opening up sooner about how I felt during this time as I spent many a day worrying about future events. I worried about how I may have been perceived or whether or not I was doing my job to the best of my ability whilst being my true authentic self. I believe I did not open up sooner because individuals displaying this behaviour were not challenged by peers who knew it was not ok, maybe even through a fear or a nervousness of reprimand. Once I did have this conversation, to discuss my thoughts and feelings to the individuals concerned, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I honestly believe the resilience I feel today is because of this experience. I looked for further support for both stress related circumstances in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Now I can express my feelings using the tools and techniques I have learnt. I feel good, I feel accepted and now I feel truly real.
We are called TalkOut because we encourage open dialogue in a way of which nurtures and develops communication and trust within organisations. I would have loved to have an organisation such as this to work alongside mine. To truly offer help, support and guidance to teams. I encourage everyone to open up and share thoughts / feelings of distress to a person you can trust, to an organisation who can help and support.
I have mental ill health and I will always have to keep on top of my self-care to ensure I am operating to the best of my ability. I am as well as I can physically, mentally, and emotionally can be.
I am living proof, that with the right support and caring culture we can all really thrive.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. I encourage, for our mission for it to be ok not to be ok and thrive in the workplace, you do the same 😊
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