I have always worked in the customer service industry enjoying being able to help people from different backgrounds and cultures. An opportunity for progression landed me in a career as a personal assistant. I am a naturally shy and quiet person so the prospect of working for a new company with a new role was quite the challenge. Initially I felt isolated and alone. The large workload required working long hours and having limited lunch breaks. I soon learned that working as a PA required very thick skin and dedication.
At first, I was able to juggle the work and life balance together but slowly work started to take over my life. I found myself taking work home and not seeing many friends. As a result, I lost a few friendships along the way. This caused me to lose confidence, feel stressed, anxious and quite low.
I was meant to be a strong, confident PA and completely approachable, but this was not happening. I was not fun to socialise with as I talked negatively about myself and things around me. I ignored all of the signs and refused to talk. I believe it was since I was raised as a child to keep feelings in and not talk about mental health.
It was only when a friend sat me down and told me how my behaviour was making her feel and it was being noticed in the office which made me realise that I needed to act. I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I was considering going to counselling. I was surprised how many people have been affected by mental health issues and they were not afraid to share their experience and the kind of support they received. This was unusual for me as I have never felt confident in sharing my feelings and tended to keep things to myself. However, I can assure anyone that there is a big chance someone has felt the same way you have at some point.
My line manager at the time reassured me that it was ok to talk. My employer offered free advice and counselling however I personally decided to use a private therapist. I think it would have helped me a lot if someone had spotted the signs earlier and offered me support.
I personally decided to use a therapist to talk about deeper issues and it has taken me approximately a year to feel completely comfortable. By just talking through issues with someone you trust makes all the difference.
I believe once you realise that its ok to say ‘I need help’ you’re on the road to recovery. I would say that it does require some effort to work on yourself but once you start to feel better it is a feeling you never want to let go of. I still have moments and triggers, but I am more aware and know how to deal with them.
I would say don’t feel ashamed to speak out and ask for help. You will be surprised how many people have felt the way you have and/or been to therapy. There is no harm in reaching out to friends/family/GP or a counsellor. It only takes less than 5 mins to ask a colleague how their day is going and offer to sit down for a cuppa. We should encourage self-care and reflection in all workplaces.
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