I have a real passion for supporting people with their mental health and have been working in this field for over 10 years, which meant I was really taken by surprise when I started to struggle with own mental health in work. I started to feel anxious and at the same time angry as I felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way – after all, my job was to support others!
However, given the responsibility I had and the fact I was always seen as a high achiever, I felt like I couldn’t say anything about how I was feeling. I loved the job I was doing and was worried about how it would look if I talked about my feelings in work. I’d also never seen a manager be off work with their mental health problems before.
A year of putting on a brave face passed by and I knew I had to confront my feelings. I recognised my anxiety symptoms were getting worse and now I was becoming physically unwell as well as mentally. When family and friends asked how I was I’d say “stressed” but I never really opened up about what that meant.
Because I experienced stress so often and for such a long period of time, it developed into chronic stress which then led to anxiety, depression and panic attacks. The way I felt impacted on my motivation to socialise, especially with people other than my closest friends and family. When I got home from work I was often not present in conversations because my mind was either worrying about work the next day or ruminating about what had happened the day before. I was exhausted and just became a shell of myself.
My friends and family encouraged me to go to my GP but the thought of it petrified me. On top of that, working in mental health made me question why I wasn’t able to just “fix” myself. Despite these concerns, I went to the GP, and it was the best decision I ever made. She was so supportive and understood exactly how I was feeling. Looking back, I think it had taken me so long to get support because I didn’t feel like the symptoms of mental health were as important as when I became physically unwell.
Really luckily, I found this amazing job at TalkOut. I wasn’t afraid to talk about my own experience with poor mental health at the interview and it was actually welcomed by the business. This has given me a new purpose and the passion to change the way mental health is dealt with in the workplace.
It took three months for me to recover and it was tough, but I made sure that I used my support network around me, and they all helped get me through it. I still get triggered by certain things but knowing that I might feel this way occasionally is OK, because I know that things can get so much better with the right support and by being aware of my own feelings. And most of all by talking out about how I’m feeling.
If any part of my story resonates with you, then I’d like to say that things can get better. You need to take a leap, which is the scariest leap you might ever take but you won’t feel alone anymore. My advice for the first time you tell someone how you’re really feeling, would be to pick someone who you know will take you seriously (GP, close friend, family) and find somewhere that you won’t be interrupted. I found that when I’d previously spoken about the stress I was feeling, it was always in passing conversation which was usually too brief to go any deeper.
It’s taken great courage for me to write my story, but I hope that it can help someone else and give others the confidence to share their experiences.
May 2020. An urgent appeal from Talk Out to the UK government and business leaders. It’s time for some tough questions. It’s time to make a profound change and we’re urging leaders to get in touch with us today to prevent a post-lockdown mental health fallout.
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