My Mental Health @Work

I spent 3 years trying to prove that I wasn’t a failure and trying not to admit that I might be, by forcing myself to keep quiet about my depression at work. I felt that the stigma towards mental health in the workplace was a huge problem, you would hear people gossiping over coffee about Janet in Accounts who had been signed off “AGAIN!” but, they were adamant there wasn’t anything actually wrong with her because she “looked fine”. If I was given a £1 every time somebody said “but, you look fine!” I would be very rich! It’s not easy to present yourself as a successful happy go lucky individual every day. And while most people have a bad day, miss a deadline or have a meeting that doesn’t go so well, when they go home they don’t beat themselves up as hard as I did. I would convince myself that I hadn’t performed well enough, that I had failed, which I still do now to some extent.  I would then add that failure to my long list of ‘failings’ that just seemed to keep growing.

My coping technique is to distract myself with work. I was trying all the time to achieve perfection at work. But, what I was really doing was trying to not let my colleagues see that; a) sometimes I wasn’t perfect and b) sometimes I didn’t like myself and c) I suffer from depression. So I would pretend depression didn’t exist. I look back and think to myself, would most people really judge me if I was open about my depression?

Having had 4 different line managers throughout my 6 years in my job I have had experienced a range of management styles.

Manager 1 – 1.5 Years

My first “Proper” job, my first manager. She was lovely, but couldn’t really afford to spend the time managing as such. I was completely overwhelmed, I had no idea if I was performing as expected. Then the dreaded symptom of depression; procrastination set in, and before I knew it I was out of my depth. I was a complete failure in work and outside of work. I finally got the courage to talk to her about my situation, and she then contacted HR and Occupational Health to see if there was anything they could do. There was a waiting list for counselling and I would have to be triaged. It was very soon after the initial meeting that I hit rock bottom and I got signed off by the doctor.

Manager 2 – 2 Years

She was my work mother! She supported me through my first depressive episode at work. I returned to work after 3 months leave unsure whether I had a job to come back to. I worked my socks off to pull myself out of the drop zone and with her support I did it. Yes, she micromanaged me and that doesn’t suit everyone. But, when you are offered support you should take it. I can honestly say that without her support and guidance I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Manager 3 – 2 Years

He openly admitted after a few months that he wasn’t a people person. Brilliant! The support I received was limited. He couldn’t understand my situation and often said “what could you be depressed about?” “you’re not old enough!” I would always request leave for medical appointments or working from home days for therapy in advance, I would ensure they were in his calendar and I would even remind him the day before. He would always make a point of saying “did I approve this, I can’t remember you asking, what is it for again? Therapy or happy med review?” I always felt that my situation was never taken seriously.

Manager 4 – Current Manager

When I applied for my current job I ended my interview by asking what their approach was regarding mental health. Both my interviewers both suffer with mental health issues. My manager thankfully is very understanding and has offered so much support in the short time I have been in her team. We looked at workplace adjustments, flexibility in working hours/location, we went through my list of triggers and my safety plan. If I am concerned about my performance, I raise it with her and she is happy to sit down and discuss my concerns and put me at ease.

I manage my life in two different ways, so my life is in two halves. So the first half can be when I’m suffering from depression, and that’s all about getting on with daily tasks, so the smallest daily tasks can seem like a huge mountain to climb. So just getting out of bed in the morning can seem a difficult challenge. The other half of my life is spent managing my mental health, so when I’m not suffering from the illness, I’m actively managing it, looking for the symptoms that I’ve learnt to identify over the years, and that can dictate my choices every day, from the diet I choose to the exercise I choose to do and my social activities. I’ve found that a combination of medication and therapy, plus the support of my partner is all the support that I need.

I would definitely encourage other people to talk about their mental health, whether they’re having good mental health or bad mental health at the time, it always helps to talk to people, and especially at work with people that you see probably more often than family and friends, most of the time, because we all spend six, seven hours at work a day, and there’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re struggling. It’s beneficial to everybody to have good mental health, especially at work. I had to go through such a lot to get my treatment in the first place, but now I have a diverse toolbox of therapies, and there’s a lot more help available, so I’d just advise people to talk to others and get the help that they need.

Employers need to create a safe environment to allow employees to speak up if they are not coping and ensure they receive a rational response which is ‘how can we help?’ because with a little bit of help and less judgement, they can help. They can tell you that you’re doing a great job, that not everything has to be brilliant and that you are meeting their expectations. Re-structuring workload and work hours can seriously help to get a person back on track.

I work for a Global Organisation. Over the last few years there has been an increased amount of focus on MH in the workplace. They launched “The Mental Health Focus Group” in 2013 before the launch of ‘This Is Me’, the mental health awareness campaign that resulted in my company signing the ‘Time To Change’ pledge. The group’s main purpose is to monitor how the support for colleagues is working and to continue to embed acceptance and understanding across the organisation. The group provides a network of contacts that can help us eradicate stigma and improve outcomes for those colleagues with mental health conditions.

Advertisements

18th August ‘18 – I am back.

It has been 44 days since I last wrote on my blog.

Firstly, I want to apologise for the silence. The last 44 days have been quite difficult, so please bear with me as this could be a lengthy one…

On Saturday 7th July it had been arranged that I would be able to visit my brother for the first time in months. I was allowed to see him for an hour. I was so nervous; I didn’t know how he would react or if he would decide on the day that he didn’t want to see me. My nan, Eve, picked me up at 10:50. We drove to pick James up from his friend’s house I explained to my nan that I was nervous and how I was unsure if it was a good idea to meet at “her” house as it would bring those terrible memories flooding back. It was too late to change plans so I just had to stay as strong as possible. James’ grin was huge he came running towards me and nearly knocked me off my feet. I couldn’t believe he was so much taller than me, he is going to be a giant by the time he has finished growing. He looked at me and whispered “where has my big sister disappeared to? You are the size of a little sister!” with a long pause he then tried to pick me up and of course he could! We got back in the car and drove towards the house. My emotions were all over the place, he wasn’t a little boy anymore, he was happy to see me, what had he been told by “her”? Will he tell “her” everything that I say? He didn’t look like James; he had been changed by “her”. I just had to take deep breaths and make the most out of the hour I had to spend with him. We parked up outside the house, I felt sick. As we walked down the driveway I could feel the heat of the panic rise, I was shivering again. I felt James’ hand wrap around mine. He knew how I felt, he could sense my fear. My little dog came to the door tail wagging, paws bouncing he couldn’t believe I was there. James and I sat down with Arthur, my dog, we just hugged for as long as we could and as hard as possible until one of us had to escape to breathe. He wanted to give me a grand tour of the house, he wanted to point out all the things that had changed since I had left. He now had a “grown up” room, my room had been stripped bare, there was still that unwelcoming feel to the house, it felt so claustrophobic. I was trying so hard to not let it impact on the precious time I had to spend with my not so little man. We ended up doing the things we always used to do, I trimmed his finger nails and toe nails, I tidied his bedroom, I helped him pick an outfit out for his “date”. We sat and talked on the stairs, he told me he understood why I had gone and he wished he could have come with me. He knows how hard it was and that he hates the way I was treated. It was so hard for me to hear that coming from my 11-year-old brother. Time went by so quickly and before I knew it, it was time to go back. We returned James to his friend’s house, it was emotional saying goodbye and not knowing when I would see him again. I tried to make it easier for him, telling him he would only have to call me and we could arrange something. I went back home cherishing the single photo my brother had allowed me to take. I spent the rest of the weekend reminiscing on the good times I had spent with him hoping that they would block out all the painful ones.

A couple of days later, July 9th, I had a routine doctor’s appointment. My nan was insistent on taking me and discussing my current situation with my Dr. She was concerned about my weight loss, the tablets my Psychiatrist had prescribed, my hair falling out etc. To be honest there was a whole multitude of things that were on her agenda. To her disappointment my Dr isn’t a great talker, he was happy with the prescription, he wouldn’t weigh me as he didn’t think I looked gravely underweight and he said hair loss could be in my genes. I returned home and started to work.

I heard a knock at the front door it must have been around midday. I contemplated not answering as I wasn’t really feeling up to having a conversation with anyone as I had been tackling Excel spreadsheets and crappy formulas for nearly 3 hours straight. But, I forced myself and walked downstairs. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my dad standing on the driveway. I was speechless. I just reached out and hugged him. He had brought some of my gardening equipment that he had saved from “her” last clear out. We stood and talked for 5 minutes discussing how my brother was since I saw him a few days earlier, why I was at home and not at work. I just informed him that I had been to a routine doctors apt, nothing serious and it had all gone well. He then started saying how he couldn’t see himself being with “her” much longer, she is making everyone miserable, she reacts to the smallest things and he just hasn’t got the strength to live with it much longer. I had to switch off, I couldn’t listen to it again knowing full well he won’t leave her and he has been saying it for the last 10 years. Then he said that he knew about my doctor’s appointment my nan had told “her” and she had said that I was a hypochondriac, attention seeking… I wasn’t going to react. I gave him a final hug, told him I loved him and that I hope everything gets sorted. I kept thinking how strange, why today? How did he know I was home? And then it all made sense, my nan had informed “her” of my doctors apt and had told her the detail of my visit and mentioned that I was working at home for the rest of the day. I decided to take advantage of the weather and had my lunch outside, it was lovely to sit outside listening to the birds sing and the trees sway in the breeze. Then the silence was broken with the sound of my name being barked through the living room window. I dropped my mug of tea on the patio, it shattered on impact. I ran into the living room to see my auntie peering through the window. “What have you been doing, we have been worried, you weren’t answering your phone! Your dad has told “her” that you weren’t at home, he knocked but there was no answer… your nan thought you had done something stupid…overdosed or something!”. I just froze with shock, I managed to utter a few mumbled words, “I spoke to him! I gave him a hug! I told him I loved him!” I could feel my anger rising, how could he do this to me? How could he be so scared of her that he can’t even admit he had seen me let alone spoken to me. I called my nan immediately to ask her why she had told them in the first place. I was so shaky; I knew I needed to calm myself down otherwise I would end up having a panic attack again. I knew the only way I could calm myself down was to distract myself with work. This had become my well-practiced distraction technique. Earphones in, music on, head down. I worked solidly until 4:30pm. I put my pyjamas on and decided I was just going to hibernate to get over yet another screwed up Monday. Just before 5pm my dad called me, of course I answered. My gut was telling me this wasn’t going to end well, and my gut feeling was right. The words came flowing out, he was being “her” puppet “I will tell you what to say Nick, you just say it!”. “Hi, it’s your dad… is everything ok? I was just wondering why you didn’t answer the door this morning…how did everything go at the doctors…what did you say to them? Your nan has said to your mum that you say she is the reason for your problems, this isn’t true is it? You haven’t told the doctor it’s your mum have you?…” I just wanted to disappear – I was torn between being honest or protecting him. I simply responded “Dad, you know you saw me, I hugged you, you know you spoke to me, I said I loved you and you know she is the reason for my problems.” I ended the phone call. I knew full well she would have been listening. I started to panic, I instantly felt immense regret and shame. I just threw my dad under the bus, I didn’t protect him. I started to hyperventilate. I then felt my phone vibrate. Dad – Text Message – I am on my way to your house with Peter – Peter, was a mutual friend of me and “her”, he chose her side when I left, he was the replacement for me, her new “child”. I called my Aunt and asked her to come to pick me up, I couldn’t be there when they arrived, I was already in the middle of an attack. I knew George would also be on his way home, and I really didn’t want him to come home to see them in his house. I wouldn’t be able to stop George from reacting. My mind was racing, I knew I needed to get out. I knew I needed to tell George not to go home. I called George and told him to meet me at my nans house. Of course he wanted to know why and he could sense my attack, he knew it would involve “her”. He finally stopped asking me why and agreed to meet me at my nans. I saw my aunt pull up, I shut the door and we drove off…I realised I hadn’t locked the back door, I had left it wide open. Knowing what Peter was like I knew he would probably go round the back of the house and let himself in. I had no other option but to go back and face them.  I got out of the car and walked straight past them both, my dad followed me into the house. He was talking but I just couldn’t hear, I was trying to protect myself. He would only be making excuses for his actions. My life has been built on lies and excuses I just couldn’t take anymore. I told him he had to leave, this is George’s house and he had no right to be there. I walked calmly to the front door. As I stepped outside he turned to me “Millie, you can’t blame your mother, she has loved you…” I turned around to face him and I could feel the tears blurring my vision, I found my voice from somewhere “I am the one who has asked for help, I am the one paying £300 per therapy session, I am the one who needs the help because of the so called “love” she has shown me. That woman doesn’t know how to love, she knows how to manipulate, control and suffocate me and you know that every word I have just said is the truth. She loves you just as much as she loved me, the difference is I escaped. You never protected me, I ask you to just protect James.” I got back into the car and we left. I arrived at my nans to find that the news had already reached “her” and she was now being verbally aggressive on the phone to her own mother. People rarely stand up to “her”, I am one of the few. But, that evening my nan found the fire from somewhere to tell “her” what she truly thought of her actions towards me. By the time the phone call had ended some truths had been told to “her” and she spat her violent responses right back. After this phone call neither of them spoke to each other for 4 weeks. They broke their silence shortly before my nans birthday. For 4 weeks my nan looked younger, she hadn’t got the weight of the world on her shoulders, she didn’t have to ask permission to go to places, she didn’t have to be the one stuck in the middle. However, my nan is a decent mother she forgives and accepts apologies even if she knows they are not truly sincere. She will always try to see the best in her daughter. In her eyes life is far too short to fight. You put your differences aside and you agree to move on. She knows it won’t be long before the battle lines are drawn once again. But, for now my nan is in contact with “her” and my nan will always be the loophole for “her” to pass through and gain an insight into my life. The trust between me and my nan is currently fractured so I have to be very careful what I say as I don’t want her accidentally passing information on. I am also having to limit my visits as my nan has now started talking about “her” openly when I am there. I don’t need or want to hear about “her”. I have made the decision to cut all contact for a reason not for the fun of it. By cutting her out I have lost my little man I just hope one day he may forgive me for leaving him behind.

What a month hey!

05/07/2018

  • So the thoughts that are currently clogging my brain:
    • I am struggling to trust people.
      I can’t make a decision.
      Insecure
      Needy
      Caretaker – Mothering People
      I organise my life around the happiness of others.
      Paranoid
  • Have I got PTSD?
    • Anxious all the time – its debilitating
      Flashbacks of abuse.
      I struggle to see a future everything seems to be uncertain.
  • Have I got an ED?
    • I have lost 2 stone since April.
      I am tired all the time.
      I am constantly dizzy when I stand up or I faint.
      My hair is falling out.
      I have fine hair growing all over my body more than ever.
      Very dry skin.
      I am cold all the time.
      Lower blood pressure.
      Difficulty concentrating.
      Obsession with body size and shape – I am constantly looking in the mirror or asking George if I am fat.
      Checking calories religiously – tracking everything I eat and weighing everything.
      Cutting food into tiny pieces.
      I cook every night so I don’t feel hungry.
      I have to do at least 10,000 steps every day I won’t go to bed until I have reached my goal.
      I weigh myself up to 3 times a day.
      I am doing body checks as I find it comforting.
      I am taking Appetite Suppressants.
      “her” voice is getting louder when I look in the mirror I hear “her”. She is telling me I’m fat, ugly, a disappointment, unattractive…  

    Dear Little Fighter

    I know how you’re feeling. You’re afraid. You’re scared that you won’t be able to surpass this. You’re terrified that you will never feel happy again. Suddenly doing your job and everything that you once found easy to do is incredibly difficult. Zoning out at your computer screen is a common occurrence. You can’t get through the workday without visiting the people at work who you can depend on. You can’t make decisions. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You feel alone. Even when you are with George you feel alone. You are drowning in your own thoughts. They flood your ears and you can’t hear the people around you. Everything is a blur. You don’t know who your friends are and if you even have any. You can’t even cry yourself to sleep because sleeping is a rare occasion. You used to be blissfully happy. Every little thing bugs you and you have trouble finding your place. I know it’ll take time. But it will be okay. I promise. Feelings are temporary, please remember this. What you’re feeling now will NOT be what you’re feeling always! I only wish you could see yourself as others see you! I wish I had a magic wand to wave that would make all your insecurities go away forever! Focus on now and climbing up that ladder. Don’t lose hope because little fighter, things will get brighter. Love, Your Future Self.

    Nick called me.

    I received a phone call from my dad whilst I was on holiday. He called me and when I answered he put the phone down, normally I would have either called him straight back or waited for him to call again. However, this time my gut feeling told me there was something a miss, he wouldn’t risk calling me just to say hi. I sent him a text asking if everything was okay, with a minute my phone started to ring. I answered and he said hello, immediately I knew he had been crying. “She’s had another one of her episodes again, you know how it is…I don’t think I can carry on Millie. I slept in the garage last night, she started hitting me and screaming at me because I didn’t light the bbq how she would have done…” my heart sank. She was breaking him. “I have been looking for somewhere to live, a flat or a B&B to stay in…” his voice was breaking as he was trying to hold back the tears. I asked him how James was he confirmed he was OK although, she had raged at him the weekend previous. “He hates her, he wants to leave. He asked me if we get divorced could he live with me…” I am shaking at this point, I feel completely helpless. She had raged at him, physically and verbally, then expected him to go to the cinema with family friends and live up to the happy family image she puts on. The call lasted for 5minutes. He was in tears when he hung up. Completely broken. I didn’t know what to say or what I could do to help him. He needs to escape, he needs to take James and live the life they deserve. She isn’t stable, I can see it, her mother can see it and finally my dad is coming to realise. I haven’t contacted my dad since returning from my holiday. I went to see his parents today. They are concerned about him, they see how he has changed. He is scared of his own shadow, he is constantly walking on eggshells. He has to lie to cover his tracks. She doesn’t like my dad seeing his parents.

    I haven’t gone AWOL!

    Sorry for the lack of blogs recently. I have had a very busy few weeks preparing for my first holiday abroad (other than America but, it was -8 that doesn’t count!) and organising my work life ensuring I do not return to pandemonium…easier said than done!

    All will be back to usual from the 23rd May…I have so much to tell you about!

    Nick.

    I spoke to my dad today. Those are words I didn’t think I would type so soon, I thought there was more chance of me making contact with my biological father!

    My nan had given me the heads up that she had spoken to him yesterday. He expressed that he wanted to call me but was scared, he didn’t want “her” to find out because the repercussions would be dreadful.

    I am not trying to punish my dad, he never intentionally tried to hurt me. The hurt was caused by the lack of defence against “her”.

    My nan text me to say that my ex “best friend” and “her” had gone shopping together – leaving my dad alone.

    I called him immediately, after blocking my own number. We spoke for 5 minutes.

    He sounded so nervous, but happy to hear from me. I told him how happy I was and how I was finally getting a grasp on life, and living the life I needed. He said he knew there was no other way for me to get out. He asked a couple of questions and I answered truthfully. The questions were down to the poisonous words used by “her” that were manipulations of the truth. He said he was happy as long as I was happy. I asked if James was ok, he said he will be. Apparently it’s been hard to deal with “her” and the rages are vicious, my dad is taking the brunt of it. We ended the call on good terms, I said I loved him and he said it back.

    A part of regrets it. My dad will be on edge for the next few days. He will probably get accused of many things by “her”, “you’re having an affair”, “you’re hiding money”, “you’re being devious” and it will probably end by her having a rage and my dad will end up telling a lie to cover it up “ I have booked a mini break for your birthday”,  “I am just worried about where the money is going, you are shopping a lot”…. This isn’t how a normal family behaves.

    You shouldn’t ever be afraid of speak to your daughter.

    He allowed “her” to treat me the way she did. But, now he is taking the full force to protect his only son. I forgive him.