As a person, I’ve always very much been an observer. I’m happier behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. When it comes to making decisions, I’m very much someone who likes to have all of the information to take my time and make an informed decision. I’m a listener rather than a talker, definitely an introvert who prefers a quiet life rather than one full of noise.
I think that has been to my cost recently. I’ve never had any difficulty in asking for help until recently. I knew that I was struggling with my mental health but I did it in silence and on my own. My parents have always said that no matter what is happening, I can always tell them. No matter what, they want to know. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about the work issue. I has no qualms or reservations telling them about the breakdown of my previous relationship or my ex contacting me seeking support after we split.
I was embarrassed and I actually believed what I was consistently being told. I believed that I was a failure. I was scared of making my manager aware of my mental health difficulties as it would have been used against me. I didn’t want them to have anymore ammunition to use against me. The harder I tried, the more “evidence” my manager found to use against me. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I was constantly on a state of high alert. I was exhausted. I was so anxious and it was constant. I was spending time with my family at Christmas and was still in a heightened state of anxiety. I was even anxious about making dinner for them one evening. I know that’s ridiculous but that was my reality and still I didn’t tell them until months later.
I did eventually confide in one of my friends. I’m incredibly lucky to have the most amazing friends who support me and are there for me. Even when I was telling my friend what had been going on, I still felt that I was a f**k up. My friend instantly told me that what I was experiencing at work was wrong. She then gave out to me in a supportive way that I hadn’t told her before. I felt like a weight had been lifted. For the first time in a long time, I realised that I was trying my best and wasn’t a failure. I also recognised that supports that should have been in place at work, were not.
I then started to confide in my boyfriend. He just knows when I’m not myself or something is bothering me. We talk about everything and I can tell him exactly what is on my mind no matter how big or small. He has also experienced something similar in a previous job so knows exactly what I was going through. It was round about this time that my physical health started to suffer…I’m convinced that this is linked to me starting to open up and acknowledge to myself that I was struggling. I also told my boyfriend that I was taking medication for my mental health.
I had some annual leave and visited my family and caught up with another one of my friends who also had previous experience of my situation. I felt more comfortable talking about my work situation as I was realising that while my work had suffered, I no longer saw myself as a failure or f**k up. I didn’t tell my family or friends about my being on medication though. I guess that is something that I’m still a bit vexed about. I don’t feel ashamed about being on medication, I don’t see my anti-depressants as different to my asthma medication. I think I’m just more aware that there’s still a stigma around mental health and the prescribing of medication for it. Maybe there is still part of me that feels a bit embarrassed.
I also then started to seek support from work. I’ve found this to be both supportive and anxiety provoking. My employer has been very supportive, I’ve been open with the HR department about my situation and the background to it. It was a relief to get it all off my chest. A meeting has been arranged to discuss my return to work. I do have a feeling of trepidation about it but I also need to have my voice heard. I need this opportunity to say my piece. I want to draw a line under all this and move forward. I need closure. One way or another, I hope all will end well.