Your Mental Health Journey

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Your mental health stories

Having a space to share your mental health story and hearing what others have been through can be a way to get the conversation going.

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From a young age, I was always very quiet and introverted and only come out of myself around a select few people. In my mid teens I was estranged from one of my parents and had a difficult relationship with the other, I threw myself into working hard at school as I tried to find ways of seeking approval from others and was constantly striving to impress my parents to feel validated. After I left school, like many I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had lost contact with any friends from school and relied on my boyfriend as my best friend and confidant. When I secured my first permanent job role I didn’t speak for months but put everything into learning and worked tirelessly to keep up expectations I had built for myself.

My life so far had been spending so much time seeking validation from others particularly through work as it was the only way I knew how. I had become so closed off from the world and only had one healthy relationship which I depended on entirely for all of my emotional needs. Experiences in my childhood moulded me into a person with no self-confidence and I only knew the world through the eyes of my mum as a very negative and unwelcoming place. My mum persisted that I needed help and so after some time eventually consulted my GP and started a course of anti depressants. A few months went by and I hadn’t noticed any changes.

My mum and I went through stages of getting along amicably but these were often short lived. I would be belittled and knocked down and her drinking problem only worsened these issues often leading to bouts of aggression and verbal abuse. The evenings often filled me with anxiety, fear and anticipation of what could unfold only for it all to be forgotten by morning.

I had always longed for a close mother daughter relationship, I knew it was possible for others so I couldn’t see why this is something I couldn’t have for myself. Growing up you are taught by society that family is everything and seeing how my boyfriend interacted with his proved to me just how lonely I was.

I continued for several years feeling like this under the impression it was normal. I started to realise how different I was to the world around me, while people my age were out partying and holidaying with friends I was either with my boyfriend or waiting for him to come home. Similarly, at work I was surrounded by confident and self assured people who thrived from socialising and spending nights after work at the pub. I felt like something was wrong with me but I didnt know how to change. I was empty and not living.

It took me some years to realise it all started from the relationships I had at home and after moving in with my boyfriend I felt a sense of freedom, although most days I was still haunted by the past and the voice inside my head persisted. I became unhealthily reliant on our relationship and put an absurd amount of pressure on my boyfriend to be everyone and all the relationships I was lacking.

After 7 years our relationship sadly ended and I found myself moving back home. I was in a deep fog and looking back now am unsure how I got through each day. My mum’s drinking had got progressively worse and the arguments and abuse became a more regular occurrence. I was a shell of a person, with no purpose and no one to turn to, I knew I didn’t want to be alive anymore.

I had found the motivation somehow to start working out at the gym, it gave me a reason to not be in the house and I would come out feeling energised and like a whole new person. This feeling was often short lived as I returned home. Being in lockdown meant I was living and working in one room and only left for making meals and exercise. I began to work out more and started watching what I ate, as a few months passed this had developed into a borderline obsession. It was a distraction from the realities of life and I started noticing physical changes in my appearance which at the time I was impressed by. Little did i know I was driving myself into unhealthy habits and once the gym closed I resorted to intense hiit workouts everyday as I knew these would burn the most calories.

I had an urge to start looking for my own place. The housing market in the UK was a bit uncertain as we were in the first lockdown. However I managed to find somewhere pretty quickly, I put an offer in on the first place I viewed and it was accepted the next day. This felt like my first break into freedom but with lockdown the process took almost 6 months and the abuse had gotten so bad I had become a tiny frame, with no energy or appetite, bad skin and starting losing my hair.

This part of my life was such a blur, but I am so thankful to now be in a better position 6 months down the line. It wasn’t until the beginning of the year I realised the impact of my trauma, I was severely underweight and barely had enough energy to make it through the day. I am now on the right track to becoming a healthy weight once more and having a diet free of restrictions. My hair has stopped falling out and I am starting to recognise myself in the mirror. It took several months for me to properly relax and enjoy my own space and come to terms with the trauma I had been through. The most important step for me was to start talking to a therapist and those around me about how I was feeling, being honest with myself for the first time and starting to accept what I had been through.

I became inspired to write my own mental health blog and tell my story in the hope of connecting with others that have gone through similar experiences and to share the message that your experiences and your past do not define you. I am now free to start living my life and slowly training my mind towards a more positive outset, celebrating the small wins each day and feeling happy to get out of bed in the morning which is something I never thought was possible for me.

I am young so mental health is not as scary because it’s really easy to hide your feelings from others but I still find it difficult to live happily. At my school, I have some “friends” but they aren’t the kind of friends you’d want at school because they leave me out and I feel alone even when I’m around them and sometimes I wish I had better friends.

In support of National Grief Awareness Week, I thought I would share my story. It ends on 7th December which is also the date my dad would have turned 64. My dad was diagnosed with Metastatic Lung Cancer and was given 2 months to live on 12 August 2020. We brought him home for end of life care and between my sister and I, we provided 24/7 care. We cared for my dad right up until he peacefully passed away on 4th October. Not a day goes by where I don’t think or cry about him. I returned to work in November and I am trying my best to keep positive. They say there is 7 stages of grief, to be honest I don’t know which stage I am but all I know is I am heartbroken. My 3 year old son points up the sky and says “Grandas up there in the rocket ship”! I am blessed and beyond thankful for everyday but I am missing my hero so much.

It’s hard to know where to begin! Firstly, I’m not a fan of the terms we typically use in Mental Health they are so negative aren’t they? ‘Mental (health), Psycho(tic), Schizo(phrenia)’ they are all words that are used commonly and casually to describe somebody who is a bit ‘mad’ or ‘not with it’. I wish we could change these medical names as they have such a negative connotation and start adopting more words such as mindfulness and wellbeing instead so the people who live with these illnesses are not left feeling like they are insane or abnormal. I imagine that almost everyone has faced wellbeing issues at some point in their lives but up until recently it hasn’t been something that people want to share or talk about with others. I am glad that it is becoming less of a taboo now and groups and organisations such as BHSF are doing a lot to help people open up more (thank you!).

I have personally gone through some testing times through life (as has everyone!) and I’ve had to consciously learn to manage my wellbeing. Sometimes I’ve got it right and sometimes it took me longer than I hoped to get back on track but the things that have helped me the most are:

1) Yoga, in particular Yin Yoga – Learning that life is full on ‘Yang’ (i.e always busy and fast paced with lots of things to manage, people to see, places to go etc) and that it’s important to balance out all of that ‘Yang’ with some ‘Yin’ which is quiet time, reflection, breathing, very slow yoga and meditation.
2) Running/Cycling/Hiking – even when you don’t feel like it, go outside, get some fresh air, look at green things, smell nature, listen to the birds, the wind in the trees, keep moving your joints and your body so your body feels stronger and your mind feels calmer.
3) Talk to those you trust – sometimes its so easy to overthink things and feel anxious, at those times its good to call a trusted friend and ask if you’re being rational or if your thoughts are getting far from reality. A trusted friend or loved one can help you put things back into perspective.

Lastly, one thing I think that we can all do is check in on our loved ones from time to time – I always felt like I was the only one who didn’t always feel great in my mind but as I started opening up to people I realised a lot of people feel the same way. However, there are still a lot people who don’t feel comfortable talking about their wellbeing and that’s ok. Keep an eye on those in your life and check in on them every now and again and simply ask ‘how are you doing?’ If we all ask that question with meaning we can all do our part to look out for each other!

Before the lockdown, I was juggling two jobs that I am self-employed in. I am a yoga teacher and a hairdresser, and despite my jobs being about self-care and taking time for yourself, I was so busy I was neglecting my own self-care and mental wellbeing.

It was initially very stressful as I worried about earning a living while my places of work were closed.

Despite never wanting to pursue online classes in the past, I set up some weekly classes teaching yoga via zoom.

I was bowled over by the response I got. So many of my existing students have been signing up and every week, as well as some new people who I may not have met otherwise.

Teaching on zoom has boosted my confidence and also improved my teaching. It has also been nice to maintain the connection with my students who I have a great rapport with.

The main thing I realised during the lockdown was how much better I felt having free time. After years of being at the edge of burnout, I was able to dedicate much needed time to myself.

I found value in simple things such as reading, gardening and going for long walks. I also had time to rekindle my own yoga and meditation practice, allowing me to find inner freedom and peace.

Now the world is trying to get back to ‘normal’ I feel a lot more in control of my own life and have more confidence in turning work down if it will affect my own wellbeing.

Self-care is not selfish. We need to fill our own cup in order to share our best selves with others. Always make finding inner peace a priority, no matter how busy you are.

Thank you for reading 🙂

As a long time suffer from depression I am far too aware of the effects of bullying in life and the workplace. I have been involved over the last 18 months in bullying from a manager at my work. The person has been to referred to me as well that’s just him being him. Which came to a ahead of why should it be right just because he is like that.

This manager is very forward and like to show himself off as a manager. He is very self thinking and anything that effects him is blamed on others. I was told in a phone call that he was going to come over and knock my block off and punch me in the head. For a depression suffer I found this very threatening but it was brushed under the carpet as I had no proof as this was over the phone. As it wasn’t the first time something like this happened. I started to change the way in which communication between us changed for example, using emails, whatsapp and messages rather than just talking this would give the the back up required if needed.

Later on in the year I was placed in a situation I never want to be in again. I was shouted at, sworn at, and threatened once more but this time face to face. This time within a few centimeters of my face. Verbal abuse continued and began getting personal as I wouldn’t react to him, the line – “Why don’t you do us all a favor and go and top yourself now?” What a great line to say to someone already suffering depression. This shook me to the core. I was trembling with the thought.
I have complained to my work but the are not willing to pursue it any further. I fear coming into work each day on a hope that I will run into him and we will go again.
As depression (mental ill health) is now known as a disability, this is covered under the Equalities act 2010. But I know I risk loosing everything if I was to take this further.
Once again the bully has won.

As it is Anti-Bullying week I thought I would share some information from my own personal experience. I experienced workplace bullying for a few years, some days would be ok and others would be hell. I couldn’t wait to walk out of the office and drive home to my safe place. It started with little things that all mounted together and I came to a point where I could not take it anymore, it was affecting my mental and physical health badly. I felt worthless and walked over. Truthfully I still haven’t got over what happened to me and I don’t think I ever will. My dad taught me to be strong and to fight any battles that came my way, with his help we raised a grievance and to be honest that didn’t help a thing. I had a bad experience from start to finish in the grievance policy to the point I had to take it to an outside body and this still didn’t work in my favour as the victim. Although time is a healer, it does still play on my mind a lot. Just remember whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you!

I had just started a new job as head of a function and was really excited. In my first few weeks, as I was getting to know the wider team they shared with me how they had got a group of people together to “remove” the previous function director. They apparently bad mouthed her, rubbished her projects and didn’t deliver for her. In the end, she was compromised out of the business. Literally matched off in front of everyone. They seemed really proud of themselves.

I had hoped those days were behind them and I focused on building a new team, sorting out some internal performance issues and delivering some really big and successful projects. All seemed to be going really well for us as a team and the feedback from other departments and the Board was fantastic. One day that all changed when a junior member of a different team approached me. She was really upset. Her line manager had recently left the business and hadn’t done a proper hand over so she was given access to all his files by the IT department. Within the folders was a folder that contained all of his business skype conversations. She read them all and a majority of them were about me.

Her line manager was one the the original group of people who had targeted and removed the previous director and it appeared the same group of people were doing the same to me. In her words, they were being openly vile and personal about me – they were taking my new recruits into the canteen to “coach” them on how to mark me down in the staff engagement survey; they shared how they were going around the business to rubbish my work and trying to get others to change their perception of me; they were calling me names. The junior member of the team reporting this to me was in a terrible state. I had no idea. My team seemed to be riding the wave of success and everyone seemed really happy. All the time they were being targeted by these bullies too. I didn’t know I was being bullied but they did. She decided bravely that she had to report it.

The HR director and my director called me into a meeting and said they had also read the conversations. They advised me not to ask to read them. Frankly I didn’t want to read them at the time. They promised me a full investigation would happen and action would be taken. The CEO came to see me and he looked genuinely affected by what he had heard. He too promised it would be dealt with. Weeks went by and I heard nothing. Everything had changed for me instantly. I now knew I was being bullied. I found myself reading into every action, every whispered conversation, every look. I tried so hard to still be the confident person I knew I was but it was affecting me. My team could see it too and the bullies knew something was going on so the atmosphere was terrible.

Every time I asked my director for an update the story changed. He went from saying “Yes it is terrible” to “oh it’s not that bad” to eventually saying “they haven’t really said anything”. He said he had spoken to everyone and they were denying ever being involved (despite it being in black and white). I asked him if he intended to do anything about the behaviour and his tone changed immediately and he said “as a senior manager I would expect you to be able to sort this out, so I suggest you have a 121 with everyone involved and figure out how you can get on with them”. So has asked for 121’s with each person. Most ignored the request but one accepted. I was subjected to 2 hour character destruction session. I will never be perfect but I didn’t know the person she was describing. She called me a horrible, calculating and self promoting person and told me that they all wanted me to leave. I was floored and felt very alone. I reached out to the HR director for help and advice. She just told me to stop talking about it.

From that point onwards my director labelled me as a problem and he made life very difficult for 2 very long years. I kept delivering and performing to the best of my ability so he couldn’t claim poor performance but our relationship was severely damaged. Nothing was ever done about the bullies and in fact, they even promoted one of them. Eventually they made me redundant. Did they win? No, I moved on to a business that puts culture at it’s heart and my team and I are thriving because of it. They however, still operate in a toxic working environment. Good luck to them!

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If you’re an employee that needs some help with an issue at the moment, please contact your HR team for initial support and advice.

If your employees need additional support we can help. Contact crt@bhsf.co.uk or call 0121 454 3601 and reference our Mental Health Forum.