Bridget Wilson is a Business Partner at Page Personnel Secretarial & Business Support in London. Bridget is also an ambassador for Ability @ Page an initiative that supports PageGroup employees who are directly or indirectly affected by disability. Bridget shares her personal story and experience of managing her anxiety and depression.
During my nine years in London, I have at times suffered from mental health issues. This has affected me in my work, my relationships and my home life. There were days when I would feel like I was a crazy person where one minute I would be so high on life and the next feeling the lowest of lows and snap or go into a world of my own which was dark and unforgiving. I kept thinking, I’m not good enough, people are talking about me. I was feeling withdrawn and not wanting to talk. I kept analysing my appearance, my low self-esteem and being self-critical. I was often irritable and intolerant of others even when they were trying to help. All this did was make me feel anxious and on edge. I knew that something wasn’t right. My colleagues and director had noticed my moods and after a moment at the desk one afternoon, I was taken aside for a “chat”. At first I was really defensive and felt like I had all eyes on me and I was being picked on. The truth was, they were concerned about me and my mental health. I sat down and promptly burst into tears.
What was wrong with me? Why was I crying? Why did I feel angry? Sad? Upset? All these thoughts and feelings finally came to a head and I was able to tell them what I was going through. If it hadn’t have been for the support that I have had from my boss and team, who knows where I would be right now.
Although I was never put under massive pressure in my role, I put pressure on myself. I had such high expectations of myself and others around me. I wanted everything to be perfect, and if it wasn’t, I would take it personally. But this was taking its toll and something had to change.
I went to the doctor and explained how I felt and was referred to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions through the PageGroup healthcare partner. The first time I went I was worried and it felt a bit weird talking to a complete stranger about anything and everything. Afterward, I walked away thinking “wow, I feel like a bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” all because I talked about how I was feeling and the thoughts I was having. CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems. CBT didn’t get rid of my problems, but it did help me deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. Unlike a few years ago, mental health is now a topic of discussion in many workplaces, which is a welcomed development. We should talk about it! Why is it so taboo? I am writing this as I know how it feels and I want others to know that if you are struggling and need help, it’s ok to put your hand up. Talking is only the start of the journey in the removal of stigma around mental health in society. The sad fact of the matter is that the stigma remains. So what’s the solution? Being open is good (but I know, sometimes it can be really hard to make the first move). Talking is good. Changing the culture is good, but how do we iron out the prejudices and assumptions? Education is the key. As a person who has suffered mental health issues I want to be an ambassador and get people talking. If you know you are struggling and feel you are under pressure, let someone know. Next time that work colleague snaps, is quiet or withdrawn or something’s not quite right… look out for them. Ask that question that I was asked… “Are you ok?”
There is no such thing as being ‘perfect’. No one is. But being aware, knowing yourself and spotting the signs is so important for us, as a business and a society. Our awareness helps, and in some cases like mine, can prevent things getting worse. It’s important to remember, talking about mental health helps us all.