Getting mental health support at work made all the difference to me
Posted Friday 8 March 2013
Five years ago, I was a solicitor at a large law firm in the City doing well and moving up the ranks. I was in a stable, long term relationship and surrounded by many friends and family.
I didn't want to have a mental health problem. That wasn't who I was. I didn't like the way it made me feel - different, alone, unlikeable and unlovable.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to work somewhere where I was supported throughout my mental health problem. Perhaps more than anything, the understanding and support my colleagues gave me and the routine of getting up and going into work helped me to move my life forwards.
I decided I wasn't going to try to hide what I was going through at work. I trusted the people I worked with and confided in my bosses. This enabled the people around me to offer me tremendous support. It was this that helped me to keep going and, ultimately, to get better.
One of the partners at my law firm took the lead in supporting me. We spoke pretty much every day - sometimes just briefly and sometimes for much longer. It was invaluable to know that there was someone at work looking out for me and making sure I was ok. Someone who I could turn to and ask for help, without having to give a long explanation as to what was wrong or worrying about what their response would be, made all the difference.
My anxiety made it difficult for me to socialise, to connect with people and to concentrate. I lost a tremendous amount of confidence and would constantly question myself and my judgment.
The depression was like a fog that would descend on me, and when it did, it would exhaust me and, at times, make it impossible for me to get out of bed, let alone out of my flat.
I got help to try and understand what was happening to me. Thanks to medication, cognitive behaviour therapy and psychotherapy, I found ways to cope. Good friends and family members stuck with me when there seemed to be no end in sight.
There were some things at work that I found particularly difficult at this time. Working on very confrontational matters, for example, and factually complex cases that required high levels of concentration. But there were lots of things that I could still do. Through our ongoing dialogue, the partner and I ensured that I remained productive. This helped me enormously as I felt I still had a valuable and ongoing role to play. It also ensured that the law firm was getting a real benefit from me throughout this time.
In terms of where I am now, I am still in therapy and I still have tough days. But I have moved out of the shadows of the last few years thanks to the support of my employer.
David will not be available to answer comments so Nat from our Policy and Campaigns team will be responding on his behalf.
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