In the second of our articles on mental health in the workplace, an employee details their struggle with the black cloud of mental ill health.
A few years ago, not long after the birth of my child, I began to feel as though life was getting on top of me, that I couldn’t cope and that I must be a terrible mother.
I wasn’t, but I couldn’t see it at the time. This feeling continued for about a year because I was too ashamed to seek help. Eventually, a friend took me to the GP who gave me medication and tips for managing the feelings I had, and my friend gave me practical childcare support and a shoulder to cry on. When the medication kicked in, I felt a lot better and able to cope.
A few years later following the death of a dearly loved relative and the loss of our much-loved dog, the black cloud returned as did the feeling of not being able to cope or being able to “pull my socks up” or “get a grip”. After a while I went back to the GP who gave me meds again and slowly I returned to “normal”.
Sadly, not long afterwards the next black cloud arrived with more serious and sinister implications. At the time I was commuting to work each day and, on a few occasions, seriously thought about driving into an on-coming truck. Thankfully I never did it and find it hard to believe I even considered it given the utter hell it would have caused both my family and the other driver and their family.
I had some serious counselling which helped me manage both the dreadful feelings I had on some days and the utter numbness I felt on others.
Then I began to forget things such as where I’d parked my car or which turn on the roundabout to take. I would have to park up, call my husband, admit I was lost and hope the directions I gave him would enable him to find me.
A few years ago I was made redundant which made me feel as though I was no longer wanted. It coincided with a bout of illness and led me back to anti-depressants again.
Since then, I’ve learned to recognise the signs of an impending black cloud and divert it where possible or manage it if not. I am grateful to now be in a job where I feel happy and as stable as I’m ever likely to be.
The previous company I worked for didn’t have a clue how to manage my absences and were definitely of the “pull your socks up” mindset. However, over time they had a new nurse join their medical centre team who was clearly very on the ball with these issues. She seemed to drag the others kicking and screaming into the new way of thinking on mental health issues and things definitely improved with training for management and HR staff alike.
My two subsequent employers were “cautious” and more worried about what they could and couldn’t say or do without getting themselves into bother but overall weren’t too bad.
Now mental health issues have become destigmatised it seems every other person is holding up their “mental health issues” card and it’s difficult to know whether all are genuine or whether some are being used as avoidance of issues for things they prefer not to deal with.
I’m lucky I have a loving family, a job I love, a busy life and an active mind which is what’s needed for me to function well.
As regards my current employer, I feel certain that were my black cloud to return I would in all likelihood receive any support I might need and that my team mates would offer unstinting support as I would to them.