Day 43: Courage
Posted January 12, 2013on:
Some posts take a huge amount of courage to write. Whilst many guest blogs in this series have been uplifting and inspiring, this one is much darker and more troubling. And yet, it is perhaps the most of important of all to publish, because it is a first hand account of a topic we still shy away from discussing openly: mental health.
The author has requested to remain anonymous and I absolutely respect that. I am certain that you will do too.
I wake to the sound of screaming, half crazed I stumble across the bridge from the dream to the real world and realise that I’m the one who is screaming. My heart races impossibly. Terror holds me in its grip. Slowly I calm, the sweat runs down, forming an ice cold patch at the small of my back. Just another night.
So different from the evening before. The medication, still new and unfamiliar, envelops me in a warm fog, a delicious embrace with the prospect of sleep. The doctors had promised I would sleep. They were right I suppose, I did sleep but not for long and not well. Certainly not well enough to feel rested.
Forgive me, I’m skipping ahead in my review of the year, the part above comes from the final weeks. It started differently…..
Earlier in the year it wasn’t overwhelming fear and anxiety which affected my sleep. It was agitation. I couldn’t concentrate properly at work. Colleagues were unsure of my reactions. My moods were mercurial at best. Of course in my mind I knew better, knew exactly what needed to happen if only they would just listen properly. I was infuriated by their laxity and delays. Every person I came across seemed to be stuck in treacle.
It was the bowl that did it, that made me seek help. It was an unremarkable bowl, I’d owned it for a number of years, it had a few chips but no other distinguishing features. By the time I realised what had happened it was in shattered pieces on the floor. That night I promised I would seek help, again.
It’s been a long year, full of broken promises and false starts. Delays in treatment, a succession of waiting lists and even now, still no answer. Through it all, I’ve continued to work. Some days more successfully than others. I’ve been lucky to have understanding co-workers and clients. I would like to think that no one noticed the gaps but I’d be foolish to think it is so. However, I haven’t disclosed my problems formally. I’m aware that so much stigma still exists. Heck, I work in the HR / LD fields, I’ve delivered the training to support diversity, to combat discrimination in all it’s myriad forms but no one has ever asked me to deliver the subject I’m most qualified in. It’s not even like I’m in a small minority. Look around the train carriage or office in which you’re reading this. One in four of the people you see will encounter a mental health problem in their lives. If you’re reading it at home, then chances are that one of your family is already suffering or will be before long. With all that knowledge, it’s telling that I’m not confident enough in the reception I would get, to be able to speak openly.
So this is by way of a “cri de coeur” to my colleagues in HR and farther afield. Please remember that I live amongst you. I hear you casually talk of being “a bit OCD” over a presentation or feeling “schizoid” when you can’t make a decision. I hate that we are still using that sort of language. No one says “I’m feeling a bit cancerous” or “I’m like a stroke victim today”. Please don’t think I’m being over-sensitive. I’m not suggesting we suddenly become all politically correct, just take a bit of care. You know why? I don’t just hear your comments, I also hear sounds in my head, dislocated rhythms, white noise. I don’t just see managers ill-equipped to start the kind of dialogue I need to be open about my health, I see strange shadows determined to do harm.
Frightening stuff eh? It would be so much nicer to feel that when I opened my eyes after the dreams I would see friendly faces ready to help me. It feels a long way from that but here’s to 2013 and a change in attitudes. So, as you work with colleagues who are suffering with stress, depression or even, (like me), something even more challenging, please just ask how they’re doing. They won’t bite, or break down crying. Just talking to them will help them, that way they can help themselves and then in turn help you.
You see, that agitated nervous energy I spoke of could be channelled when you need someone to work late to make a deadline. That anxiety and attention to detail could be good when you need something proofread. There are numerous ways to involve and include – just ask us.
If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do
- visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
- take the ‘time to change’ pledge
- attend our event with Mind on 5th February 2013 at 6pm
- share your story and read those of others as part of the #25percentclub blog series