The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: Not Good Enough?

Posted on: January 28, 2013

calm and storm

This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be accredited, others will be anonymous – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. Today’s post is by Khurshed Dehnugara, who you can find on Twitter @Relume1


I have woken up, a little dazed on my sofa. Strange – I thought that I had taken myself back to my bed in time to avoid the falling asleep in front of the TV. I am disoriented and my heart is also beating quite fast. I’m anxious, it is a feeling that I have been carrying for a while now, I recognise the impact on my body but in this early hour of the morning it is elevated somehow. All my senses are heightened, I can hear a scratching, it isn’t pleasant, something is under the floorboards. I have an extreme phobia of rats; please don’t let it be a rat. I do what I imagine a lot of scared people do I lie frozen, absolutely still, hoping that when I tune in again the scratching will have gone and the silence will have returned. There it is again, from a different part of the room, I dare not put my feet on the floor. Wake up, get up, and stop being so pathetic. Now there is another scratching, it is at the windows; I haven’t ever gotten around to buying curtains so I can see straight out into the dark early morning outside. There is no one there, but there it is again not a scratching now but a tapping. Now I can hear it in the bedroom too. I force myself off the sofa it takes an enormous effort. Now what? Can’t face going into the bathroom, how do I get away from this noise? I walk into the bedroom very slowly, like I used to when scared of the dark, God it is cold, I’m shivering. The bedroom was built as an extension onto the flat so it has never warmed up to the same temperature as the rest of the house but it has never felt this cold. Get under the duvet, put your hands over your ears and block it all out. I’m losing it, I can’t hold it together, and everything feels like it is breaking up. I hear a child’s voice asking me a question, they aren’t speaking loud enough, what is it; I strain my ears to hear, I don’t have the answer to the question. I know that even before I have managed to hear it. For some reason this is deeply upsetting, I start crying, no, sobbing is a better description, I can’t remember crying as an adult, something about it feels right. Not sure how long I sit there like that but as the crying eases, the scratching and tapping voices abide, it seems to happen in proportion to the amount of daylight outside and eventually I think I fall asleep.

At the time this happened to me, no one else would have known, on the outside I was a highly functioning senior executive with a global pharmaceutical company. I had responsibility for a portfolio of medicines with annual revenue of hundreds of millions of pounds. I was young and had been accelerated through the ranks until I met my current manager. She was in a period of performance difficulty and had nowhere to turn, so she did what many scared leaders do and looked for someone to blame – in this case it was me.

Looking back I was trying to do two things that ended up tearing me apart. Determined to get a result I was pushing for risk, creativity, participation and challenge of the status quo. Determined to be a good boy I was working harder and harder at pleasing her the best way I knew how. Responding to more and more persecution, constraint, rules and regulations. Working harder at what had got me success in the past.

And then I snapped.

I understand that most of the readership of this series of blogs will be HR professionals. I experienced the best and worst of HR during this time. While the situation was going on, there was a great deal of avoidance. Everyone in HR knew about the poison in the system but no one acted. I would ask you all to think for a minute about those situations you may be complicit in, colluding with something for the sake of your own image or career. At the same time the first person I was able to speak to was an HR colleague in another part of the business. He gave me some much-needed time to tell my story, witnessed the deep shame I was carrying about it and was courageous enough to act on my behalf at a time when my resources had run out. He was also willing to put himself on the line in the interests of the organisation as a whole. We are still in touch and I am eternally grateful.

Some research claims that 25% of us in the workplace are struggling with issues of mental health. If you are one of us I wish you well and am with you in spirit. The road to recovery is a story for another day but a key part of it was getting over the shame I felt, to stop hiding and come out into the light with the situation. And writing this is an opportunity to do that some more.

Thank you for reading it.


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 this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section of this blog

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