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My mental health family monster and work

31 May 2019

Early Years Coordinator, Fiona shares her own personal mental health experience as part of our series of blogs celebrating Family Action’s commitment to promoting positive mental health in the workplace and our Time to Change Employer Pledge.

When did I first realise that there was something wrong?
That would be the day I was listening to the Grand National on the car radio driving down a motorway and found myself sobbing uncontrollably – it wasn’t because I don’t like horse racing – I do. But I couldn’t stop crying so I had to pull over – why was I crying? I hid everything behind a tough exterior and never let things outwardly bother me. I knew I was a mess of insecurities inside, but this was something new…

I made a GP appointment for the Monday morning and it was then that I was diagnosed with stress and depression. So, the GP gave me a week off work and a prescription for pills. Me, depressed? I couldn’t quite take it in… I could understand the stress – I was in a job I no longer enjoyed, working shifts which I was coming to resent, but depressed? That wasn’t me. I’d previously had periods when I felt ‘blue’ for no reason but, I’d pulled up my ‘big girl pants’ and carried on. I decided I better take the pills to see if they made any difference. They did!
I didn’t realise it, but since taking the pills I had become a zombie; with no outward thoughts or feelings showing for others. I was told I was becoming a horrible person, (a toned down version of what they actually said I was like!). I stopped taking them. I carried on life, in a new job – well, a selection of new jobs as I was working for an agency until I found a role that really grabbed me. I had one placement in particular that I loved; it was a unit within an agricultural college and had a small zoo attached – what could be better? Fields, animals, gardening and not too far from home.
I drove home from work one evening and found myself seriously contemplating driving into a tree. What was I thinking? What was I doing? OH NO, not again, that stealthy black dog had got to me again. I realised those insidious thoughts had been creeping back, the self esteem dropping; the just wanting to go home and lock myself away… I carried on driving.

“Me, depressed? I couldn’t quite take it in…”

I reached home, let myself in and walked in the living room to be greeted by what looked like an explosion in a Christmas factory. My husband had decided to decorate for Christmas early and had put every single festive item we owned into just one room…. It was the final straw. I broke! I had to escape! I went to my mum’s. Once I had cried myself out and she had given me ‘mum’ hugs, she suggested I went back to the Doctors. I did as she suggested and had a very frank chat with the GP.
I told him about what the pills had done to me last time with me realising and told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t taking anything that would make me zombiefied again. We looked together through the side effects of different brands and settled on citalopram. One in the morning and one at night. I didn’t notice any change at first, but others commented. Gradually I began to cope again, the black dog was backing off bit by bit. I took up hobbies again, I love painting and drawing and hadn’t done anything arty for a long while. I also taught myself to crochet – I make monsters from wool.
I still have periods when I feel myself going back down into a hole – just recently I have been to a series of counselling sessions which helped enormously – it was strange talking about myself and I felt really funny and shaky after the first session, the counsellor encouraged me to paint my thoughts and feelings which we could talk through. Don’t get me wrong, I am not cured. I still take the pills and sometimes they feel as if they aren’t working. I talk to people now, I am more open about certain things – I haven’t learned how to deal with some aspects of life as I would like to but am working on it. I’m still not very keen on ‘me’ but am also working on that too. I have since learned that my dad had similar issues but hid them really well. What would I say to you – talk to someone – anyone – you would be amazed at the amount of high functioning depressives there are out there – there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Mental health and other family monsters become a huge pressure on us when we don’t talk about them and they can impact all areas of our lives. We are committed to reducing the stigma around family monsters like mental health in the workplace so all employees feel they can talk about them. On 27th June 2019 our CEO, David Holmes, will be signing the Time to Change Employer Pledge and making our commitment to end mental health discrimination. Stay tuned for the next installment in our series of blogs from employees sharing their own mental health journey.