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Tobin’s story: how my new job welcomed me and my mental health monster

28 June 2019

Project Manager Tobin, shares his experience with his mental health family monster, as the last blog in our series promoting positive mental health in the workplace and our Time to Change Employer Pledge – signed yesterday.

I am a newbie to Family Action, having only started November 2018. 2018 was an interesting time for me in that I split from my wife and moved to Thanet, to live in a dear friend’s spare room. You realise what’s important when you start again. Friends, support, love, understanding. That’s what helps you get back on your feet. And my friends did just that, as they have done over the years, with the patience and consideration they have always given. However, get back on my feet I did and joined the Family Action family, who have been as supportive as I could ask for.

I must mention at this point my partner Helen, who I met in 2018 and now live with. It’s important to remember there are troughs and waves, ups and downs. So, by the beginning of 2019 I had a job and was in love. Not a bad way to start the year.
So, ups and downs…I have bipolar mood affective disorder, to give it its full name. I have the ultra-rapid cycling flavour of it. It’s an interesting beast. I’m on medication and have been for near on 20 years. It would have been 30 years, but it took 10 years to get diagnosed – so about average for bipolar. I spent my 20’s unmedicated after the condition, illness, whatever you want to call it, presented itself in my late teens.  Interesting times…

“I’ve always been pretty open about having the condition”

Even when you do get medicated it takes a while for you find what works for you, as it takes 6 months for you to realise it’s not working and you need to try something else. Luckily I’m pretty solid on what I’m on now.
But it’s not perfect. I have good days and bad days. This can mean one day I’m full of bounce whilst another just turning on the computer can seem a huge effort. But at least my mind is not racing with a million ways do everything, or a million ways to do me in. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s ‘it’ and what’s ‘me’ or sometimes for that matter the medication I’m on, as that’s also psychoactive.
I’ve always been pretty open about having the condition as for pretty much my whole life it’s been part of me…ish. People’s reactions can vary when you tell them. Some are intrigued and want to know more (that’s sort of my stance), others want to know how they can support and help. Others immediately get up and get as far away as the room can allow (this has actually happened, apparently a mental health condition is catching, who knew?)
I am glad to say that Family Action through my wonderful line manager, Annette, did not get up and walk away. She wanted to know how she could help and support. And so we have set a plan in place so that this can occur and I can do my job to the best of my ability. I also see this attitude through my visits to Head Office and as a Wellbeing Champion. Signing a pledge is one thing, but actions speak louder than words, and this I see every day. Which is why I’m here

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, signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge and made our commitment to end mental health discrimination. Read other staff mental health experiences and learn more about Family Action’s approach to mental health at work here.