I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am pretty open about EVERYTHING but I’ve not really said much about this.
The reason I gave up my dream job.
You may have read or watched me talking about my career as a journalist…
I started out as a bright young bellydancer and it was this hobby, this passion that brought me to my real calling… the media.
(Which is why I’ve always found it funny that I’ve been asked to speak at career events about how to get into journalism! Uhm… bellydance in bars and restaurants whilst studying at uni, then get through to the live semi-finals of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent and appear on TV loads and in the press. Use those contacts to get work experience in journalism and be full of ideas and life experience… win awards and then voila!)
So anyway after flogging myself for free in as many news outlets as possible whilst funding it through bellydancing at night. I finally started to get somewhere.
And I secured a grant from the Journalism Diversity Fund to help me pay for an MA in Journalism.
But whilst doing all this, I had a severe eating disorder, I’d become a mum and my mental health was far from stable.
Working was my crutch or should I say plaster.
I lived two lives. I was ambitious, driven and, determined to forge myself a career in broadcast journalism. I would work all hours to get a “scoop,” an exclusive story interview.
But then at home when I could work no more, I was a mess. A self destructive (in my head) “failure.”
I wanted to be a good mum, a good partner and a good journalist and entertainer. Actually, truthfully, I wanted to excel in everything because “good” has never been good enough for me.
But I couldn’t. No matter how successful I was in my career or as a mum, I just struggled to be happy.
On paper, I had it all.
Nonetheless, I carried on striving and I eventually got a “proper job” – a role at the BBC.
It was a dream come true, I was going to work on national current affairs shows. I thought it was perfect as I’ve always been so passionate about telling people’s stories especially the untold ones.
My partner, daughter and I would move to MediaCity in Salford so I could pursue my dream.
Even finding out after my interview that I was pregnant again didn’t deter me.
It would be fine, I thought. I would do my training and my first placement. I would then have a baby and return to work.
But the truth is/was that pregnancy wasn’t the only thing on my mind.
I’d been having lots of paranoid thoughts which seemed to escalate once I was on maternity leave.
It was like my mind had given in.
I was struggling. I felt as if I was trapped in a computer game, constantly on high alert.
My partner, now husband, fought to keep me at home and out of a unit.
The only way I kept myself safe was the knowledge that I was pregnant so if I harmed myself, I’d harm the baby.
Fortunately once I’d given birth things started to feel better again – thanks to hormones and strong medication!
I found it quite shocking thinking back to how bad I’d been.
If a bad psychotic episode wouldn’t change me, nothing would.
I started to see how poorly I’d been and it really scared me.
I no longer felt the ambition or drive to go back to work. Far from it. I felt hollow and just desperate to love and hold my newborn baby.
I started to appreciate the simple things. The trees, the people, the shops.
It was as if the world had slowed right down.
I was very fragile and had zero confidence left but I started to feel content.
I accepted that I was ill and that life had changed for me.
But what I toyed a lot with was what to do about my job. I felt awful as everyone at work had been so supportive with my pregnancy and my career.
I was letting them down.
I just couldn’t return to work. I couldn’t even see myself walking into an office.
The thought made me physically sick.
I had changed. I was a different person. I could no longer push myself.
I just wanted to be at home with my two daughters.
I’d gone inside myself.
Things took a turn for the worst. But this time it wasn’t me, it was my newborn baby.
She’d stopped breathing and collapsed, close to death.
What followed was a hellish time in intensive care.
During that period, I was due to return to work, so obviously I couldn’t. But really I don’t think I would have anyway.
Thankfully my little angel Arianna made a full recovery.
But I didn’t.
This was it. After all my years of battling, fighting, trying to survive… I’d given in.
I had nothing left in me.
My employers were doing everything they could to support me and extend my leave. But I just couldn’t go back.
I’d closed down my world – I gave up driving, I cut down my hobbies and I just kept life as simple as possible.
Ever since then people have assumed that I left work due to Arianna’s health but that is only part of the story.
I struggled so much with giving up my job, my identity.
But it was the right thing to do.
Two years later
I think I’ll always “work” or keep busy, it’s in my nature. I’ve never returned to work as such but I have slowly built up my blog and vlog from home as well as occasionally teaching dance and doing freelance writing and PR.
I also co-own a Video Production and PR company -so I get to be the boss!
I like keeping my hand in but I do have to be careful as I am still on the road to recovery – and small things can set me back.
I still don’t drive, I’m not sure I ever will. There are just somethings that make me too anxious and paranoid, so I choose to avoid them (or more positively, accept that it’s not for me.).
I am now content with my choices as health has to be a priority. Working from home suits me and my mental illness. It pushes me but I have the safety net of being at home if/when things get too much.
The reason I wanted to tell my story is because World Mental Health Day 2017 is all about workplace well-being – so I like to help raise awareness for an important cause such as this.
The theme this year is about mental health in the workplace. I love this report as it shows how mental health is an asset to a workforce:
- People living with mental health problems contributed an estimated £226 billion gross value added (12.1%) to UK GDP. This is 12.1% of GDP overall, and as high as nine times the estimated cost to economic output arising from mental health problems at work.
- Work is a key factor in supporting and protecting mental health. The workplace mental health and wellbeing survey identified that 86% of all respondents believed that their job and being at work was important to protecting and maintaining their mental health.
- Distress is an issue that affects a major proportion of the workforce, whether people have experienced a mental health problem or not. Most survey respondents who had experienced a mental health problem, and over a third of respondents who had not, reported that distress had left them less productive than they would like.
- Disclosure can be a positive experience, but discrimination and self-stigma remain big issues. A majority of respondents to the workplace mental health and wellbeing survey who disclosed a mental health problem to an employer described it as an overall positive experience, and were more aware of the support available to them than those who had not. However, the negative experience of a significant minority in part legitimises the fears of those who have chosen not to disclose.
- Many employers lack systems to recognise and address mental health at work. The workplace mental health and wellbeing survey suggests that many employers lack systems to recognise and address mental health at work, especially in relation to absence management and making adjustments.
- Value mental health and wellbeing as core business assets.
- Support the development of compassionate and effective line management relationships.
- Address discrimination and support disclosure.
- Value the diversity and transferable skills that the lived experience of mental health problems brings.
There are a number of different ways to get support at work such as talking to HR and/or calling Access to Work .