Having suffered with mental health illness since I was 16, I’ve spent the last 19 years trying to hide or cure myself. Last year I really began to struggle, deteriorating after my mum passed away & my best friend took her own life, Kirsty.
I had only been in my role at Good Things Foundation a couple of months, & having been honest with my line manager & HR manager about my anxiety, mood variations & that I was on the verge of a diagnosis from my psychiatrist, they made room for me on the Mental Health First Aid course that some of the staff were going on. As an organisation we work to enhance lives through digital, but working within social & digital inclusion, including mental health awareness. I jumped at the opportunity because I wanted to know what might be in store for me, but I’ve always had a passion for helping others.
I was scared before going, but fortunately I attended with 6 other colleagues & I spoke to 2 of them before attending about my concerns. I also discussed this with the tutor on arrival. He was great at highlighting what was coming up & had made everyone feel comfortable that they could leave the room at any time if they wanted. I worried about being upset, & at tines I was, but I learnt so much about myself & others. It was 5 days later that I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, also know as Borderline Personality Disorder.
Thank goodness I had learnt so much about a range of conditions, but also came away with a manual to help me, to help colleagues & my family. For me the most important thing ou learnt is that everyone has Mental Health, somewhere on that line, just like being physically healthy or unhealthy, and we move around.
Being diagnosed still hit me hard, so I had some time off work. When I returned to work after a few weeks off & had a phased return, I was asked if I wanted to share my experience & details of my diagnosis. I built up a bit of confidence & decided to give a 5 minute lightening talk at my team meeting in front of around 50 staff. So here are just a couple of the slides & points I shared. The course had given me valuable learning so I didn’t just feel like I was waffling from the internet.
I explained my version of my diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder & thanked everyone for their support while I had been off & once I had returned. I also wanted to explain that
- There is no getting “well” & I would probably be on medication for life
- That I want to learn to use my emotions for good, especially my empathy
- Managing my emotions is difficult, & just because I cried it didn’t always mean I was sad, sometimes I just do that as I don’t know how to express myself
- Coping mechanisms are the answer & I am working on them each & every day
I also made a point of letting everyone know, the things I would do that would probably drive them all mad & once again I’m working on these, but at least now I’m aware.
- I’m learning to make these shorter & send less. If you can say 1 word, I’ll say 10,000 – I am working on this
- I like to keep a record of things for when my brain sometimes forgets (foggy mind), so I will often email even if we’ve chatted about it
- I like black & white, I am terrible with grey, but that’s not to say I don’t understand things are grey. I just need more explanation for me to understand some concepts
- Feedback good & bad is brilliant for me (I always assume the worst when I don’t hear anything), so even just saying “next time could you add”, “this isn’t what I wanted… can you do”
- Please don’t step on eggshells, I can take feedback, I love feedback, I thrive on developing & improving, so please don’t worry about offending me or telling me I got something wrong or not to do it again. I want to be better at my job.
My work have already taken this onboard & often construction feedback, solutions for recording tasks, flexible working conditions & always with support. I know I’m very fortunate, but I would still recommend speaking to someone within your HR department for support at work
3. My Cloudy head & mood swings
- I am not yet aware of many of my triggers, but I am learning
- I am genuinely at my best when I am busy, deadlines, travelling, meeting people, creating order in the chaos
- I feel like I can say when I am not having a “good day” & I need to learn to pass the baton onto someone else at work who may help me. I now have set dats to work from home, but being in the office is good for me at least some of the week
- If something is really important & you think I may have forgot, please remind me. I’m working on new ways to combat my “cloudy mind” but please don’t be offended if I occasionally forget
- I had a few weeks of feeling extremely negative about the situation, but now I feel the best way is to try & use my diagnosis for the best. I’m blogging & participating in clinical trials & meetings regarding mental health
- I am on an 18 month NHS waiting list, but I have support during my wait
- I am sure there are many people here with mental health illnesses if you ever want to talk or chat, I’m here in confidence
- I have also attended the Mental Health First Aid course
- I have empathy & am quite self aware (if one more doctor tells me I’m self aware, I’ll genuinely go crackers)
- I am learning about what this “disorder” or “condition” means, so I don’t have all the answers
- My kids are my world & have suffered many of the similar bereavements & triggers that I have. So my main focus is to get better at dealing with my emotions, so I can learn to help them manage their emotions
- I want to learn & manage my condition to do my job better & help others
I love being an EA & being able to do there where you change lives & make a difference is such a rare opportunity. I highlighted the other Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace and it’s becoming a real talking point. People don’t just say “yeah I’m fine”, they tend to be more honest & several staff have approached me who are struggling. I’m not their to advise, but to listen & signpost. I’ll be forever grateful for what I learn on that course