As some of you may know, I had a breakdown a couple of years ago. This did not come about overnight and I want to look at the signs that someone is struggling mentally, and also what I am doing now to stay in a happy place.
There were a lot of reasons I ended up in a bad place, but the 2 main contributors were work and home. I was deeply unhappy at work and the job I was doing, as well as having grown so tired of living in London and needed to get out of there. What held me back were my self-limiting beliefs, being stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts and self-doubt. Instead of breaking out of this mindset I let it bring be down. My mind was stuck in thoughts that this is what I am, what I know, and what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
The sheer nature of working as a police officer means you are subjected to stress constantly, and this went from low, in-the-background stress to being unmanageable. I felt there was so much to do with work that sucked all energy out of me so I did not have any energy or desire to do much else. Over a period of time I stopped doing all the things I had used to do, such as cycling, walking, going to the gym, taking photographs, exploring London, reading, meeting friends and going out. The good thing about having hobbies is that they make you feel good. It is simple: by doing something you like you feel better. Me gradually putting a stop to them, which I didn’t see, had a negative impact on my mental health.
This also impacted my work. I started doubting every little thing I did, constantly worrying that I was not doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. It got to a point when I could not even send emails without getting a colleague to proof them before sending them. This complete self-doubt and worrying, not being able to make any decisions, are all clear signs that someone is suffering with their mental health.
This was a gradual decline, which is probably why it went unnoticed. I always saw myself as a strong and independent person, and I had become this big blog of nothingness, not able to do anything. All I did was go to work then home again. That is no way to live.
The one thing I do now is making sure I have me-time. This is the time I take out of my day to do the things I need to do for me. This could be anything: having a bath, reading, listening to music, anything that means I get to do something for me that I need to do in order to stay happy. What that is will be different for all of us, you all know what makes you tick.
I have also started to say no to things. Gone are the days of me going along with things because I think that is something that is expected of me. If I feel I need a time out then I will have one, if you want me to do something for you and I feel the anxiousness creeping up then I will agree to do it but at a time that suits me. If that is not good enough for you then tough, you’ll have to find someone else.
So what should you do if you see someone struggling? A person who gets to this stage is a strong person, a person who takes too much on, who goes out of their way to get everything done to a high standard and on time. That is where I found myself. I wish that my manager had picked up on this at work. We have spoken about it afterwards and they admitted they had seen the signs but did not know what to do about it, or perhaps felt that it was too difficult to bring it up. But that is the role of a manager.
If you see a colleague or a friend struggling, then I urge you to bring it up with them. In my case, I would never have taken the first step, because it was too embarrassing and difficult to do that. It would have made a huge difference knowing that there was someone at work who had my corner.
Today’s advice is two-fold:
1 If you are the person struggling then please ask for help. Don’t let it get to the point of a breakdown, please speak up!
2 If you see a person struggling then please offer your help. It often is as simple as telling them you are there if they need to talk, or to give them a hug and listen to what is going on.