Rebecca Aslett, Marketing Manager, Call of the Wild
Time to Talk day might be billed as the nation’s biggest mental health conversation but not many of us have the courage to open up because talking about mental health isn’t easy, especially if you’re facing your own struggles.
Talk About How You Feel
Talking about how you feel can leave you fearful of feeling exposed and vulnerable but taking those first steps, sharing what’s on your mind and creating opportunities to talk can make a massive difference. That’s why I’m taking the bull by the horns and opening up about my own personal experiences.
Anxiety has been a player in my life as I can remember but grew to a near constant companion. In a previous job, my then manager at the time was made redundant and I was left to run the department. There was no help or guidance. I was left to sink or swim. I knew what I wanted to do but had no idea how or where to start, I floundered and my anxiety spiralled. I had a permanent vice-like grip around my throat and weight on my chest that felt like a grown adult was sat on it. I was having panic attacks at work. I had lovely colleagues but I didn’t know how to talk about the attacks so I suffered in silence. After sitting in a meeting with an external supplier whilst a director talked about how shocking our marketing was, I knew I couldn’t continue and I was signed off work.
Me? Not going to work? I couldn’t understand how I’d gotten into this situation. I didn’t really know what to do, so after 2 weeks off I went back to work. I went back too soon. I was lucky to have great support from my colleagues and HR and was well looked after. But, what I learned was that people had seen I was struggling, knew that I was under-supported and did nothing about it. Why? There could have been many reasons, people wanted to avoid rocking the boat with management, they wanted to avoid conflict (and as someone who is completely conflict averse I understand this). Maybe they felt it wasn’t their place, maybe they were juggling with their own struggles, or maybe this is just a difficult conversation to have. Over the years I’ve learned what I need to do in myself to manage my anxiety levels (although it’s often still present), and I’ve learned that by being open about how I’m feeling that I find others feeling similarly. It’s taken a lot of work to get where I am. I’m also pleased to say that since joining the Call of the Wild team I’ve felt nothing but support from everyone I work with!
What I got from that experience is that being able to talk and open up at work is a cultural thing. We need our leaders to set the example. We need leaders to remember that we’re ALL human, we are all struggling with our own challenges, whether those are as a result of the workplace or workload, or because of external problems. But having leaders that are building a positive open culture, and creating opportunities to talk, both ways, you’ll see a happier healthier workforce, that want to stick around!