Although we are all firm believers of talking about Mental Health at any time, as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to share with you our own stories to show you that it really is “OK, not to be OK” and to be able to talk about it. As a group the testing peers know that mental health is really important. We know it’s something many of us suffer from and we want our listeners and followers to know you not alone. We’ve limited ourselves a little to just a few paragraphs else we’d all have written a novel.
For your reading, here are our open, honest stories.
My 20s were largely a struggle with my mental health. I spent most of that period focused on university. I changed universities, dropped out of several years, took years off and rejoined several times. During this time I was on medication, had various therapies, I would self-harm, I tried to kill myself twice. Not a happy time by anyone standards yet now I look back with fondness on the people I met, the positive times not the negative ones, at the time that seemed impossible.
Due to my health I took a few customer services jobs between years studying. This took me to work for an awarding body called NCFE. I found my way at NCFE into being their first tester (long story) then helped them build a test function and they supported me completing my degree finally whilst I was a tester. I only worked at NCFE because of my struggles. So unbeknown to me my struggles helped me find a path into testing, to meet some great friends too.
My 30s oddly improved, it had a rocky start my 30th year I lost my dad and got diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer but as odd as that sounds it helped. I learnt my dad suffered depression and I saw the suffering of others on cancer wards (I was lucky – surgery and Radioiodine Thyroid Ablation and monitoring my experience was fairly mild).
Those events were the triggers that eventually meant that I was in a place I could take in what my CBT therapist was saying. I listened found the patterns that were hurting me and improved, I can cope a lot better now, I’m more self-aware but I know I’m not perfect and how important taking care of my mental health. So I urge you to keep fighting I could not predict where I am now, so keep trying!
My mental health has always been something I have been very aware of. During my childhood, I was betrayed in the worst way by my father and when I tried to speak out, no one believed me. I lived for years with the fact that I didn’t feel like anyone listened to me about anything. That has to lead to a lifelong need to prove myself, almost as if I need to justify my existence.
This came to the fore a couple of years ago, when I was so desperate to be the best at my new role as a manager that I took on too much and ended up reaching burnout, collapsing at home in front my boys and wife. I tried at this point to look at what could change to stop it happening again.
It also means I constantly question whether I’m good enough at what I do which leaves me with anxiety and crises of confidence on a regular basis. I work hard to suppress this and I have a huge amount of gratitude for the Peers for giving me an outlet and a support network that means I don’t have to put it all on my loving wife and kids.
In a previous role, my confidence took such a battering due to conflict and bullying and self doubt hit and all time high. I ended up starting psychotherapy sessions to put some of the demons to bed and build me up again. This therapy only finally stopped this year after 2 years.
Talking to others, even if you don’t talk about your troubles can make a huge difference. I try to ensure I can help my team and fellow peers with this. Being a listening ear costs nothing and can mean the world to someone in need. Mental health affects everyone in some way and we should be as understanding and supportive of this as we possibly can.
Although I haven’t been diagnosed specifically with mental health issues I have had people close to me that have. I personally was bullied in school and remember those feelings of dread with going into school and rushing home to get away from those people and trying to get away from the bad feelings. However those feelings remained there daily, and at that time I had no-one to share my feelings with so became very good at hiding those feelings and putting on a face to show the world that ‘everything was fine’ however internally I was in turmoil.
I have since talked to counselors and recognize the need to communicate with others. We also need to practice talking when we are in a good place so that when we are struggling we know that we have a friendly ear that we can share honestly our struggles without having to use our energy to build these relationships when we are not in a good place.
As a manager I am driven by that sense that everyone should has a voice and something valuable to share. Having a support network within the group is important so that if people don’t want to share things with their line manager they have other avenues should they need.
After sharing any worries with others, there are two other things that have helped me at these times. Firstly getting outside for exercise it can be just going for a walk, to feel the air and hear the sounds of nature. The second is if waking in the night don’t check the time, quite simple, but if we check the time we then have the worry of how much sleep we haven’t have and checking the time has been proven that it then takes us longer to get back to sleep. Life is not set in stone and will be a struggle at times but with our own strong support network we can get through it. If we aren’t going through it ourselves take the time to listen and support others.
I have often felt imposter syndrome in relation to my own mental health.
Things haven’t been that bad, I have compared myself to others who have real struggles and have felt that I really don’t have anything to complain about.
So even talking about my mental health has been a struggle, as I naturally don’t feel a part of the conversation.
But that is the point for so many people. We don’t normalise talking about our mental health. Maybe we don’t understand it, maybe we think it’s just one of those days and it’ll pass soon. The more I have spoken to others, seen others not only struggling, but also talking about their own struggles and experiences, has enabled me to look at my life through new lenses.
My time at university was at time of relative failure, academically, financially and in my relationships. I didn’t look after myself, I would lock myself in my bedroom and ignore my housemates, only coming out when I knew they wouldn’t hear me, in the dead of night. I would ignore those who offered help and I buried my head in the sand. The persistent love and support from my family and friends was something I fought against, but in the end they lifted me up from that depressive state and my life was picked up. I am forever grateful and in their debt.
In later years, when I felt I should have all my ducks in a row, when I preached about saying NO, delegating and time management….guess what happened? Burnout.
My brain goes fuzzy. I stop being present and I struggle to make simple life choices, like feeding myself, or even having the ability to spend time doing the things that I enjoy, as I can’t concentrate.
Without talking about these things, being honest with those around us, we can get caught in a trap where we have given up.
Please talk more about your mental health. Sometimes, putting words around how you’re feeling can be hard, talking to someone even if not about that, can help you feel at ease and you can start to feel less alone.
We talked about burnout on a recent episode which may also be worth a listen if you haven’t aready:
Take care of yourself, you mean something to somebody!
Love from the Peers