The highs and lows of moving back home as a 40 plus adult!

After 12 months of travelling, volunteering abroad and a spell of living in a slightly complicated friendship arrangement I returned to live with my parents in January 2017.

At first my pride was hit and I told no one out of embarrasement of being seen a failure, but then I got over myself and got down to work, afterall, if I didnt do this how could I ever move forward!

However, it was no easy feat living with dad with him grunting at me what ever I did, constantly checking his booze cabinet to ensure I had not delved in (He still has no idea I watered his vodka down….teenage trick still works), questioning me on why I eat soup or vegetables for breakfast every day and why I was always cluttering up the dining room table with 2 computers, a printer and piles of files. All the while mum sticking up for me and telling me to ignore him which would result in them having a high rised row while I sat at the top of the stairs feeling guilty like a teenager!

Sigh…Yes returning home at 42 was much harder than I anticipated but one that was absolutely necessary to allow me to get my new business up and running. In my head I was building an empire at the dining table day dreaming that I would one day tell my story in entreprenuer magazine giving hope to everyone, but to dad I was a pampered misfit who just didn’t want to work!

Now, let me tell you I never expected to move back to the parental home, after all I left home at 19, went on to have multiple houses with ridiculous mortgages and eventually took the huge decision to leave the North of England to settle overseas before returning to the South of England to work in London. I had a successful career and had never relied on anyone for anything mainly because I was earning well and also due to pride.

Yes, I had fled the nest a long time ago but had no choice but to come back to the North with a crash, bang (and an almighty wallop) when my finances hit an all time low after walking out of my paid job in the back end of 2014 and starting a business with “friends” which for me went tits up!

The sensible thing would have been to find a pal and move in and some did offer, or find a shared house which horrified me but would have been bearable. The reality was after 12 months of living in various parts of Italy, Malaysia and Cornwall I couldn’t face yet another bout of living from my case and I needed every penny to get my business going. No, I had experienced the gap year as an adult child and now I had to grow up but that meant starting from the bottom up.

https://www.thespruce.com/emotional-side-adult-children-move-home-3570798

I have always got on fab with my parents with every Christmas enjoying sunny Spain as a family, but let me tell you when I moved back I upset their routine and it can become a war zone within a couple of months which I did understand but didn’t know how to manage so would creep about as much as possible no easy feat in a 3 bed semi detached designed for two not three.

I tried to be as quiet as possible, help with the chores and became chief cook, showing my chef training that they paid for when I left school was not totally wasted. Thankfully I don’t watch TV so no hogging the remote control to crash their love of the chase or pointless (which I agree is). I follow a plant based diet while they are hardened carnivore animal produce lovers so they never had to worry about me eating their food. And as I had returned after 20 years away had few friends visiting and I was single (lets not go there) so I thought I was an easy guest!

The issue came in February when dad simply couldn’t understand why I sat on my computer all day on Facebook instead of getting a job, (might I add here I don’t have Facebook) but dad can only relate computers to face book as thats all my mum uses her for. So yes, dad thought I was sat in the kitchen for 10 hours a day liking peoples lunch and photo edited profile pictures!

Yes, it was not easy!

However, there were a few things that were totally great which made me stick around.

  • I felt like a kid again because I had no responsibility
  • There was always good coffee
  • I found myself downloading all the tunes on spotify from my teens and took to dancing in my tiny bedroom
  • I found there was always an abundence of crisps on tap (can’t resist a bag of walkers in a multi pack)
  • I had no bills (yes, despite the offer from me the deal was I didnt have to pay anything towards bills while I got back on my feet again

However dancing to bobby brown and getting bored of crisps I then started to see it also had problems. And that problem wasn’t booze, food or actually returning home. It was because my dad at 80 is from a generation where putting on a coat, leaving the house and returning 7 hours later is what one should do.

And so with a small income coming in I knew the only way to avoid another raging row was to get somewhere else to work without him crashing doors and banging glasses every time I took a call.

And so thankfully it worked!

I found a cool co-working space in Preston at a price that was not much more than what I was spending on coffee in Starbucks. 

Not only did getting up to go into the office do me the world of good it helped me focus more as well as meeting some really great people and actually getting a social life in a city where I knew very few people.

Co-working has huge benefits for entrepreneurs and my hot desk soon moved to permanent desk the busier I got of which I now have 4 desks as I await my 2 staff starting.

http://businessadvice.co.uk/procurement/working-spaces/the-benefits-of-co-working-spaces-for-your-startup/

Moving back in with your parents no matter how good the relationship is can be hard but for some they have no choice. Now I am out of the way most days dad actually offers me a vodka in the evening which I turn down (who wants watered down vodka when I have my own Guinness)! I tell them about my day and we all get on great. I share the highs and lows, thankfully more highs and they give me an insight into what is happening in the world of politics with my reluctance to follow the news. I am gone before dad wakes and apart from weekends don’t clutter the dining table.

I now have a social life so find I am out a lot more than normal and we have almost become like ships that pass in the night, in fact they probably forget I am here most of the time with me taking trips to other cities and overseas.

The thing is now I am now in a position to flee the nest and pay rent after 6 months of being very careful yet I am reluctant to leave what is a bloody cushy number and if the truth be known they don’t want me to leave either. When I raised the subject of a flat I had seen I was met with why would you want to waste money renting……aha, so now we are at deadlock because how can I argue with that!

The idea of not paying bills like most adults is to good to pass over. I can invest more into my business which is taking its value to heights that some might of had to wait years to reach and I actually enjoy spending time with them knowing that they are the closest I have for being critical of decisions I am making. And lets face it I am incredibly lucky to have my parents here.

download

As for dad, well he now knows I wasn’t on Facebook and was working hard on building a business from the ground up but he still has no idea I own it and thinks I am putting on my coat to go work for someone else. To be honest rather than upset the apple cart I have decided its much better that he still thinks that!

9 Reasons Why Moving Back In With Your Parents Is The Best

 

 

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And so I have managed yet another day of not needing a car!!

I recently had yet another conversation with a business associate who contacted me asking if we could arrange a meeting. I was keen to meet with him too so agreed and asked if we could meet close to Manchester Piccadilly station which would be much easier for me and save me messing about with taxis. There was a slight pause before he said it would be much easier if I could drive to their office to avoid the city centre and that they had ample free parking. My reply was “I don’t drive so not much use” a line I seem to be using more and more as my business gets busy. Of course I was met with the usual “ah ok no worries at all” no challenge and our meeting was booked in the diary.

And so I have managed yet another day of not needing a car!!

Now, I should point out it isn’t a lie but it isn’t the truth either because I can drive but I choose not too which so many people seem aghast at.

You see from passing my test at 18 and for a further 15 years I would spend far too much time driving up and down the M6 as a business development manager with clients scattered around the North of England. I still remember the gridlocked days I experienced meaning I could be stuck in my car for hours on end grabbing a sandwich while driving from one meeting to another and the stress of delays calling customers to say I might be a bit late. Of course after so long doing it I knew no different and it became a way of life.

Cars on England Roads increase

That was until I moved South in 2010 and my driving changed to trains and tubes to get into the city of London where my office was. As I lived in Brighton city centre and right next to the beach I found the car spent most of its time stuck on my expensive permit holder parking space and before long realised it was an expensive asset that was never used and it had to go, so I returned the car to the lease provider and I have never driven since.

Group of people walking.jpg

When I moved back North in 2017 I knew the transport system was not as practical as living South but was determined to avoid a purchase until needed. After 7 years of not driving the desire to sit in gridlock traffic based on the sheer number of cars on the road, the aggression of people cutting in, car horns blaring and witnessing multiple people on mobiles infuriating me did not appeal and I decided I would buy a car once it became a necessity.

6 months later and I am still without car even though I now have the ability to purchuse, but I find not only am I less stressed than my fellow car drivers but I am much fitter having decided unless I needed to take transport I would walk.

Add the fact every person I meet with who has taken a trip they have a tale to tell of the amount of time it took them to get from A to B and the price of fuel and how stressed it makes them!!

However, what I have discovered is walking is absolutely wonderful for not only managing my anxiety but it is great for staying in good shape if like me you hate the gym and due to injury running is just not possible. On a daily basis I walk to my office which is a good 6 mile round trip giving me time to listen to my music, plan my day and think over anything that warranted a reaction, good or bad. It allows me to see exactly what is going on around me, people watch which is one of my favourite activities and save heaps of money.

Yet so many people are still driving even if only 5 minutes to take the kids to school or the 10 minute trip into the office while paying up to £10 a day to park. And with that comes dead leg and potential weight gain when the only exercise consumed is from house to car on the drive and stuck in front of computers most of the day.

Of course I know I am lucky, not everyone can do what I do because they might have children they need to drop off before work or live rural but for those who are within a commuters reach I can only assume you drive because you are stuck in the matrix like so many thinking driving is normal because we are a nation of car obsessed people. I have heard many tell me they need their car as they visit clients? yet those working in the city manage by using public transport so is it you prefer to drive than get a train or bus?

However, if just a few days a week people left the car at home and took public transport to a sensible walking distance to the office would like me see that driving really does test the patience of everyone on the road and its good to have a break from it.

There are huge benefits of walking and perhaps if people who are not totally reliant on the car due to obstacles they should try it to see if it actually makes the start to their day calmer.

Woman walking outside with briefcase listening to headphones
Business woman walking outside with a briefcase and mp3 player

I am not saying I will not have to eventually get back behind the wheel afterall with the iminant arrival of my grandchild a car will come in handy, and lets face it I am in the Northwest which can be brutal in the winter but for now I am blissfully stress free enjoying the wonderful walk and easy commutes into the city without the aggrevation of another driver testing me before I have even started my day.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/walk-to-work-health-benefits_n_5823362.html

http://nordicwalkingpreston.co.uk/

The “have you experienced stress in the workplace” campaign has started!

It was only a matter of time before my daily alerts on mental health would start showing posts on claiming compensation for mental illness caused by stress in the workplace.

Yes, the “have you experienced stress in the workplace” campaign has started.

“The ambulance chasers are coming and you need to be ready to defend your business or start looking at protecting it”

ambulance-chasers

Now before anyone starts suggesting I’m saying individuals should not consider litigation if they have suffered from mental illness caused by workplace trauma I’m not. My whole life revolves around mental health supporting individuals and businesses using my own experience to create robust programmes to protect both staff and the business.

However, I did not pursue a claim or even speak to a lawyer at the time of my illness. Although I had medical records to back up my breakdown was caused by trauma, witnesses, an email exchange from one of my tormentors apologising for his part in the bullying once he realised how much it impacted on my health (it seems bullying me out came from much higher up the ranks) as well as an email from new management insisting it was an isolated case that would never happen again if I stayed with the company. The truth of the matter is at the time I did not have the strength to fight, my brain was foggy, my anxiety hard to control and I very stupidly thought I could just get over it which resulted in many years of low self-esteem, anxiety and drinking far to much wine to cope! Even now while I carry the scars I could not face reliving the trauma or seeing the people who broke me.

However, for those diagnosed with a mental illness it is not so easy and they are not able to move on. They have no choice but to seek justice to cover the loss of earnings, extortionate private medical bills and the need to bring those responsible for their mental decline to be accountable for their actions. As an appointed advocate I completely get this having seen cases like mine that clearly warrented intervention by a reputable legal advisor to support them through what is a difficult time.

What I do have an issue with is the number of people trying to turn stress in the workplace into mental illness to pursue a claim exagerating their illness which will eventually impact on the people who really do suffer who have to fight harder to prove their illness is real. And all with the help from ambulance chasing companies pushing them to do it with no win no fee offers.

“So why my mistrust of such firms”

Well lets look at the history of ambulance chasers wanting to make a buck out of someone else’s misfortune.

  • There are the calls about the car crash you had that left you with whiplash and clearly physcological anemsia when you stress you was ok and they insist you wasn’t and should claim
  • The all inclusive holiday you went on that gave you food poisoning which ruined your holiday which appears to be impacting on all travellers thanks to a select few
  • The fall you had on the broken pavement slab in the city centre seeking compensation from local councils

These are just a few calls that I have had on personal injury but I suspect there are many more that I am not familiar with and the insurance companies know its a problem too.

Ambulance Chasers & Nuisance Calls

So, as a business how can you look after the wellbeing of your staff and also protect your business from claims around stress in the workplace?

Damage Limitation

Having a wellbeing programme that protects both parties introducing mindfulness and wellbeing into the workplace is proven to be good for business. Making simple changes, having an understanding and being mindful of the health of your staff creates a healthy workforce and protects you from future claims if managed correctly.

If you don’t think its worth having a programme consider the cost mental health currently has on the workplace with sickness, leavers, disruption to operations, recruitment, new staff training and potential litigation costs impacting on the business costing £30 billion a year to the UK workplace.

Wellbeing programmes are tax efficient, can generate discounts on insurance, promote healthy mental wellbeing and mostly it shows that as an organisation you care.

5 reasons to have a wellbeing programme

Many organisations are starting to see the benefit of having a wellbeing programme, however many still think its expensive, hard to obtain and still have a “not my problem” attitide when it comes to mental health. The reality is now the ambulance chasers have arrived its everyones problem and if you can remember the growth in status of the ppi and car injury claims I mentioned above imagine what is set to happen with mental illness being such a hot topic.

Having a claim made against you is bad for business.

There is reputational risk, disruption to operations when people are asked to give written statements, stress for the accused (yes your own wellbeing will be tested in this process) and would you really want a case hanging over you while your raising capital for your business which you’d have to declare or pushing to get new staff or that big client if you are involved in a public litigation case.

Wellbeing programmes focusing on mental health are there to ensure people take individual responsibility for their own health and be mindful of the health of others too. Understanding the culture of your business and how poor company culture can impact on staff is as important if you want a productive workforce.

And what of those who really do have a mental illness and need to get legal advice? Please do visit a lawyer who specialises in mental illness cases. They are experts in their field and have years of experience in gross misconduct.

For those who feel the no win no fee ambulance chasers have your best interests at heart pushing you to exagerate your illness think again, they want your case and will do their very best pitch but the only winner in such cases is them. Proving a case of mental illness caused in the workplace can be achieved but do not think it will be easy and will really test you. The boy who cried wolf springs to mind!

The Cruelty of the Mind

As I lay in bed last night slowly falling under the spell of sleep I was woken by the loud ringing of the home phone. As it was close to 10pm and it was the landline not the mobile I knew instantly it couldn’t be good news. I at first feared it was perhaps one of my 80-year-old dad’s siblings who at 82 and 84 and live hundreds of miles away are in poor health. I got out of bed and walked to the landing area to listen in on who had called expecting to hear there had been a death. I stayed as still as I could to avoid the floorboards creaking, slowed my breathing and listened as my dad took the call. All I heard was, “no mums out with Linda and not back yet and Mel is in bed”, there was nothing untoward on the rest of the conversation as I heard my dad end the call and as it wasn’t a call about death I climbed back in bed and didn’t give it another thought.

Bank holiday Monday, planning to sleep in a little later the landline rang out again and once again I was suspicious with it being before 8am, My parents get many phishing calls daily but they don’t usually start until 9am and finish 5pm so once again I knew there must be a problem somewhere.

I again took myself to the landing just in time to hear mum say, “oh god, how awful” I didn’t listen any more, I got dressed and instantly made my way down the stairs.

The call last night had been my brother, he needed to speak to my mum or me. He knew dad wasn’t the person to help him right there and then, dad most certainly wouldn’t have understood this call so my brother hadn’t explained and said he would call back in the morning.

The call this morning wasn’t him but my sister advising that there had been a death. It was my brother’s wife brother and he had taken his own life. My brother had called last night because his wife was due to return from a holiday in Portugal an hour later and he would have to tell her that her little brother had taken his own life. I cannot imagine how he must have felt in that hour but I am told he went through shock and sadness, rage and now the questions, why did he do it.

The death of a young man with so much to look forward to is never easy. He was young, active and from a close-knit family and would take his nephew out every week to watch their beloved football team play and was due to marry in the summer. Although he had recently lost his dog, a tragic accident when the dog was hit by a car, we know he had not taken the death well but he showed no signs of not coping. He went with his pals to the football and then to the pub, there had been no row or kick off. I cannot begin to imagine what went through this poor man’s mind before he jumped in his car drove to his workplace and took his life by hanging. The one thing that I do know is mental illness has struck again and this man had not spoken up.

The police advised it wasn’t an accident and had been planned because he left a note saying, “sorry mum”. He knew it would hurt people and is likely why he chose his workplace not home.

This was a sad start to my day but made me more determined to make Mente Wellbeing a success if it makes people aware of the red flags to look out for in family, friends and work colleagues.

Mental illness is everywhere and as we start yet another mental health awareness week that talking is great but it isn’t enough, more action is required. With cuts to the NHS and life being a struggle more than ever we need people to understand the causes of the illness and for parliament to step up and help solve this very cruel epidemic.

http://www.samaritans.org/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

 

I’m not weird….I’m just me!

At 43 I have always accepted that I am a social person but only in a selective environment with selective people. I have never been one for getting glammed up and having big nights out or having a gang of girls to hang with. I have only ever attended one black tie event in my 20 -year career and that event was so horrific I turned down hundreds of invites thereafter, and I am not exaggerating that number because in my line of work in investment banking based in London events like that came with the job. Invite me to an occasion like a wedding and I can guarantee I have been working on ways not to attend or turned up knowing I plan to bow out at the earliest opportunity. I created excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t attend invites before in the end just openly admitting that glamming up and socialising with people I didn’t know filled me with dread and I would rather stay home with a good book.

However, I always enjoy meeting with my close pals for a drink and a catch up when time permitted which in all honesty is more monthly than weekly. The people I enjoy spending time with are like me withdrawn from mainstream socialising and much prefer a lunch that without planning turns into sharing a few drinks before being home and usually tucked up in bed for 7pm.

1

Last night though I was put in an unavoidable situation that reminded me that nothing has changed and that its ok to be who I am and not even think I have to change if I dont wish to end up a social recluse.

My close pal and I needed a catch up following our February meeting and previous attempts had been a disaster. Holidays, crazy work schedules, boyfriends, moving house and other responsibilities left us with no choice but to arrange an event post my normal time zone and meet at the ungodly time of 5:30 which resulted in us still being out at 9pm. I should point out the night could have ended sooner had we not locked the car in a carpark and had to backtrack and persuade the security guard to let us in to get it out without being clamped and fined! Thank god for inviting my pregnant daughter along who took the full blame (which is was) for not reading the sign.

The night didn’t get off to the best start when we had arranged to meet at a wine bar we hoped would be quiet at 5:30, the reality was it was full of city workers and the music was blaring way louder than was necessary for such a small venue.

I had come straight from my new office (yes, business is going great and I now have co-working space in a cool office  with lots of other professional creative entrepreneurs) I was dressed smartly in jeans and a white shirt athough felt fashion conscience amongst all the glamor of those finishing work in their work suits and dresses to those out on the town all glammed up to the nines. I felt I was shouting and straining to engage in conversation and watching ladies neck wine like it was water was pretty disturbing (been there done that and did I mention since I gave up wine on the 1st January I  haven’t touched a drop and have since become a wine is over rated bore?). Even the Guinness I was drinking made me feel I was out of my comfort zone and that pints should only be consumed by females in familiar surroundings.

Making it a quick drink we tottered across to the local tapas bar which was much more subdued and enjoyable and decided we would have one for the road to kill the additional 30 minutes in a bar which was opposite the second carpark we had used.

BIG MISTAKE!

busybar

Entering a pub is not an issue, I have been a regular pub abuser for as long as I can remember and often alone with a great book and the peace and quiet of people watching, the difference though is I am an afternoon drinker who knows what and where works for me so heading into town in unfamiliar territory at night, well that’s just a crazy idea for me even if I am with those whose company I enjoy.

A young 43 I am not past it and even though I am a soon to be nanny I am not in any way ancient in spirt or looks, if anything I look better than I have done in a long time so do not feel the need to shy away from the public. But the anxiety of being in an unfamiliar venue with loud music, that awful surround noise of multiple people chatting and even worse door security which means I really shouldn’t be in there made me feel very anxious.

What was most surprising though was my friend who many years ago, was one of the most social butterflies I knew looked equally as anxious as me to the point we was glad when my daughter advised she was exhausted and wanted to leave allowing us to drink up as quickly as we could and exit in agreement we had social pub anxiety.

So, why at a time when I am in my prime am I so socially backwards? yes I admit to being introvert but this is not about anxiety this is about my dislike of being around lots of people in unfamiliar surroundings.

Although we all agreed it wasn’t our thing and that simple afternoon drinking was far more enjoyable I started to worry about a few events I have in the diary that start next week which start after my 5pm ET go home time zone! Next week I am with my new office co-workers as a let’s all go out for beer post office to get to know each other, A pal is over from the South the week after and if someone is coming all that way I really cannot cancel him now and I have arranged cocktails with a pal I haven’t seen for 10 years and as I have cancelled twice I am nervously wondering if a third excuse will mean a total unfriend on her part.

There is only one saving grace to the excuses game to avoid being in uncomfortable situations and that is the closer it gets to my grandson’s arrival the easier it gets for me to say no to events taking me out after my watershed, if he is anything like my daughter he will either come early and when arrives will be demanding and need us all on board so what a great excuse!

But do I need an excuse and should I feel that I need to lie to avoid the accusations of being boring, turning into a recluse and the most common I hear that I have forgot how to enjoy myself!

It should be ok to admit that you suffer from social group pub anxiety, dislike busy bars and are very particular about who you spend time with but to avoid complete social isolation I guess it’s necessary to create a story to at least have an excuse to bail. And so next week its planned, I can only come for an hour because I promised my heavily pregnant daughter I would spend the evening with her and I don’t want to let her down and who can argue with that!

As for the other events, well I am already working on being honest that I would love to see them but lets make it lunch in a country pub with no crowds, now that I will certainly look forward too.

http://elitedaily.com/life/going-to-a-bar-alone/1441904/

sheena_MG_0798-copy

 

 

Stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century

beauty in the breakdown

 

I wrote todays post after reading the following article that a friend had brought to my attention.

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/mar/08/international-womens-day-career-advice-successful-women?CMP=share_btn_tw

Although it was posted in support of International Women’s Day it did remind me of the battle I am having with certain people who seem to be making a big deal about a change in direction for my business and this article instantly reminded me not to let anyone influence your decisions and to do what makes you happy.

So, as this article struck a chord I felt compelled to write that I will not apologise for being myself, where I take my business or bringing my own Mental Health story out in the open.

When I first decided to set up Mente it was on the back of contract work I was doing via my consultancy and my own personal experience and understanding of mental health in the workplace. I didn’t plan to be involved with so many people suffering from mental health in the UK, Europe and Asia but it just happened and so offering guidance became second nature over the years.

I knew when I decided to get more involved in this area that I would be met not only by the haters who think we should follow the sheep into the matrix rather than do anything different, by the doubters who might be uncomfortable with my subject and openness, I mean why on earth would I put my personal life out in the open… and then those who knew me and remember the ghastly time I had and their concern for me in digging up my past.

The reality is if we do not talk about it openly then we do not end the stigma and if I can help one person with their battle than I am extremely proud to be labelled an oversharer.

Last week the IOD met to discuss Mental Health in the work place and reiterated that “Stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century”. Yet there are still many who are willing to discuss intimate matters of what’s going on with their body but will not talk about what’s going on in the brain, the most complex organ causing half of the problems our body has!

The stigma is still very much a problem no matter how much press coverage we give it.

Most of my associates are aware of my background but for those who missed the show at 32 years old and a mother of one, after a significant life change and a spell of workplace bullying I suffered a very public Mental Breakdown.

If we think there is stigma in 2017 you have no idea what I had to endure in 2006.

After eventually seeking help I was eventually diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety and Anorexia Nervosa a truly awful time for me and my family, Support was never given by my company who for the most part contributed to my attacks with only one manager ever apologising and admitting to bullying before he was made redundant and left in a scrapheap (karma).

I was incredibly lucky to overcome my eating battle after many years of therapy; however, my anxiety was never to leave and like a diabetic who needs insulin I accepted many years ago, that I am programmed for it and must manage it which for the most part is easy enough.

I started talking openly about my battle about 5 years back because it was important people understood my behaviour as many would dismiss my anxiety attacks as drama queen moments to avoid spoiling the ambience of booze and banter, the reality is anxiety can be far worse than that.

However, Mente didn’t come about due to my own illness, it came about because I was living it and breathing it through other people who turned to me for help of which I was more than happy to offer support.

While working with two organisations over the course of nine months I had to intervene on several incidents which included witnessing the owners and others cause mental distress to their staff and work colleagues. At the time, I just remember instantly jumping in to help and trying to ease the pain of those suffering and explain to those causing it how unacceptable it was.

Months later while involved as an advocate in a breach of health and safety and the cause of this person’s mental wellbeing I began looking at mental health for my own understanding of those suffering.

What started as morbid fascination of understanding became studying, sitting exams and working with people on how they view it. I started to do work with local and national mental health charities sharing my own experiences and then trained to deliver workshops to the workplace which would be incorporated into the training I offered with my own business.

And so, that is why my business changed direction because not only do I know about this illness personally I am passionate about helping others to understand it.

So, before anyone dismisses mental health as a problem and thinks it won’t ever affect them I would suggest you read the latest stats and even if you are never unfortunate to suffer just remember that one in four people will, and that person might just be a partner, child, family member or colleague so please do educate yourself on the matter.

Statistics:

A national survey undertaken with research partner YouGov in October 2016 heard from nearly 20,000 people in work across the UK. The findings showed

• 77% of employees have experienced poor mental health – 33% in the that month alone
• 62% of employees have experienced poor mental health where work was a contributing factor
• Managers underequipped and unsupported to respond to mental health in work
• Bosses are disconnected from reality of employees’ experiences of mental health

Mind.Org recently released:

• More than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
• 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing

Mental Health is a growing epidemic and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

As Prof Neena Modi said “take the stones that are thrown at you and use them to build great successes”

 

 

Ignorance is bliss, but it won’t save a life….TALK ABOUT IT!

If-Ignorance-Is-Bliss1I spoke recently about how building a business was a lonely job and that I had only a handful of people in my life that I could count on for support and reassurance. I also talked about the negative behaviour of my dad who after realising he had upset me hung his head in shame and realised that what I was doing wasn’t about chasing the money and lifestyle anymore, it was about saving lives and helping people fight a very cruel illness by sharing my story and building a business to ensure what happened to me doesn’t happen to others.

Dad admitted he didn’t really understand mental health athough recognised it was on the news and in the press daily. It was a reminder from my mum that 20 years ago, he lost his confidence and was extremely unwell dreading going to work when he was racially abused by his boss over a 6-month period. It was this reminder of how bullying can affect someone’s health that gave him a reality check. Back then people tolerated such behaviour and were mentally tough, there was no support and no one cared enough.

But lets face it these days we are not as tough and do not need to remain silent.

It did get me thinking about my own mental health journey and how few people in my life knew I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and Generalised Anxiety creating fear and Paranoia to the point of social withdrawal.

The reason many didn’t know about my illness is I kept them at arm’s length so I could hide it.

Of course, in the early day’s pre-therapy many people knew I had issues because I went from a curvaceous woman to a woman with a child’s body weighing 100lb at my worst. Post therapy no one had any idea because I excelled in work and retained a manageable weight that drew no suspicion even if people did think I had very odd eating behaviours, by then I had switched from Anorexia to being bulimic and many knew it but I refused to talk about it.

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The only picture I have when my Mental Illness was slowly killing me eventually not long after this picture was taken falling to less than 100lb in weight.

My anxiety attacks became known as Drama queen moments and I happily played along if it meant clients and colleagues didn’t find out about my illness even oversharing my dramas to poke fun at myself.

When I started openly talking about my illness in 2011 the response from many was uncomfortable and dismissive, they didn’t understand it choosing to change the subject to avoid killing the ambience of booze and banter. Their interpretation of mental health meant crazy lady walking down the street naked with a knife or mad man with gun firing randomly. It never occurred to people that many illnesses associated with the brain such as anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders could be mental health illnesses as that only applied to illnesses such as Schizophrenia, Manic Depressive and Bipolar Disorder.

When I decided to set up Mente (Meaning Mind in Italian) it was initially to be set up as a social enterprise to educate people on mental health having studied the subject intensely and then taken on work with mental health charities. Mente was initially set up to sit within my coaching business as an add on to raise awareness.

It was a few weeks in while working with a charity that I realised I could use my business skills and personal experience to create a programme for the SME market to control an illness that costs the workplace nearly £30 billion a year in lost revenue due to sickness and absentee and ensure we spot the signs in ourselves and colleagues and stop the illness before it gets worse by seeking help.

I emailed a group of friends and acquaintances about the new business and the plans and asked them for their own feedback on mental health for my research, more to see if they had any personal experience.

The response showed the supporters and those who are still ignorant to it and burying their heads in the sand.

Those who had suffered directly or with someone close applauded the business as they understood the problem and could see why I was willing to share my story to educate others. Supporters offered praise and encouragement for sharing my personal experience and congratulated me on my desire to make a difference with concrete training.

However, a very small bunch of friend associates, if they bothered to respond were slightly less supportive. One person said I was oversharing, one person said I was committing career suicide and one person horribly suggested I was jumping on the band wagon followed by a lol, this is no joking matter!

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When I read the feedback off these three people I felt incredibly sad for them and hoped they themselves might never fall under what is a global epidemic. So many people claim it won’t happen to them but we know that isn’t true. It happens to one in four and even if you are lucky enough to not suffer a loved one or friend most likely will.

The only way Mental Health stigma can end is by those who have suffered or are suffering openly talking about it and that is what I have chosen to do.

I have lost count of the number of people I have helped over the years, I am not scoring brownie points I am merely saying I have given people a path to recovery by sharing my experience and if they went on to seek help and recovered then I have made a difference. I have directly helped multiple people across 3 continents including people with PTSD, Eating Disorders and stress caused by work place bullying. I have also worked with charities like Mind.Org and Sane in sharing blogs, as a reviewer of content on what will be displayed on their website and information booklets on eating disorders to ensure it can be understand by someone with the illness and I am constantly using social media to share other people’s experience in the hope it will touch one person who is suffering too, so I would like to think I have indirectly helped many others too

It is 10 years since my very public mental health breakdown, many years have passed of hiding my illness and it is 10 years later I am making a difference to someone who is suffering. Instead of mocking me for speaking up, oversharing tell me I am brave for overcoming and sharing my journey and sharing the message that no one is immune.

It might take a bereavement, job loss, relationship breakdown or bullying as the case was with me for the mind to become infected, pretending it isn’t really happening really isn’t an option anymore.

Educate yourself to know the signs in others and you too might just save a life.

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