Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Why I've decided to open up about my own mental health
Today marks National Time to Talk Day, so I've decided to talk about my own story.
I’ve always admired entrepreneurs and people who create their own destiny. I adore them, put them on a pedestal, worship even. During my time at HVO Search I spent a huge amount of time with entrepreneurs, working with them, interviewing them, being friends with them.
So when one day a good entrepreneurial friend approached me to start a company together, it was my dream come true. Except that it came at a time when I suddenly lost my mother. At the time it didn’t deter me, and I, threw myself into this amazing project. Instead of taking time away from work, I embraced it, I used it as a way to emotionally detach myself from what was really going on internally.
Working on this venture was a blessing in many ways, I learnt a lot about myself not just through the fact that we were working on ways to build better self awareness in our customers (and testing it all on ourselves), but also through the process of working in a very intense way with exceptional people.
But, I was over-stretching myself. Taking on more and more responsibility, which would have
been too much for anyone regardless of their mental health. This put a huge strain on my relationships with my friends, co-workers and myself. Coming up to a year anniversary of my mother’s death, which happens to be the Christmas period, I was at breaking point.
I've since learnt that this period of time can be especially difficult when dealing with mental health issues. And at this point I suffered yet another loss, not a death, but a bereavement nevertheless. This was the last straw and I totally collapsed. I have never felt so low as at this point in my life. When I needed emotional support of another person or better still other people.
I found an excellent therapist who was also a coach to elite athletes and he opened my eyes about how I cope with adversity. I saw that when things get hard, I over rely on myself, try to outcompete, outperform and outmanoeuvre whatever is standing in the way – even if it’s my own mental state. And this style of coping no longer served me.
What I realised was that I could not say 'no' to things that were being asked of me and took on
more and more tasks that were not even part of the original agreement. Going beyond the extra mile. At that time, what I needed was someone who:
Would accept that there were issues with my mental health
That it will not take a week to ‘go away’
Trust that I would do the right thing for the business long-term
Unfortunately this did not happen.
I couldn't be the one to do things for everyone else at a time like this, yet my friend, my business partner who knew about my situation had responded by increasing pressure.
In this article, I will go on to explore the importance of taking mental health days if you need them. An issue such as mine wasn't going to get better after a few days off. But it's a start.
It's a clear sign to yourself that focusing on your wellbeing is a priority. And it's a clear sign to your colleagues that you should not be taking on so much responsibility at work when there is so much pressure at 'home'.
We're only human after all.
Why you should never hesitate to take a mental health day
Taking sick days for physical illness is commonplace. Your health won't improve if you continue to go at 100 miles per hour and don't take time to rest and recover. So why is the practice of taking time off work to tend to your mental health more of a grey area?
When you’re feeling too stressed, you and your work suffer, potentially leading to issues such as:
Loss of patience and perspective, which in turn lead to poor performance and poor communication.
Negative situations that can hurt you, your performance and co-workers.