Wife, Mother, Procurer of Fine Friends , Learning and Development Manager at Bolton at Home
Considerate Bullet-proof Sociable Logical Resilient
Kind Hilarious Creative Fun-loving Perceptive
Leader Inspiring Big-Hearted Entertainer
Catalyst Role model Champion (of others)
These are the words my family, friends and colleagues use to describe me.
They aren’t words I would use to describe how I felt on 12th May 2015 when I was sat in my car in B&Q car park Bolton sobbing uncontrollably and telling myself to “get a grip woman”
It was my eldest sons 21st birthday (I’m really proud of him so always imagined his 21st to be a joyful day). The words I would use to describe how I was feeling at that moment would be - out of control, lost, scared and frightened that I would never be myself again. What if this was me forever?
I could not even plan a meal, shop or remember what I had watched or spoke about the day before, I felt like I was losing my grip on reality.
It felt like I was living inside a bubble and could not break through the barrier to get my life back.
There were times when I literally didn’t know where I was. I scared my best friend by asking her where I was when out on a walk around a local country park, a walk which we had shared too often to remember how many times, this lasted around three minutes and really shook her up. They say you don’t know who your friends are until you need them and I’m glad to report that all mine stayed by my side when I needed them most.
If I ever feel like a pick me up I reflect on how others see me as it motivates me to take care of myself and I suppose that’s why I have decided to share my experience of anxiety and depression with others. I can now look back and take some learning from the ‘Hateful Eight’ months I spent on a journey of self-discovery, it helped me see my life through the eyes of others, helped me understand why I was important and why I needed to put myself first if I wanted to carry on supporting others.
“I’m struggling to understand what your illness means“
“You don’t need to understand what my illness means, all I’m asking is that you listen and understand the support that I’m asking for - its exhausting to keep repeating myself”
That was my need from someone who was in a position to support me, yours might be different.
I say this because that’s the point, we are all different on the inside and so we all need different levels of support at different points in our lives.
Everyone is carrying a certain amount of emotional baggage at any given time, it’s impossible to experience the highs and lows of what life throws at you and not be left with emotionally linked memories, although I have been told before that I was emotionally void of feelings! One nil to me then as I soon went on to prove that person wrong, but that’s another story.
They may be positive or negative emotions, you might have a purse or wallet full, you might be managing nicely with a 5p carrier bag or like me you might be carrying around a Kardashian family vacation set of fully matching Louis Vuitton (in my dreams! In reality mine are from Matalan).
Once you try to pack too much in there and it starts falling from the overhead compartment, you cant ignore it anymore. I couldn’t as I found my luggage spilling out in the middle of a meeting at work in front of 24 people who included our CEO, Directors, HR, Unions Reps and some of my team members.
When it hit it came in the guise of my first anxiety attack. No messing about from my colleagues though, as good old British practicality kicked straight in and I was given a cup of tea two with sugars for the shock – they do say it’s the thought that counts.
That was the start of what I now refer to as the rainfall season. It had all become too much and the dam had burst, there had been seepage and signs (which I ignored).
I chose to ignore, after all I knew better.
I was the one who people turned to for support. I’m a qualified coach who often supports others to recognise and manage their anxiety and stress. NLP and Emotional Intelligence have become part of my DNA, its second nature…so I knew best didn’t I?
Well that’s all well and good if I had been practicing then what I preached, maybe 2015 would have turned out very different.
2016 by the way is going great and that’s because I’ve taken steps to look after myself. It’s a real challenge for me to put myself first but I’ve learnt that if I don’t then I am not much use to anyone and that’s my motivation.
Thanks to family friends and colleagues who continue to support me to listen to myself and others, this helps me keep healthy – you know who you are and you’re all appreciated and loved. It’s never too late to reach out for support, so please help yourself or others by speaking up about mental health, it really is #timetotalk and it’s also #timetolisten …be kind to yourself – you deserve it
Paula is a mum of three and Head of People Development at Bolton at Home. A qualified practising coach who has introduced mindful practice into both her home and work life, to support herself and others. She shares her experiences to reduce stigmas attached to mental health. You can connect with Paula via Twitter here