My First Year – Mental Health, Pandemics and a Company that Cares
Starting a new job is nerve wracking for anyone. Whether it’s figuring out your new commute (for me, that means relying on good ol’ Northern Rail), fitting into a new team, or even learning where the toilets are; it can certainly be challenging!
They’re also things that can be especially challenging for someone who has previously been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder with Depression. I was trying to do all of this whilst analysing every detail, overthinking conversations and trying to be myself. All the while slightly panicking in every scenario I faced. It sounds exhausting, and sometimes it can be.
In any given week, 1 in 6 people¹ in England report experiencing a common mental health problem like anxiety and depression, and it’s something I’ve dealt with for the majority of my life. It’s a balancing act between figuring out how to handle my mental health in different situations, and being able to talk about it openly and honestly.
And my job is just the same.
I started at ilk in October 2019 as a PR Account Executive, and I’ve enjoyed every single thing I’ve done, and every single thing I’ve learnt too. Minus answering the phone, which I’m a natural at now. Well, I’m getting there…
The first five months consisted of taking on new responsibilities, meeting clients and avoiding brew rounds (I’m a Lucozade or Red Bull at 9am kinda gal). It’s been great, and although my anxiety definitely affected me in everyday situations, I was beginning to feel like an integral part of the team. Overall, I was settling in nicely.
And that’s when a global pandemic hit.
We were told to work from home immediately. And unfortunately, a couple of weeks later I was put on furlough.
Panic was immediate. I thought about all possible outcomes, and then some. I like to plan, and knowing that I wasn’t able to plan anything whatsoever was a struggle to be overcome. But as much as I hate a cliché, it was true that everyone was in the same boat… which I found slightly reassuring.
I would love to say that my furlough experience was productive and creative, and that I used it to learn new skills, but it was quite the opposite. The whole baking banana bread phase? Definitely not me (but that’s because I lack any kind of cooking skills).
For the most part, I was just trying to stay calm. There’s nothing worse than uncertainty, and there were times when I got myself worked up and experienced panic attacks. The thought of other people losing their jobs, businesses of all manners being affected, and the general impact that COVID-19 has on people’s health and wellbeing. Yeah, it would be hard for anyone not to worry.
To make matters worse, anyone that knows me knows that I adore working. That may sound lame to some, but in reality I think it’s a big part of your life and you need to feel happy in your job.
I’d finally found a job that I love, in a company that cares. Finding a business that was the right fit had been a struggle in the past, and I just didn’t want to say goodbye to ilk, and especially my team, so soon.
But then suddenly, we’re back!
The four months I was on furlough were long, and sometimes felt as though they would never end. But looking back, it all seems like a blur. I came back part-time for the first few weeks, but that quickly changed when we started getting busier again. We were winning new clients and old accounts were returning – which was so good to see.
But the challenge? A completely new routine to adjust to, and new accounts to master. I’d say I bounced back quickly though, and it just felt good to be productive, working hard and learning again. It was just a little different this time.
As with a lot of people with anxiety, change can be daunting. But change can also be a good thing and sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Change can help expand your skills, get you out of your comfort zone, and right now, with everything going on in the world and the pandemic, change is absolutely necessary to survive. As a person, or as a business.
So we’re back to working from home, after a few socially distanced weeks back. But every day I’m more than grateful to be where I am. Because I know that life can be difficult in so many different ways. I definitely still, and will, have bad days mentally. But it’s completely normal and something we shouldn’t shy away from, as a business and in our personal lives. I know we’ll definitely get through this and have no doubt we’ll come out stronger as a result.
For more information or help regarding mental illness, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/