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  • Writer's pictureAnna Blackman

What I learnt about my mental health from.....losing my job!

4 years ago I wrote a blog about ‘What I learnt about my mental health from breaking my leg’ - which was motivated, as all my blogs have been, by wanting to help smash the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace. That blog ends with the following statement:

“It feels like the past few months have been tough but I am okay and I am clearer than ever that my mental health challenges have made me who I am. I wouldn’t be the person I am without them”.

Well the same can be said for the past 12 months!!

So here goes nothing…………this blog is about what I learnt about my mental health from losing my job! As I write this I am still not sure I will share it because in some way it feels more career limiting than the first time I was open about my mental health at work over six years ago. But I didn’t do that for me, I did it for other people - because I wanted people to feel they could ask for help. And I have written this for the same reason - big shitty things happen to us in life and they can, and do, impact our mental health. But if one person reads this and takes some comfort from it - then it did its job.

Before I go any further I am not going to get into how/why I ‘lost’ my job - but let’s just say it wasn’t something I had planned or was prepared for - 20 years in professional services came to rather an abrupt end!

Big fat caveat here - I am not wise, I am not an expert - but I do seem to have a knack for sharing my story in a way that resonates with other people. So what did I learn - or more accurately, re-learn?

One of the most important things I have learnt is that emotions are hard - but you have to let yourself feel them. Now that last part might seem really obvious to some, but it has become painfully obvious to me that I am actually not very good at feeling my emotions. As someone who is very empathetic, who feels others emotions very strongly - learning this about myself has been wonderful but also really f***ing hard.

I am not going to lie - I had the help of a wonderful therapist to get this realisation - but she couldn’t feel the feelings for me. And for me, losing the job I had worked so hard for surfaced many different emotions (and still does!) including sadness, anger, denial, fear, guilt and relief. Sitting with these feelings and not dismissing/burying/ignoring them has been hard. But here is the thing - I wouldn’t change it now and wouldn’t go back to not feeling them. Because recognising them, sitting with them and knowing they are temporary means they don’t build up or sneak up on me (well okay they do but less than they used to!).

In a world of relentless positivity - I think it's important to recognise that shitty things happen. Losing my job was a shitty thing and the emotional impact of that was HARD. Working through those emotions was HARD. And a year on, sometimes it's still hard. That doesn’t mean I am not positive about the future - as I am - but I had to give myself time to feel the shittiness.

The rest of things I (re)learnt? Talking to someone I trust, being kinder to myself and asking for help. Yep - the exact same things I learnt four years ago. None of these things seem to come naturally to me - and I don’t know if they ever will.

The other thing that has struck me whilst writing this - is that I struggle to take my own advice. I LOVE spending time with people - coaching and mentoring them. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about my role and is one of the things I miss. In my new role I talk ALOT about mental health and wellbeing and what you can to proactively manage it.

BUT I am really terrible at taking my own advice - and I am going to dare to suggest I am not the only one! Does anyone else read posts on social media full of ‘wise words’ and ‘advice’ and think everyone else has it nailed - apart from them? I do sometimes.

Well, let me let you in on a secret - they may not have. I certainly don’t! I am, and always will be, a work in progress. And yes - I will need to keep reminding myself to talk to someone I trust, be kinder to myself and ask for help.


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