I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) earlier this year. I realise now that I’ve been ignoring the symptoms for a long time. I was partly in denial and partly worried about telling people because of their reaction. I refused to tell work what was going on until I ended up in hospital. I was aware of the stigma around mental health at my workplace and kept everything a secret. I thought if they knew I have PTSD, they would want to know about the trauma that caused it – and I didn’t want to share that with anyone. Even if they didn’t ask, they would wonder what’s happened to me.
But all this secrecy left me so alone, and with my workload and family life, something had to give. I became very unwell and eventually attempted suicide. I know I could have dealt with this better. I’m also aware that the stigma around mental health at my workplace contributed to me bottling it up, ignoring my symptoms and set me on the road to self-destruct.
My colleagues, (the important ones), now know and they have learnt how to be towards me. Yet, they didn’t deal with it well initially. My manager, with pressure from above, was very intrusive. She questioned me for ages and was under pressure to discipline me, for not disclosing my symptoms before now. However, she is now more informed. I gave her information to read about mental health at work, from Time to Change, and encouraged her to read it. She is now ashamed of how my situation got dealt with and, as a result, has changed her approach and is much more supportive.
I now feel confident I can recognise if I need to stop and take a break or take time out if I need to. I can also disclose if I become unwell. Since then, I was pleased to see that when another colleague bravely disclosed their mental health diagnosis, of bipolar disorder, how different the response from the same manager was. Managing mental health at work is a learning process for everyone. Hiding it is not the answer – and no one should feel they have to.