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“How could I feel so low at a time when I appeared to have it all?”

Written by Sarah Shilling, CMO, Unlimited Group

Like so many people who find themselves struggling with mental health issues, my own experience came at the height of what looked like peak success to those around me. Until the moment in question my career had been flying; a reality that made it impossible to comprehend how I could feel so low at a time when I appeared to have it all.

Looking back, my issues were rooted in a total lack of balance; an unrealistic manager, relentless passive bullying and countless deadlines, all against a backdrop of the desire to put on a brave face and push through. I felt embarrassed I couldn’t cope, felt ashamed that it was my own inadequacy propelling the situation. But that’s often the thing about struggles with anxiety or depression, the unwillingness to stop and ask for help. To admit that perhaps these feelings and circumstances were not of my own making, and most importantly that there could be a remedy for the situation.

The final straw for me came when I passed out during a Saturday trip to a shopping centre. The week leading up to that had been like so many before it; several hours of overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines with no recognition, and no end in sight. I was so fearful of the emails, the impossible requests at any given hour. Above all else, I felt totally out of control. My personal lifestyle also began to mirror the chaos at work, riddled with poor choices around diet and drinking in an attempt to escape the reality of the pressure.

But while that Saturday led me to understand the severity of the situation, it was an intervention from a close friend that would finally push me to make the necessary changes and seek professional help. When I did finally see a doctor, they unsurprisingly identified that I was suffering from insurmountable stress, anxiety and panic. After being signed off immediately, the few days I took away from the office turned into making the decision not to return to the job. It’s a decision I’ve never looked back on.

In the months that followed I surrounded myself with a support network of trusted friends and family and invested in a fitness instructor who helped me realise the impact exercise can have on one’s wellbeing. I made time to travel, truly switch off and explore people and places outside of the industry that had grown to consume me.

Six months later I made the decision to go into consulting. It’s amazing how much knowledge we build up in agency life which can apply to new working worlds when we allow ourselves the opportunity to take a different path.

There are so many significant lessons that came from that period which have given me an understanding of what rounded success looks like, how best to support this success in others, and when to step back and reassess my headspace regularly.

The experience was a huge driving force in my decision to become a NABS ambassador. I hope that I can share my own experience and the wisdom I’ve gained from it to provide guidance to today’s talent navigating their way through similar situations.

NABS is a vital support system to so many people looking for anything from career training to wellbeing advice. Had I known about NABS years ago, I think I could have saved myself a bit earlier in my journey.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Be kind to yourself, If a situation doesn’t feel right it more than likely isn’t – seek help and take the steps to remove yourself from it.
  2. Bullying is a reflection of someone else’s shortfalls, not yours.
  3. Bring people with you, and treat people how you want to be treated yourself. A simple but incredibly powerful lesson for people at every level.
  4. Be prepared to say it’s not OK, you can’t argue with the way you feel.
  5. Bumps in life are expected, Remember it’s not where you come from but where you go to. Make peace with the past and use it to build your future.

NABS dedicated Advice Line team can give you support with your mental and emotional wellbeing. Call them on 0800 707 6607 between 9am – 5.30pm or email [email protected]

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