I just hid how I was feeling from everyone
I have been a police officer for 16 years and, prior to that was a soldier. Saying how you were feeling when working in those professions was perceived as a sign of weakness; we’re supposed to be running towards trouble and not away from it. I just hid how I was feeling from everyone and put on what I called my ‘work-face’ but inside I was in turmoil.
About 10 years ago I remember reading a leaflet that Mind had produced on the subject of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) -my jaw dropped as what I was reading seemed to have been written about me. After reading that leaflet I vowed that I would never admit to having it; how could I ever do my job if I was fitted the description in that leaflet - clearly that description wasn’t compatible with being a police officer, right?! So the fear of stigma
and losing my job drove it deeper underground.
I spoke to a trusted friend
About 5 years ago I realised that keeping all this inside was becoming more and more detrimental to my health, and I felt like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. After what I can only describe as a nervous breakdown I took those all-important first steps and did something about it; I spoke to a trusted friend. Out of all the things that life and work had thrown at me across the years this conversation ranked as one of the scariest things I had done, but the very thing I had always feared -being judged - never occurred, what replaced it was empathy, understanding and support - it gave me the strength to take the conversation further and speak to my boss, then to my GP and counselling services.
I know my mental health problems don’t stop me doing the same job in the same way I have always done it
Before I set out on this journey I used to think being strong meant keeping quiet and not letting any chinks in my armour expose how I may be feeling. Now I can expose those chinks without fear, as I know my mental health problems don’t stop me doing the same job in the same way I have always done it. I wish I had done something about my health years earlier; things might not have come to a head if I had so, if you haven’t spoken to your GP or a therapist, go and do that. Doctors and therapists can put things in place that will assist your recovery. Being at work helped me, it gave me support and structure and helped me get better. Some days I have to be stronger than others, but I refuse to be beaten or defined by my condition.