September 30, 2015

Hi, my name is Ian, I’m 49 years old, married for over 17 years and have a radiantly beautiful daughter who is 14 going on 21!

I work at Highways England in Value Management and my role there helps to inform and prioritise roadbuilding and road maintenance schemes.

Outwardly I appear confident, well informed and some people are nice enough to say that I am funny and I’m a friend to everyone. I appear “normal”. What people generally don’t know is that I sometimes suffer from almost completely debilitating panic attacks. Panic attacks that build in scale to the point when I vomit and continue to do so until I am dry heaving an unable to breathe properly. The panic attacks are accompanied by a feeling of complete dread and fear and hopelessness.  I find myself crying uncontrollably and withdrawing from people and more significantly, my nearest and dearest.

I’ve had periods of ill health in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2012 and, following on from the death of 8 family members and three of my best friends over a three year period, I’m currently recovering from my worst bout of illness.

After undertaking Cognitive behavioural therapy I’ve come to realise that I have a problem trusting people and I am a perfectionist.  I’m very “controlling” and it’s when situations are not in my hands that I begin the cycle of worry and anxiety.

During a period of mental ill health, I saw my doctor and it was suggested that start taking medication to manage my anxiety – to which I developed a clinical addiction and I soon developed a deep depression. My relationships suffered, I developed Insomnia, I stopped looking after myself, lost four stone in weight and developed suicidal thoughts. My company HR systems automatically sent threatening sick absence letters which were very intimidating and frightening to someone on long term sick with depression and anxiety.

Despite this, I kept going. I returned to work successfully at the beginning of May and have developed a healthier relationship to my medication. Although the Counselling Service provided by my employer was not helpful to me, my local Mental Health Trust was brilliant and I’ve recently completed a series of counselling sessions which have been very conducive to my recovery.

My employer has been a source of support. My line manager has been brilliant and very understanding, displaying immense compassion in her management of my health issues. Returning to work was always part of the cure for me and my phased return to work was properly managed and it’s worked out well for me.

I’ve found great solace from my friends and family, and from practicing the skills that I’ve learned in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I’ve also used mindfulness techniques and watched the lectures of Ruby Wax on YouTube. Strangely I’ve also found great comfort from the works of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Somehow their writings have provided me with a wider perspective on life which is what you need with anxiety and depression. Professor Brian Cox helps too.  I think it renders down to having some understanding of your place in this world. I also consciously make the effort not to take too much on. So heaven knows why I’m writing this?

I think the main reason that I want to be an Employee Champion for Time to Change is because I always think that if you aren’t part of a solution to a problem then you are part of the problem itself.

It’s time to face this issue openly and honestly in the workplace and I feel as though I’ve a human obligation to break some of the taboos that exist in the workplace. In fact I’ve no choice, as a “survivor” I owe it to those whom are suffering in silence and need our help.

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