Today, Time to Change is encouraging people to take five minutes to talk about mental health. I’m fortunate to work for an organisation that is doing the same. This is the post I wrote for our staff blog at work today. My friend and colleague Paul, who blogs about mental health (amongst other topics!) at Dippyman, encouraged me to post it here too. So here is my virtual 5 minutes chat:
I’m not in the office today so this is my attempt to virtually take 5. Writing it feels like a confession, which in itself tells me how important it is for us all to be talking to each other.
I don’t know why admitting that is so hard, but it is. Most of you who know me know that I have a nocturnal toddler – I talk about it a lot. What you may not know, because I don’t like to talk about it, is the impact that sleeping for less than three hours at a time is having on my emotional wellbeing – on my mental health.
I am altogether less resilient. My reserves are depleted so I am less able to combat illness and less able to combat the negative voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough.
Anyone who says that sleep is overrated, truly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
I reached a point where I was convinced I was failing. I started a new job six months after I returned from maternity leave. I wanted to be good at it, I wanted to be brilliant at it, but on such a steep learning curve, on very little proper sleep, every time I forgot something, or didn’t understand something, I thought I was failing.
At home, I have a bright, beautiful, healthy, happy daughter and my god she’s funny. But instead of focussing on what a good job I was doing as a mum, I cursed myself for not being able to understand why her own sleep patterns were so poor and for not being able to ‘fix it’. I thought I was failing.
I felt like I couldn’t be a good parent and a good employee – and I hated that as a mother I felt a pressure (albeit an imagined one) to choose to do one or the other exceptionally.
I didn’t want to tell my manager that I was struggling. I was scared of the response I might get and how I might be seen afterwards. There was no real foundation for this fear. My negative thinking is exacerbated by my sleep deprivation and I’m a catastrophiser (that’s a real thing!). Luckily for me, my manager knew I wasn’t ok and created a safe space for me to say so. Telling him how I was feeling was hard, but it was the best thing to do. I was met with understanding and reassurance.
I am putting things in place to get me back on track, including seeing a counsellor.
I am starting to believe that I am not failing.
I’m just very, very tired.