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Find out how we supported Michael when he began to struggle with his mental health and needed urgent treatment to get his life back on track.
I’m Michael, I’m 49 and I’ve been an engineer for 28 years. Most recently I was a general manager at an engineering company. It was a pressured role but one I was more than capable of doing. I was responsible for people, budgets, production — pretty much everything. Things were going well until I began to struggle with my mental health. Then things started to go wrong.
I was already struggling with my mental health. But when the first lockdown kicked in, things got worse — I couldn’t function or cope with everyday tasks.
I neglected myself and pressures overtook me. Although my company was initially supportive, this changed. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the support I needed and this led to me leaving the company. It was inescapable — I carried it around with me all the time, but people couldn’t see it. It’s not like a broken leg; people can see that and will help.
Getting mental health support
I knew I had to get some help. I tried my GP and local NHS mental health services but both are under pressure and underfunded. The only option I had to treat my diagnosis of OCD and depression was medication. But I knew it would only be a plaster. I didn’t want to get into a boom and bust cycle of taking medication, coming off it and then relapsing. I’d also tried online support forums and a local face-to-face group. But nothing I tried seemed right for me.
As things spiralled, I moved in with my brother. He knew I needed to take the pressure off and focus on getting better. If that hadn’t happened, I’d have ended up being homeless. Later during lockdown I received an email from Foothold, explaining how they could support engineers. This included support with mental health. I decided to get in touch although I was a bit sceptical. I’d been let down before and you do begin to think the whole world is against you.
I was surprised and impressed with how quickly I received a reply. They were friendly and professional. At a time when I felt completely broken, it was like slipping on a warm cardigan. Foothold referred me to Anxiety UK and I did a telephone assessment. Again, I was sceptical of this, but they asked all the right questions and didn’t rush me. I was then put in touch with a counsellor and it came to light that my diagnosis was wrong. I was suffering with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Having the right diagnosis and the counselling sessions was a huge step forward.
I’d lived with the misdiagnosis for a year. It was a big relief to know what was going on and have someone there to help me through it.
This whole experience has changed me — I now know that I wasn’t depressed, I was suffering a traumatic event. It needed to be treated or I would keep getting flashbacks and be unable to move forward. Before this, at my best I was able to give 100%. Now a good day is 60%, but on an average day I can give 40% of what I used to be capable of. My short-term memory is damaged as well but the counselling is helping and I can feel the improvement.
My journey through life has changed now and I don’t want to go back to how I was. I’ve gone full circle and now want to give something back. I’ve started volunteering at the local homeless shelter and joined a running group. I want to stay fit, healthy and mentally well and help people. I’m not interested in Rolex watches now.
I have my good and bad days — it’s a bit like a game of snakes and ladders. You know the snakes are out there and you might land on one, but I have a safety net of support now.
I’m ready to begin making sensible decisions about my future and I want to help others who have suffered like me.
For the last 18 months I’ve let my mental health define me. But now I’m in control of it; it’s not in control of me. Anyone who’s worried about their mental health should ask for help without delay. I’ve found that talking is the best thing. If I hadn’t got in touch with Foothold I wouldn’t be in this position. I really do appreciate everything.
If you’re struggling with your mental health and it’s hard to cope, you’re not alone. Our team is ready to listen and help. Get in touch with us now.