It is such a broad topic isn’t it really mental health and thankfully it is beginning to be something that we can be slightly more open about. However the fact i am blogging anonymously i guess means we have a long way to go.
Throughout my life, i guess i have always been shy to an extent and cautious but i have worked to overcome those personality traits and to friends, family and work colleagues i guess i have always been someone who is engaging, likes to have a laugh, has a degree in sarcasm and has always worked to live rather than the other way round.
I built a career from my passion (football) and was lucky enough to work on the commercial side of the industry for many years until recently, building a good reputation in my field for being knowledgeable, hard-working and keen to mentor and help people.
This all came crashing down in 2017/18, with the introduction of several new people into the business i worked at, people i would describe as empire builders, self-interested , unwilling to listen and happy to tread on whoever they needed to, to achieve whatever they wanted.
I don’t want this to sound like a moan, or as some would have it , to suggest i am frightened of change (i had many new bosses and adapted comfortably for years with them) but this time it was different. A new director who was only interested in himself and his ego…who brought a whole new team with him who seemed carbon copies of him.
It changed something inside me and i felt unable to stop it…
The constant criticism of everything that had gone before, the attitude that they were there to save us from ourselves, the inability to listen as to why we did things a certain way (with good reason in many cases!) and the failure to understand why a high achieving team of people had stayed together for many years (because we loved what we did, had a passion for what we did and worked with both the business and supporters in mind).
Everyday there was something wrong , or emails at anti-social hours criticising something that had been done, my life became second-guessing, being unable to make decisions, trying to avoid any contact with people…
By the end, i was frightened of even turning on my mobile phone, for fear of the next email passively aggressively criticising something i had done or not done… which sitting here now reading these words even sounds ridiculous, how could you fear your own phone!
For me life has always been about compassion, mentoring, helping a colleague in need, giving praise where it is due and helping someone when maybe something isn’t quite right.
It pains me how much these people affected my mental state, how much they have drained my confidence (i still question every new job i am applying for , what if i can’t do it? what if the culture is as bad as the one i left?). But i am determined to overcome this and find a position again in an industry i have a true passion for and which i have both professional and personal skills which are an asset.
No matter which industry you work in, no matter your position, if you work hard, if you are helpful, those around you should be there to help , support and guide you with their knowledge, not criticise everything you do or try and bolster their own ego with every move they make.
I am sure there are others out there who may read this and relate. Maybe, maybe not? But i guess for me i just want to get across how far a word of praise, a helpful smile, a kind word can go at times and how destructive the reverse can be.
HR departments have a long way to go as well, yes, we had the token ‘mental health’ training course we went on but it was a box ticking exercise, something the organisation could say they were providing, rather a genuine desire for the organisation to be aware of its role in creating a positive culture, where staff were happy and the organisation benefited from their productivity and skills as a result.
So, it is a turning point in my life now, i continue to look for jobs, network with old colleagues and find a way back in to what i enjoy. But if it doesn’t happen i guess i will have to adapt and find a new way of making a living, time will tell – the key thing for me is i need to be more protective of my mental health and find a working culture that values it as much as i now do.
Hopefully new initiatives like the Mind partnership with the EFL over the next 2 years will make football at all levels of the game understand how much mental health can affect well-being and performance. Again only time will tell…
Thanks for reading anyway, i just wanted to get across where i am coming from – i promise the blog won’t all be this heavy! I am off to a game or two over the weekend and i am sure i will also listen to a decent tune or two as well…
But remember, if you have a colleague, friend, family member, anyone who you are close to and you think they may be bottling something up or struggling in some way with their mental health, talk to them, show them you care and are there. A simple act of kindness can go such a long way believe me…