Putting on a brave face
Posted Thursday 2 February 2012
Despite achieving success in her job and having the support of an understanding manager, our guest blogger Natalie still finds the need to put on a brave face at work.
I’m a good little actress, I always have been – I’ve had to be, it’s a pressure I constantly put on myself. When I start a new job I never declare my mental health, I don’t want to be given special treatment, have exceptions made for me or be judged in any way – I want to be known purely for my performance in the workplace.
Maybe it’s because I put so much pressure on myself, or my lack of confidence or low self-esteem that makes me feel like I always have to prove myself, or maybe it’s because I need to prove to myself that I’m still just as capable and able as any ‘normal’ person.
The irony is that I work with people with mental health problems. As a way to better understand what was going on in my head I decided to study and work in the mental health field – I thought it would give me a good insight – and it has.
In my current job I let my manager know about my mental health in dribs and drabs; I can’t even remember how long I’d been in job until I first said something. I guess it would have been after I felt comfortable enough to tell him. I used to just drop odd bits into conversations between the two of us, I still do that now.
I’ve had the same manager for three years and I’m lucky that he’s been nothing but supportive, it was even his encouragement and support that got me into the management job I’m in now – my first job in management.
My manager knows me so well that he understands I find it extremely difficult to ask for help or to say when I’m struggling – I always feel I HAVE to keep going. Because of this, he often asks how I am and will make sure I actually answer the question properly – he doesn’t let me brush him off with a quick “OK”.
He also often reminds me that I need to tell him if I’m struggling or if I need to have some time off, just him doing this really helps, it just reassures me and I appreciate that.
On the outside I’m a social services manager who can usually just about hold it together. And I know that I’m fortunate to have a supportive boss I can talk to.
But I do have many days where I feel constantly like I’m going to burst into tears or don’t want to face people. Where I just want to say to clients and colleagues that I’m having a bad day. But I don’t, I maintain my professionalism.
On the inside I struggle daily with my depression and borderline personality disorder, but I just keep going – I have to – in all honesty I don’t know what else to do.
Natalie is manager of two community support services for people with mental health and/or substance misuse issues.
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