Mental health help part two: What do I say??!

Jo Hooper

It’s been a while since I wrote the first instalment in this series – I could say that work has been busy and got in the way. 

Work has been busy (thank you, clients!), but that’s not the reason. I guess the reason is fear. 

I write and talk about fear a lot, but I’m still susceptible to it! I guess I’ve been afraid to try and write in a different style, scared to share how I was feeling at some of the most challenging times in my life. 

But, here goes!

What do I say when I get out of the lift?? 

You can’t get this question out of your head. It circles round and round and round – when you’re on your daily walk, when you’re trying to concentrate on reading a book – something it’s taken you a good three months to learn how to do again – when you’re trying to get to sleep. 

Ah sleep. 

Your best friend and arch enemy. 

Bloody sleep. It’s the first thing to go and the most debilitating effect – a sign and a symptom of madness all wrapped up in one duvet.

So. Day one. What do you say?

“Hello, nice to see you all after three months.” “Yes I had a very bad….leg break.” “I took extended leave.” “I was on sabattical learning….Russian. No, no, I don’t want to say anything in Russian today.”

“I was bloody mental. Couldn’t sleep, eat, read, listen, watch. Too focused on what a failure I am. Caught up with trying to get my medication right so it didn’t make me feel like I was going to fall over. Learning how to find enjoyment in things again. Trying to stay awake through the day. Figuring out how to not feel sick every time I got an email from HR, a message from a colleague.”


Hmmm yes, none of that seems right.

mental health at work

You Google. A LOT. 

NHS, Mind, support services and groups, Instagram accounts – but darkly funny memes and trite quotes aren’t cutting it.

You just need some practical advice on what the bloody nora you say when you walk back into an office you left three months ago, leaving your laptop, fancy notebook, team of 12 behind.

But nothing.

The day comes. 


You pick your clothes the night before. Just before you get into bed to attempt to sleep.

You put your make up on – listening to a podcast because you’ve learned that it helps to stop your brain churning and catastrophising. 

Get on the bus, then the tube. Try and focus on reading your book instead of freaking out that you STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY.

Get off the tube and walk up the stairs to Marylebone Road. Oh god, this is starting to feel very real.

As you walk along the street, the familiar feeling of nausea rises. For a minute you have to stop and take some deep breaths. You really think you might be sick on the pavement. Great.


You get to the building. Realise you don’t have your pass – one of the many things you left behind on that day in March.

You get buzzed through the barriers, head into the lift. Mercifully it’s empty – you’re not ready to see or talk to anyone yet.


You step out of the lift and walk over to where your team sit. Some of them are sat, some of them are gathered round. 

You wonder if they’re gathered because they know to expect you, or whether this is just a natural arrangement.

Think to yourself – you really are mental. 

Then you’re standing there in front of them. SHIT. Still don’t know what to say.


She gets up and gives you a hug. You could cry.

You hug her back. Tight. So grateful. 


The silence is broken. You go and sit at the desk that’s been reserved for you.

Deep breath. Here we go.

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