WHAT a difference a year makes

Jo Hooper

I was interviewed a week or so ago by a journalist at the Daily Telegraph about mental health in the workplace. Although I was photographed this week, the ex-PR in me said ‘you don’t know for sure if you’ll be in it until it’s out.’

Well, it came out online today and will be in the paper tomorrow. And bloody nora that got me thinking about what a difference a year makes.

This time last year, I was one month into what turned into three months off sick with anxiety and depression. I was probably in bed, lonely, confused, tired and pretty hopeless.

I’d gone from being a high functioning, competent professional. A Head of Comms with a team of 12, advising our Board and CEO, to being unable to go to work. Paralysed by the idea of looking at my emails, making a decision, talking to a colleague.

It had been coming on for a while, but the final descent was pretty fast.

mental health at work

This girl, who'd just returned to work after three months in her PJs wouldn't believe what I'm up to now.

Then vs. now

Now, I am a Director of my own business. Running my own life, setting the rules, the working hours, the goals, deadlines, pressures and priorities.

Tomorrow, I’ll be featured in the Daily Telegraph, talking about the importance of companies talking and doing something about mental health at work.

That is mad.

When I went back to work last June, I couldn’t conceive of leaving my company, never mind setting up on my own. I was too broken – my confidence had crumbled, I had no concept of whether or how I added value. I couldn’t imagine selling myself in an interview to another company.

I thought it would take me years to get back to where I was before.

In reality, I’m still not back to where I was before. I’m somewhere totally different – and it feels great.

In reality, I'm still not back to where I was before. I'm somewhere totally different - and it feels great.

To know that I am building a life, a career for myself in an area that I am so passionate about – more passionate than any job I’ve ever had before – AND I have the flexibility to do it in a way that makes me healthy and happy is just – revolutionary.

I can’t quite believe it.

What next?

Who bloody knows! Who knows where I’ll be in a years time, what I’ll be doing, what I will have achieved, learned, done.

I’m used to being the one with the five year life plan, the one who knows what their next move should be, but now I have a 3 month plan, but things after that point are pretty fluid.

That would have terrified me a year ago. Now it’s exciting, empowering.

I hope that in a year’s time I’ll be working with people to help them understand how mental health issues can affect you at work; I hope I’ll be working with companies who want to do the right thing by their people and take action to improve the experience of people at work who are struggling with their mental health.

I hope that I’m mentoring people who have taken some time out due to their mental health, about getting back into the workplace.

I hope I’m having some impact – person by person, company by company, talking about mental health at work on a national level.

I hope that I’m happy, excited, mentally and physically healthy.

But who bloody knows where any of us will be in a year’s time! Here’s to it being somewhere good.


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