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I wish my manager knew about .....

Continuing our re-launch of our 'I wish my manager knew' programme

This week we are focussing on domestic violence and mental health

Domestic violence case study

I met my ex when I moved in next door to him.  He was a bit older than me and he was smart and articulate and the time we spent together was fun. There was a period of time where I felt that I was idolised, it felt like the attention was just what I needed following the breakup of my marriage and I was swept along with feeling adored.

I realised after a time that I no longer saw as much of my friends and family and that I wasn’t as outgoing and engaged with those around me.  I started to ask myself questions as to why this was happening and the only thing I could pinpoint as a change was my relationship. I was in denial and I didn’t really feel that I could talk to anyone about it, as I suddenly felt that I wasn’t close to anyone but him. I realised much later  that part of the control process is to separate you from your pack and your familiar surroundings, and I had fallen right in to the trap. I felt lonely and isolated.

I started to see the control for what it was, control around what I wore, what I spent, who I spoke to, where I went, all of my time away from him seemed to be monitored and all of the things that you happily undertake without question every day, I no longer fully owned.  This questioning and realisation that I was out of my depth coincided with the start of the violence. I can hear some voices saying ‘why didn’t you leave?’ and there are many reasons, but purely from  my own experience I can list the following and if you have experienced violence in the home, you’ll understand:

  • Denial – you might believe that things will get better, or that it’s a one-off, he’s sorry
  • Confidence – you are at an all time low and you’re not feeling strong enough to leave (embarrassment/shame)
  • Gaslighting – the partner may make you doubt your own sanity, memory or perception of events and can make you believe something is your fault
  • Financial worries – part of the initial control can be allowing part time work only, this makes it impossible for the individual to support themselves on their own. Not having a joint bank account etc
  • Reputational – having people talk about you is no fun
  • Being judged – and sadly, this is real. I had open ‘single parent’ prejudice from an ex-colleague
  • Housing worries – where will I live? I will lose my home!
  • Admitting to family and friends what is happening – this is heart breaking
  • Safety (immediate and long term) – it is very dangerous to leave an abusive partner, the feeling of fear may never leave you and if you have children then you will be seeing them for some time 

Certain brave individuals discretely tried to question me about home to understand what was happening, but I was only able to speak out when I knew it was the right time for me. I had been asked by a clinician about bruising that was visible after I had been in hospital for surgery, but the time was not right for me and I maintained that it was private. Had support and signposting been offered along with the questioning then I may have spoken out but with no forward plan it wasn’t safe for me to be ‘exposed’. Colleagues had raised questions too but were quickly shut down, it only felt safe to speak when I was sure of what my next step was and when I was sure that I could avoid relapse back into the relationship.

I felt locked in and very isolated, I wondered how I was ever going to be free. Things escalated, I felt that I was in great danger and I spent a few months in a women’s refuge for my own safety although I managed to continue to work as I had been located in a different county to my home address. The refuge had its challenges but it had a heavy cover of CCTV and I felt safe there. I had reached a point where I knew that I had to escape the relationship because I was at risk of serious harm.

I eventually returned home after a battle through the courts and in doing so inherited a large amount of debt from the unpaid mortgage and household bills from when I was away from the house and I set about sorting out a consolidation loan, and a court injunction and I started slowly pulling the pieces back together.

My advice to you would be to not ignore behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, any activities that you have historically undertaken that are suddenly under unrealistic scrutiny by a partner, things may happen that make you think ‘is that right? should I be questioned about my make-up/hair/clothing/friends/where I go etc?’ There are better resources available now and a better understanding of what coercive control is, it didn’t have name when I experienced it but now it has a name we can overcome it and recovery is possible, believe me. I have been asked how would we question friends, family, colleagues and there is no text book answer, but we always need to ask ourselves and others ‘Do you feel safe at home?

If you find yourself in a violent relationship or feel that you are in a cycle of control, seek support as soon as you are able to. If you need immediate help or you are in danger then call the Police.  There is a 24 hour Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 2000 247 who can advise of refuge availability and next steps.  People will help and support you but they will not be able to rescue you, the decision to get out of an abusive relationship is yours and you are the only one that can make sure it happens, the better the support network the better the chances of minimising the risk of you retuning.

Realistically, normality will not resume overnight and you may also be left with mental or physical scars but once you find that you’re on the pathway to recovery you will regain strength and will be able to see a new start and point all of your resolve towards it. With the right support network you can take positive steps forward and you can emerge from control and violence, it won’t be easy and it may take time.  It has taken me a good few years to accept what has happened to me and to rebuild for the better and to not let it define me.  It has been a difficult journey at times but there is help available along the way.

To find out more about how you can get support with Domestic Violence read through our poster for the topic here. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this account please contact Resolve (resovle@nhs.net) or the staff wellbeing team (jamiebroadley@nhs.net).  Always remember that you are not alone.

I wish my manager knew about .... my mental health

Mental health case study

A few years ago I got a new director as my line manager. His style was one that I and the other managers found really hard to deal with. I was constantly required to deliver more with fewer people and within tight timescales that were often changing. The harder I worked, the more questions were asked and the more work I got given to do. I started to really doubt if I, or anyone on earth, could deliver the work that was being asked of me and I started to have sleepless nights, worrying about the work that I couldn’t do or hadn’t even started. I had pages of actions to do at the end of every day and no time to do them. I knew things had gone really wrong when I “woke up” at 3am to find myself in my pajamas and dressing gown, walking the streets near my home. Things had to change as clearly I was failing to look after myself and therefore both my family and the people that I was supposed to be leading at work.

Apart from the sleepless nights, it really started to affect my family life. I found that I couldn’t explain the situation to my wife, who while concerned and caring, I felt could never understand the complexities of my job. She had her own, difficult job and the lion’s share of the child care too. I felt inadequate, often moved to tears or emotional outburst without any particular trigger. A sense of (misplaced) pride and a macho up-bringing meant that I felt I had to put a “brave face” on things which made the emotional breakdowns a real challenge. I certainly felt that I was alone and as I looked around, others seemed to be unaffected by the situation.

Over lunch one day, I let off steam with one of the other managers. It transpired that she felt exactly the same. The more we spoke, the more we realised that it wasn’t about us as individuals, but more about the situation that we had now found ourselves in and how we were reacting to it. We both benefitted from talking and other managers at work started to notice. This led to them also taking the time to talk, and lo and behold, many of them felt the same. In essence we started to set up a support network for each other.

I thought, and sometimes still do, that I was a rough, tough, macho person who could weather anything that was thrown at him. I thought that struggling alone was the right way to deal with the problems I was facing. I found that by talking to someone who didn’t judge, and in my case was going through the same thing, that I wasn’t alone and that we could help each other. I also found that some simple disciplines around bed time can really improve my sleep pattern, which makes me better-able to work and contribute to work and family life in the day time.

For others who find themselves in a similar position, I would say, “Find someone to talk to.” That was the first step for me. Sometimes the closest people to you aren’t the right people to talk to and I know we have an excellent resource in the Resolve team at DCHS that can be an excellent, confidential, non-judgmental first port of call for a discussion.

If this story has resonated with you then you certainly aren’t alone. The good news is that there is a range of support available at DCHS to help you with your mental health. Check out our poster here for the headlines. Click here to download a copy of of our Wellness Action Plan.

If you’d like to discuss anything related to this topic and find out more please contact the staff wellbeing team at jamiebroadley@nhs.net

Remember, we all have mental health, all of the time.