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Apr 10, 2019

My Journey With Mental Health

I’ve suffered from depression on two occasions previously, and it is truly horrible. It saps a lot of what I think makes “me” the person I am, and I isolate myself from things that previously have brought me joy. I’ve had employers in the past who have been great at giving me time off to recover, but the journey beyond that has always been a very individual one.

Late in 2018, I began to recognise some of the tell-tale symptoms that, for me, indicate I might be becoming unwell again. For me, depression takes away my motivation to act; almost immobilising my ability to make decisions which, when I’m well, are simple. Added to that are feelings of insecurity, along with an emotional darkness from which it’s difficult to see a way out.

As I noticed all this, I also felt something that I’d not experienced before; a genuine panic about how my mental health might affect my professional life. Up to the point of my depression returning, I had no doubt that I was doing an amazing job (although my Britishness makes admitting that pretty tough, but that’s another subject). When I knew I was becoming depressed again, I had doubts about how I’d be able to deliver my best work, and also how I’d be perceived.

When I knew I was becoming depressed again, I had doubts about how I’d be able to deliver my best work, and also how I’d be perceived. It scared me to know that I was entering a phase where my health might preclude me from delivering my best work. That’s not to say that working had anything to do with my own depression; as mentioned previously, I’ve been unwell before, and I most likely will be again in the future. It’s unfortunately the reality of the situation of living with a mental illness.

At Netflix, my experience was different. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been incredibly supportive and allowed me to figure out what I needed to succeed. Using sports as an analogy (which is not the most natural fit for me, but a comic-book analogy isn’t coming to mind right now), I found that in work, much like in a sports team, sometimes people get injured. And when they do, they don’t carry on playing. They take the time to recover properly, using coaches and healthcare professionals who can assist them on that journey. Even while they are on the mend they aren’t put straight back into the team full-time, they take it slow and build back up to full strength, with the support of team members and coaches.

At Netflix, my experience was different. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been incredibly supportive and allowed me to figure out what I needed to succeed. Turns out, that’s just what happened for me. I had a candid and open conversations with people in my life - from my husband, to friends and colleagues, my doctor, but also including my managers - to talk through my mental health issues.

Being open about mental health is not easy. It’s really, truly hard to do. But for me, being candid and open about my mental health was the right decision. That was entirely my choice, but I’ve found that it has paid dividends in terms of the connections I’ve made, and the kindness that has been shared with me. Turns out, that sports teams want everyone to be their best at their job, but also be in the best possible health.

So here we are. I am starting to feel better. I’m not worried about work, because for the first time in my career I feel like I’m working at a company which not only wants me to succeed, but wants me to feel well and happy while I do it. They have their eyes set on my long term success here.

This blog is about my own experiences of working whilst being unwell, but I hope that it might be helpful to other people who may recognise some of what I’m talking about.

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