Let me tell you about Shona
I am Shona. I was a successful and confident Lawyer, but something changed. When I started a family I didn’t want to work 60 hour weeks anymore, but it was hard to get that work/life balance right after working that way for years.
By 2013 due to culture where I worked, I was working up to 80 hours a week, my self-care went out of the window, I stopped doing all the things I loved, like going to the gym and socialising. I would even go a whole week without washing my hair, because I didn’t have time. My relationship with my husband and daughter suffered and I lost friends, because I stopped going out.
I would cry every night when I came home from work and be sick before I went in, and sit at my desk not knowing where to start, then read through a document not taking anything in. I wasn’t taking any breaks, which impacted my performance and mistakes started to get made. It wasn’t long before I was being threatened with disciplinary action.
This was when the panic attacks started. I had no idea what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell anybody, because I felt stupid and I didn’t think anybody would understand. These would often happen at work. I would get a tight feeling in my chest, my breathing would become uncontrollable, as if I was hyperventilating and I would become very tearful. The first time it happened I thought I was having a heart attack.
Over the next few months the panic attacks got worse and ended with me collapsing, with the whole left side of my body becoming paralised and being rushed to hospital. After numerous tests, anything serious was ruled out, but it was clear that i’d had some sort of breakdown and it was clear that I couldn’t carry on working like this.
I left my job of 14 years and started to rebuild my life. Over the next 3 years I regularly practiced mindfulness and studied it to Master level and I started to talk about how I felt, join support groups and I realised that I wasn’t on my own.
Seven years on, I am now a Time to Change Champion, I have been involved with a mental health foundation where the key aim is to offer people a safe place and to encourage them to just talk.
It is Time to Talk Day on 6 February 2020. Don’t let this day pass you by. Take the opportunity to talk to someone – a friend, colleague, family member, or stranger. You may be surprised just how much it can help.