Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and to tie in with our 30th anniversary celebrations, the people we support and our colleagues will be sharing their stories about their own experiences of mental ill health.
Today we hear from Steve Field, Potens’ Business Development Manager, who tells us his story…
“My name is Steve, I am a Regional Business Development Manager for Potens and I would like to share my Mental Illness lived experience between 2010 – 2014 with you.
When I look back to 2009, I was UK Sales Manager for an International company and with that comes all the usual stresses. Before this I had no prior experiences myself, or from any family members, regarding Mental Illness.
In July of that year my Grandad passed away at the age of 96 and I suppose the combination of losing him and the stresses of work started to eat away at my mental health. Slowly but surely, day-by-day, my continuous low mood got worse and worse . . . . being a typical bloke, it just crept up on me and I didn’t really understand or acknowledge what was going on.
Following a Doctor’s appointment in early 2010 I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, in some ways I was relieved to know what was going on but I was also really scared of what was happening to me. I was referred for counselling (which never actually materialised through the Doctors). I tried various prescribed medication which looking back just felt like it filled my head with cotton wool and I was walking around like a zombie.
I was becoming more and more withdrawn, not engaging in conversations, and not wanting to attend family or social engagements – it also didn’t help that no one around me understood what was happening to me. In work I was also becoming more and more withdrawn, my concentration levels fell through the floor and I was becoming bored very easily and found it hard to stay focused on the job.
Back in 2010 Mental Illness in the workplace was hardly spoken about, yet alone understood and because I had become so withdrawn I just couldn’t tell anyone. Looking back my boss must have thought that my apparent lack of interest and concentration meant I had another job lined up and they decided to manage me out as part of a group redundancy.
Unfortunately, the combination of what was going on at home and in the workplace meant I lost everything – my job, my marriage and I became homeless. I ended up in a hostel with just my clothes as possessions.
I remember that day very well, 1st August 2014. I had hit rock bottom and really did consider several exit strategies – but even though I felt so low, there was this tiny little spark deep inside me that urged me on. That spark was for my two daughters who are my world. I wanted to show my girls that no matter what life throws at you, never give up. I was not a dead-beat dad and I was determined to show my doubters what a big mistake they made in casting me aside just because I was ill.
The support workers at the hostel were amazing and I was able to get the counselling I very much needed within weeks which, for me, helped immensely. Over the following 6 months, I also started volunteering at a different hostel which gave me a sense of purpose again by helping others in need – started off my passion for mental illness.
I also started exercising again (as I’ve always been sporty in the past) and the transformation for me was amazing. Within 7 weeks I moved out of the hostel and into supported housing for 3 months, before renting privately.
My volunteering at the hostel had sparked a massive interest for me regarding Mental Health and I completed my NVQ level 2 in just 3-4 months which led to a job running a dual diagnosing service within the hostel as well as gaining some experience as a Children’s Services support worker.
I then decided to combine all my previous senior management experience with my new lived / work experiences and took a post as head of department for a large mental health charity. This was great for me, but it also took me away from being actively involved in making a difference to service user’s lives.
As luck would have it Potens where advertising for a Business Development Manager and all my experiences fitted the role perfectly. I couldn’t be happier visiting my region’s services, engaging with the people we support and colleagues to make every day count in a positive way.
So by mid-2015 I had fully recovered and my Doctor signed me off as completely fit and healthy – I’ve never looked back. I am such a better person for going through my experiences and I am fully aware of the need to listen to your body and mind and to put things in place on a daily basis – to make sure I am physically and mentally healthy.
My girls are now 17 and 7. We are amazing and I live for the weekends and school holidays to spend every minute I can with them.
I am super proud of what I have achieved from being so low, to not giving up and fighting back and now being the happiest I have ever been, with what’s happening in my life right now. 2019 is going to be an amazing year for me and it’s only going to get better!”