Don’t Be Afraid to Talk – Futures’ Commercial Director Shares Mental Health Struggles

10th October, 2019

Sandra Cowley, Commercial Director at Futures talks about her struggles with mental health after the loss of her parents, and how talking about it helped her to overcome a difficult period in her life.

Today is world mental health day, and this morning I’ll be welcoming colleagues from within Futures to the first in a series of ‘Building Resilience’ workshops. I wanted to mark today by sharing my experiences relating to my own mental health and resilience.

I’ve always viewed myself as being quite a resilient person who’s been able to cope with different situations throughout my life in a positive way. Some of that, I think, is because I like to talk, for those people who know me well this will be no surprise. I’m an open and expressive person, and I’ve found this to be helpful in maintaining good mental health.

In recent years though, I’ve struggled. Losing my dear Mum and Dad in the space of 18 months was really hard, and even though I was blessed to have had them in my life for over 50 years, the pain of losing them was no less. I dealt with my grief by talking to family and friends and getting on with sorting out my mum and dad’s estate with the support of my sister and brother. In some small way this helped with the grieving process and little by little l moved forwards starting with, what was then my new role at Futures. However in August of my first year at Futures my mental health began to deteriorate to the point where I had to seek help from my GP.

Looking back I think it was a combination of ongoing grief, pressures of starting a new job and the dreaded menopause. I started to get panic attacks, struggled to sleep, started overthinking everything and genuinely cried most days, even though when I came to work I put my Mrs C armour on and told everybody that everything was all right.

With my GP we discussed the options available for me which included medication and counselling, and once l knew what l was dealing with we agreed a plan that would work for me. I also picked up the courage to talk to my boss at the time, John Yarham. I can remember being so scared thinking about talking to my manager and wondering if he'd understand or if it would stop me passing my probation period as I was new to my role. But I shouldn't have worried. John listened and really helped me to take the pressure off myself regarding work and once he knew what I was going through he was also able to offer advice and support.

For some reason this time I hadn't spoken to friends or family and I kept a lot of my anxiety to myself but I realised this wasn’t helping. I slowly started to talk, just to a few people at first, who I knew would be there to listen and help me work through things. Slowly I started to feel better and thankfully my friends, family and colleagues spoke about their mental health challenges that made me feel not so alone.

It really is good to talk so please, if you are struggling, find someone you trust and share how you’re feeling.

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