For Time to Talk Day 2018, Kathryn, a UHB clinical trials pharmacist, shares her experience of a mental health condition.
Kathryn’s frankness openness is reflected in this hugely enlightening conversation about depression, anxiety and the importance of telling others how you’re feeling.
Kathryn said: “I’ve been a pharmacist for Cardiff and Vale for about 13 years. I qualified in 1992 and I’ve worked in St Thomas’ Hospital, Great Ormond Street, and lectured in New Zealand before joining Cardiff and Vale in 2005.
“I’m 47 years old, I got married in 2012, I’m a stepmother, and I suffer from depression.
“I think it’s always been there. In the past, every now and again I’d just run out of steam and need a duvet day but as I’ve gotten older, I feel like I’ve become less able to manage it. When I was out in New Zealand, I just thought it was severe homesickness but moving back to the UK didn’t help.
"I call it ‘stopping’ because of how it makes me feel and in 2008, I stopped completely. It feels like a thick fog has descended onto your brain, you can’t focus, retain information, and you feel slow – like you’re always walking through treacle. I’d lie with the TV or radio on but wouldn’t focus on it – the noise was just a distraction from my own thoughts. I felt exhausted and empty, and I felt I couldn’t even face going to choir practice which, at the time, was one of my favourite hobbies.
“I was lucky that when I did go to choir, the priest at the church was a trained counsellor and he approached me. He’d noticed me withdrawing and took the time to ask me what was wrong. I also sought help from my GP around that time and he diagnosed me with depression and began to prescribe me anti-depressants.
“I do get anxious about having another episode as I’ve never had a real trigger. As in, I’ve yet to have a significant negative life event. I suppose I’ve always set myself extremely high standards and even though I know I have achieved so much in my life and I have so much to be proud of, I have these thoughts that I’m not measuring up to my own expectations. It’s a negative cycle of thoughts that can stop me from functioning if it gets bad enough.”
“Bottling up is bad and talking to someone impartial who has experience is extremely beneficial. I’ve chosen to be open because if I talk about my feelings, it can help my colleagues adjust. I’ve found that if you ask for help, people will help you.
“There is still a stigma around mental illness and there shouldn’t be. However, it’s easy to understand why some people would be reluctant about disclosing their problems; in my lifetime, I remember people being admitted to asylums for similar conditions.
“A lot of people just suffer in silence and often the first time you could know something is wrong is after a major incident. If you notice a colleague is struggling, take them out of the work environment; go for a walk or buy them some lunch and ask if they’re okay. There’s no shame in talking about your feelings.
“Talking is great but there are other things you can do to manage your mental health too. For instance, I run. I started in February 2017, initially to lose weight, but it’s something that’s just become a big part of my life. In the beginning, I used apps like NHS Couch to 5k because I found the structure a big help and motivating factor.
“I ran my first 5k race in July 2017. Following this, I joined the Cardiff and Vale Health Charity team in the Cardiff Half Marathon, managing a time of 2 hours and 57 minutes. All the money I raised went to the Hafan-y-Coed mental health unit in Llandough. Since then, I’ve raised over £1000 for various charities and I’m building on that this year by running a race every month.
“I also practice self care, making sure that I do things that I enjoy like knitting, baking and practicing mindfulness. However, talking about how I’m feeling is one of the things that help me most.
“Time to talk day is fantastic because it brings mental health to the forefront. People need to know that they can talk about the mental health any day of the year, but having a day to actively promote and celebrate these conversations can be the motivation that people need to realise that it’s okay to ask for help.
“I’m getting involved by hosting a live twitter chat at 8pm this evening and would welcome anybody who wants to talk with me to get in touch. My twitter handle is @KMMurray97.
“I’m also aware that organisations like Mind have helplines with dedicated teams on hand to help you out should you need it. However, my biggest piece of advice for people who feel that they might have a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, would be to have a consultation with their GP about it.”
Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. At any one time nearly one in six of the workforce can be affected by a mental health condition.
In order to encourage positive mental wellbeing it is important that the organisation provides the right support and promotes a healthy and supportive working environment. As an organisation we have a variety of support mechanisms and resources to help promote positive mental wellbeing such as the Employee Wellbeing Service (EWS).
EWS is an on-site, confidential service for Cardiff and Vale employees. We accept self-referrals only and do not share our records with any other person, service or department in the UHB. You can ring us on 02920744465 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathryn is running the Cardiff Half Marathon again this year and is raising money for the Cardiff and Vale Health Charity. Click here if you would like to donate to the team.