Bringing Back Nicola

My name is Nicola I am 49 years young and this is my story.

I used to consider myself a strong, upfront person, who did not really care who I offended and was not very sympathetic to other people's problems. I thought those who suffered with anxiety or depression were lazy and should pull themselves together and get on with life as I always had.

In the last 12 years I suffered domestic abuse, became a single parent, and suffered a very harrowing personal bereavement. I thought I was invincible and was a bit wild and reckless in my personal life as I did not care very much about myself. However signs of a problem started to show as I became very forgetful and would often have slurred speech or say things back to front.

One day in my job I had to make 12 members of staff redundant. I had to re- interview them for their jobs and it upset me greatly. On the day the redundancies were announced, I found myself destructing. I started crying uncontrollably, became very hysterical and was taken home and then the doctors immediately announced I was suffering severe anxiety and depression and gave me medication.

I was in complete shock because I would not admit to being weak or helpless but events that followed over the next few weeks proved how mentally unwell I was.

I would go to the shop and come outside and forget where I was and panic, I would panic in the supermarket if I forgot what I wanted, I started counting to eight over and over again and also started scratching my head violently and playing with my hands, I didn't know who I was anymore, I was lost and full of despair.

This behaviour and different medications carried on for a few months. I was then sent to the hospital for a mental health assessment, only when I received the report from them did I finally face up to my condition. I had suffered a breakdown.

My GP signposted me to counselling and my first two sessions were awful because I was still slightly in denial. However I finally decided to try the coping skills my counsellor gave me and slowly things started to improve. After 3 months I finally found the courage to start bereavement counselling and that was an enormous comfort and help too. As I was now recovering slowly I decided to look what other help was available to me as I had to leave my job. Through the Job Centre I was sent to RBLI, I cancelled my first appointment because I got scared, but went on the second appointment and I was so glad I did.

I expected to be judged but was amazed to find that they were understanding, caring, and after each session with them I always came away positive.

I started to apply for a few part time jobs but no luck. Then I got an interview for a job and my RBLI adviser helped me with interview techniques, an updated CV and encouragement.

I was very honest at my interview and spoke very frankly and openly about my breakdown. I was pleased by how I handled myself at the interview but felt that I had chatted far too much and rambled!!

I didn't get the job and I was not surprised, just pleased I had the courage again to have gone.

However 2 weeks later the people at the job I applied for rang me to say they were impressed by my honesty that they had created a 15 hours-a-week job for me. Someone believed in me and it was amazing; I felt alive again and was excited, scared and full of fear.

I have now been in my job for two years and am managing fine. The support I get is amazing, I am finally returning to being Nicola again, not the uncaring old Nicola but a new caring and hopeful Nicola. I still have the odd off day and panic attacks but I have learnt how to use coping mechanisms to get through them.

My advice to you would be, accept help, you will get through it, life can become normal again.

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