I had worked for nearly 20 years as a City employment lawyer. I was made a partner in Jones Day and then moved to Speechly Bircham (as it then was), where I ran the employment team and sat on the firm's management committee. It was all going well. As many people have said subsequently, I was the last person anyone would have thought was going to have problems.
Suffering a breakdown
Then in May 2011, I suffered a breakdown. It began around a family half-term holiday in France, culminating in a severe panic attack while driving home at the end of the week. I got home and spent the next several weeks in a constant state of acute anxiety, terrified of any noise, any social occasions, the door bell, the dog, my kids, anything.
Unable to cope at home, and with my family increasingly unable to cope with me, I was admitted to the Priory hospital where I spent a month, initially as an inpatient for two-and-a-half weeks and then as an outpatient attending daily.
The diagnosis was anxiety and depression, but the anxiety was the most debilitating aspect. Aside from the Priory, treatment was medication to deal with the symptoms and psychotherapy of different kinds to address the causes.
Work were great. They helped sort out appointments and insurance initially, they kept in contact in a gentle way through the senior partner and held my position open for me for as long as I wanted. After a couple of years, however, it was clear to me that for as long as getting back to work meant going back to my old job, I would not be able to face it so with their agreement I formally left the firm in 2013.
Returning to work
Later that year I started working, initially part time, with byrne∙dean as a consultant, providing workplace-advisory and conflict-resolution services, as well as training around mental health and wellbeing. I also write regularly on the subject, especially in the context of lawyers.
When I became ill it seemed to come out of the blue. In hindsight, however, and with the understanding I now have through my work, there were warning signs - I just did not know what they were at the time. My advice to anyone concerned about how they are feeling is to talk to someone they trust and talk to their GP.
Mental health and wellbeing awareness
I am passionate about the need for employers to provide training to everyone about mental health and wellbeing, to create workplace cultures in which it is ok to talk about this stuff, and to develop resources both to promote positive wellbeing and to support and accept those who are suffering.