Mental Health In Lockdown

June 3, 2020

Our team member tells us about her experience of lockdown and learning new skills. 

 

That’s nothing new, you might say, but wait until I tell you about the variety of symptoms of her diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar which can affect her at any point throughout the day.

  • Long and deep episodes of depression, feelings of complete emptiness.

  • Poor appetite or overeating.

  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping.

  • Low energy or fatigue.

  • Intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident to suddenly feeling low and sad).

  • Not having a strong sense of who you are, and it can change significantly depending on who you’re with.

  • Self-harm (in her case with razor blades) and suicidal thoughts.

Why am I keen to share this?  Because I could have wrongly assumed that she wasn’t up for training, or that I may be placing my investment in the wrong person, that I could have directly been discriminatory. 

We grow by learning.  I’ve grown by learning from her and listening carefully to her words.  She’s also keen for others to learn so she’s very helpfully shared some links which have great resources.  Please read on.  I think her words and her experience are very important and needless to say, I’m very, very proud of her. 

 

LEARNING IN LOCKDOWN
 

 

In the space of a few weeks of lockdown, the directors had to come up with a way of generating new business.  The only way to do this was to be via direct sales calls and I was roped into this new mission
 

I’ve never done direct telephone sales in my life.  I hate it when I get cold calls at home so how was I going to be able to do that myself?  When I worked in the City as a PA at several leading law firms, I was known for being a fantastic gatekeeper and now I was going to be asked to get passed a gatekeeper to try to pitch Bluebird’s services.  To say that I was scared sh*tless is, quite frankly, an understatement. 

I really didn’t want to do it to start off with.  Having a pre-existing mental health condition that involves an unreasonable fear of rejection and then combining that with direct telephone sales where most of your responses are rejections, just terrified the bits out of me. 
 

How was this going to impact my mental health?  My mental health was already deteriorating following the lockdown because I had lost all access to my usual support networks, so how did anybody expect me to be able to do this without losing what was left of my marbles completely?
 

I dived into the training.  I participated in a number of online seminars and training sessions about marketing and sales.  This ended up being a bit of a double-edged sword in terms of my mental health in itself.  A lot of the training and seminars focused on producing an emotional response in the person you are speaking to.  They talked about being self-aware of your own emotions before you pick up the phone. 


I’ve been through so much training, too many mindfulness sessions to remember and cognitive behavioural therapy over the years, I am very much self-aware and know exactly when there is a good time for me to pick up the phone or not.
 

But, on the other hand, I already knew that it was going to trigger my feelings of failure and lack of self-worth if there was a day when I genuinely couldn’t pick up the phone because of my mental health issues or how I was going to deal with the rejections when I did speak to someone.
 

There’s no getting out of this now.  The people who work with Bluebird are relying on us to get more work in for them to complete and earn money.  Personally, I am better when I agree to do something where somebody else is depending on me.  There was no more procrastinating, I just had to pick up the phone and give it a go.
 

I wobbled.  I rambled.  I tripped up over my own words.  I got hung up on.  I got to speak to gatekeepers who were really good at their jobs.  I have spoken to people who were so rude and stand offish with us that it really dented my confidence and, on occasion, reduced me to tears.  I was hating it and, at times, hating myself but I was still doing it. 
 

Then, in amongst all that, I got some rays of light.  I have had some wonderfully funny conversations even though they ended up being a “No, thank you”.  I’ve had some really informative conversations about the challenges firms are facing right now.  I’ve also found out so many different ways firms have adjusted to working life in lockdown.  I’ve gathered all of that information, followed up and even got a new client.  I am still learning. 
 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not magically really enjoying myself now.  I still dread having to pick up the phone for the first call of the day.  However, I am becoming more comfortable with it and I feel that ‘we’ (the Bluebird team) are in it together learning new skills in lockdown. 

 

Helpful resources:

 

Time To Change have lots of free materials and leaflets that can be downloaded for schools, workplaces etc.  Their mantra is about ending the stigma surrounding mental health and they have a section on COVID-19 and a section on “About Mental Health”.

 

Mental Health on The Mighty have loots of people contributing their own stories and write blogs.  It's good for following and reading other people’s stories to know that you are not alone.

 

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