Part I: The struggle to keep succeeding

Thank you to this anonymous person who has sent in his story – it is a longish story, so we are publishing in three parts over three weeks. Today is part I.

I’ve been home, not working for a total of 11 weeks (2 weeks on Annual Leave) and it feels very odd to be going to the airport tomorrow and catching a flight.

Something I took for granted, like a lot of things, before COVID.

I think the main thing that I took for granted was myself. And, in part that means my family as well, as they are a part of me.

Before COVID, I was in the middle of a long struggle with my own mental stability. I had been working away in Ireland for 3 years. It was only supposed to be 2 years max. The whole thing was eating away at me. I work for a food company that demands excellence 100% of the time. Failure is not an option. Moving there I had such high hopes, it was a dynamic company, small enough with ambitions of growth. We achieved that, going from £400k of annual sales to over £2million within 2 years. Working away allowed me to focus 100% of my time on growing the company, what I didn’t envisage was that the company in turn would just keep piling expectation upon expectation on me. I am very proud of what I do and anything short of giving 100%, 100% of the time felt like was failing. I was working my self slowly to death, beyond stressed, beyond sad, and being unable to function as a normal human being, work colleague, husband and father.

I had promised myself  to try and fix me prior to COVID. I was on annual leave the two weeks prior to the government lockdown and I had talked openly with my wife in February about my struggles and how we could fix it. I had spoken to my CEO the day before I flew home for 2 weeks R&R. I had said the contract between us was weighted in his favour. I was always supposed to be away for three nights in any one week, I was also supposed to work from home at least one week in four. I was never supposed to be doing 70 and 80 hour work weeks. 12 and 13 day runs in a row. Cancelling annual leave at the last minute, flying back to work early after a weekend so I could get a head start to the busy week ahead.  In theory my CEO agreed, but uttered those management “failsafe” words “so much in as the business needs” A catchall phrase that basically puts the decision on you and if it goes wrong whilst you are away then its your fault. 

Starting the two weeks Annual Leave in March I spent most of it either on the sofa or in bed. I cried openly, laying on my wife’s chest when we were in bed. The stress over-flowing from me. At this point I must say, physically I was a mess. 113kg in weight. Totally physically unfit and lets not start to unpackage the metal fitness.

I honestly didn’t know how to fix myself. My beautiful wife tried, but nearly two weeks in to the break, I was starting to stress about going back to work. Also Annual leave at my company is not really annual leave. Its just you are at home instead of in the office. The phone still rings, emails come through and if you don’t answer you get called on your personal phone because “its important”. This culture is aggressively applied and boarders on toxic, not just for me, but many in my organisation feel the same way.

Whilst never at the point of doing something to harm myself or others, I did recognise I was circling a drain into the abyss. There had to be a new normal for me.

Then Lockdown hit!

And everything kind of stopped. “

Part II will be published next week.

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