Promoting good mental health for the railway family
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Stories of lived experience
Please be aware there may be mental health triggers in the real life experiences that follow -
From Chris - a railway worker of 30 years
It is OK not be OK. But how do you know when you are not OK. I had found myself trying to do too much. I was caring for my terminally ill Father, looking after my new family and overworking.
Suddenly it was all too much. I was running right left and centre, trying to keep on top of everything and failing in my own eyes. I was tired, stressed, full of self-doubt, feeling isolated and over thinking what was going on and what was going to happen next. One event at work where a colleague acted unprofessionally with me, shouting at me in the middle of a crowded office, nearly pushed me over the edge.
I sought professional counselling. This helped me understand my triggers and issues which I hadn’t dealt with well when I was growing up. The solution was to manage myself better, which is very hard when you feel you aren’t worth it, de-clutter and make sure my brain wasn’t overloaded with too many stimuli. I addressed some long-standing health issues which has helped me. I have started to tackle my sleep deficit. I talk to my friends and family about how I am feeling. I have started to be kinder to myself rather than beat myself up. However, it all takes time. There are days when I am triggered and I am not OK. I now know what this feels like that. I stop the thoughts (which can be distressing) think and do nice things or go to a happy place. I talk or text people about how I am feeling. People will admire your honesty and make you feel better through talking. It is definitely OK not be OK. You just need to know when you are not OK and be nice to yourself.
From Paul, co-founder of Head-shunt and a railway worker of 37 years
In Autumn 2020 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - something which shocked me. It was later assessed to be complex PTSD. This was as a result of trauma I witnessed while at work in my railway career. I knew I wasn’t right for several years and was deemed to be ‘salty’ by my sons and ‘sparky’ by my wife. She also thought for several years before 2020 I was suffering PTSD.
The Doctor advised in 2020 I had clinical anxiety and depression bordering on clinical depression. At the point of seeing the Doctor in September 2020, I was getting flashbacks to past rail incidents I attended, about every 15 minutes. Flashbacks disrupted my thought process, frightened me and made me loose my confidence.
Initially after the shock of being assessed with PTSD; I felt down and that I was a failure. This diagnosis however enabled me to understand why I felt the way I did and reassured me I wasn’t loosing my mind and there was help there to make me better. There were still dark times however and was perilously close to ending things in October 2020; meaning after that I didnt see a train for 4 months. With the help of a Psychologist and my GP, and fantastic support from friends and family I gradually got better over time. As I got better I became more accepting of what I was and being comfortable with who I was. No one ever criticised me as a result of my mental health.
In my subsequent recovery in 2021 I got into a habit of volunteering (at a Foodbank) from February; regular exercise - simple things like walking and cycling, and re-establishing some of my old hobbies. I also kept a diary - recording how I felt, what good things I’d done that day and what I’d do better - this really helped my recovery too.
Both the Doctor and the Psychologist confirmed the above measures were exactly the right things to do. What I consciously did not do was stay in bed each day; even at times when I wanted to when I felt rubbish.
A bit like the Black Dog called depression
I know that the Black Dog (called depression) can return, so I expend time regularly doing relaxation techniques I learnt, doing my hobbies (cooking, railway modelling, and crafts) and volunteering. All of these make me feel good and are low cost hobbies/activities.
Learning points for me are:
Do speak up - I did and my boss Mike was superb. My family and my friends were superb too.
Do contact the Doctor - although health professionals are stretched they really do want to help. Sometimes you (or a friend) may need be persistent so you get that appointment and help you need.
Re-assess what you would like to do; do things you like to do and reflect on that. The reflection on lovely things lifts the feeling of well-being.
Remember that no matter how bad things may seem there are people willing to help aside from measures you can take yourself.
Through our Youtube Channel - we aim to build an onlive audio-visual source of help and inspiration - starting from September 2022
Paul Stanford Head-shunt Co-founder recorded a piece to camera for suicide awareness day 2022 - https://youtu.be/83DYgiQhvns