Yesterday was, for a lot of people, the first day back in the office after an extended Christmas break. I worked sporadically over Christmas, but for me it felt like the first day back too.
My anxiety was through the roof.
I got about 4 hours of sleep, sat up at 7.30am, and cried. Partly because I was sick (I’d had a cold for a few days), partly because I was tired, but mainly because I was overwhelmed by all these expectations that nobody was putting on me but me.
Once I’d caffeinated and pulled myself together I posted on Instagram that it was ok to feel anxious, it was ok if the only thing you managed that day was show up, and it was ok to feel like you’d forgotten how to do your job.
Lots of people replied thanking me for my message, that they were feeling awful too, and they really appreciated the permission to just make it through the day instead of putting hugely unrealistic expectations on themselves.
I feel a lot better today! The good thing is it never lasts.
The problem of vulnerability in Tech
I’ve worked for and with lots of Tech companies, and they all have a problem with showing humanity. In highly competitive environments I’ve been guilty too of taking advantage of other people when they weren’t feeling too great.
When someone on the team was going through an awful break up, I insinuated that I wouldn’t let a break up interfere with my performance (I have), hunting a promotion and another step up on the political ladder.
It was kind of ugly, actually, and more to do with the insecurity I felt than anything to do with her. She was, and is, brilliant.
It’s kind of exhausting to be in that world sometimes. I remember saying to my husband ‘every single person at this company would be the star employee anywhere else’.
Some of the better companies do a good job of doing more than paying lip service to mental health, but stress is rampant in Tech. It’s highly competitive.
We could all do with being a little more honest.
One of the things that struck me when writing this is if I practice what I’m preaching.
I’m good at being human. I use it as a psychological tactic in meetings, showing a glimpse of myself to build rapport. But have I actually ever been human beyond a whimsical comment that actually, I know, adds to my brand?
So I thought I’d throw some honesty into my blog today. I LOVE what I do, and I am really proud of the success of my company so far, but I want to show people that nobody’s life is shiny and looks like it does on social media all the time!
Radical Honesty- 10 mental health confessions from 10 years in Tech
By writing these things I hope I can help a few people realise that not everything is always awesome, all of the time. I also have a ‘rip the bandaid’ approach off to talking about mental health.
The first time I did it was at Sweaty Betty Live, when I decided to tell 500 people about my struggles, when I’d never even told close friends. I expected it to kamikaze my career, it didn’t, it was like rocket fuel. People appreciate honesty.
Look after yourself and be human. January is rubbish, let’s make it a bit kinder.