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Feeling supported through tough times – Lisa’s Story

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This story contains material of a highly sensitive nature including themes of suicide that may be triggering for some individuals.

Hi my name is Lisa, and I have been with AO since June 2020 as a Customer Service Specialist.

I’ve always been really open with any manager that I had over the last 10 years about my mental health, and that I suffered from anxiety and depression. But they never really knew the true extent of it. In 2009 I went through a terrible time, and only my family and close friends knew that it made me want to end my life. I was put on medication, and have continued to take them ever since.

Moving to AO

When I joined AO I could not believe the openness here – it was so refreshing to see. During my time I’ve had spells of ‘lows’ and anxiety attacks, sometimes even panic attacks too. The medication I was prescribed in 2010 began to stop working, but at the time I didn’t know this. I went back to my GP and was prescribed even more medication for panic attacks.

Over the next 18 months or so, and without the correct meds, my depression got worse. I thought I was just unhappy in my life, so I packed up and moved to Wales near where my son lived. I left my role, but always kept in touch with the guys at AO as some of them had become as close as my family.

It was a big change, but it didn’t make me any happier. And although the views were lovely and it was great to be close to family – I was still unhappy. Whenever anyone asked I’d just say ‘everything is fine’.

Hitting rock bottom and coming home

Fast forward to June 2022, I needed to come ‘home’. I had an accident and was on crutches, my mum was quite poorly but I felt I was a complete failure. I had hit rock bottom. Although I was in a bad place, I needed to work. So when a new position was advertised for AO, I took my chance and came back.

Things were a little different this time round, and I really wanted to join the team I was on before I left, but I was put with another lovely team instead. I was quite stressed and getting heavily depressed – I was still hobbling around on crutches and in constant pain, but I carried on saying that ‘all was good’ as I always did.

With my old job, my old life, my mum on the mend – I thought I was doing well. But I was mentally shattered. I was having daily panic attacks, I couldn’t keep my emotions in and when my old Manager realised this, we had chats to try and make my ‘life’ easier. He truly was a fantastic support.

Conflicting thoughts

Even with all of this support, I just did not want my life at all. I was in constant physical and mental pain. I was having thoughts like ‘What’s the point? We all die anyway. Nobody would miss me if I was to go’…

By this point, I was paranoid and self-conscious. Do people know I’m depressed? Does anyone actually like me? Does anyone enjoy my company or do people think I’m a weirdo?

Over the coming days and weeks I was very suicidal and it was all I could think of. I even began to hear voices and see shadows – I thought I was going mad. It was at this point that I gave in to those thoughts, and I took an overdose.

‘She has a pulse, she’s alive’

The next 12 hours were a complete blur. I don’t remember a lot of what happened except being woken up surrounded by medical staff in the ICU and hearing the words ‘she has a pulse, she’s alive’.

Once I was stable, my family were allowed to see me – but they were terrified. They couldn’t understand why I’d do something like that. I was told that I was in a very bad way and incredibly lucky to be here.

But I didn’t feel lucky. I was devastated to still be alive.

The road to recovery

After I was discharged, I had many meetings with doctors and psychiatrists. I had to stay at home, have daily visits from the crisis team, and wasn’t allowed out of the house alone – or else I’d be sent straight back to hospital.

The psychiatrist that visited me daily was amazing, her name was Abbey, and she was pivotal in my recovery. I still had very dark thoughts, and every time I’d tell her she’d just say to me ‘give it a day’ – and that’s what I did. I just took things day-by-day.

I also spent a slow 3 months trialling different types of medication and therapy until finally we found the combination that worked. I’m not ashamed to say I need medication anymore – they saved me life to help me live.

The only way is up

After a few weeks I felt a huge change, and I actually wanted to get better – really better. I wanted to live and to enjoy life again. I had so much support from the ATMs (Assistant Team Managers) at AO – Andy Howlett, Rosie Tierney and Libby Shorthouse were just amazing. They knew I needed to focus on getting better, but always kept in touch and were looking out for me. I never felt rushed but they helped me come back to work on a phased return, constantly checking in that I was okay.

I’m now back at work, but on reduced hours so I can still look after my mental health. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am, but I know now that I wasn’t just ‘unhappy’ or ‘sad’ – I was very unwell.

I’m confident, happy, and I love being in work – and that is the AO way. They look after you. And I’ll always be grateful to AO for not only giving me my job back, but for supporting me through the worst time in my life.

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I can listen to music again and really embrace it. Dancing, singing – just loving it. And as Yazz once said the only way is up’!


Lisa Shaw
Customer Service Specialist

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