Read my story to see what brought me to this point in my life.
I first joined West Midlands Police in 1998 as a fresh-faced 21 year old, proud and excited about being a Police Officer, and yet in no way prepared for the life-changing world I was about to enter.
Throughout our initial training and probation period to be a police officer, we learnt many new skills that we would need to carry out our roles. We learnt protective skills, listening skills, rules, regulations and discipline; however, no one talked about the importance of taking care of our own mental health and wellbeing throughout this very unique and demanding role of being a member of the Police Service.
I was in the police for fourteen years, mainly in uniform as a Response Officer and within the CID Department for Major Crime. My days were long and challenging but also exhilarating. I made life-long friends and discovered strengths I never knew I had. Joining the Police was like becoming part of a new family - one based on friendships, shared experience, trust and a particularly dark sense of humour!
I had found my career, my identity and my passion.
Working in the police force had many rewards, but being in this environment every day can take its toll, too - your stress levels soar, it affects your sleeping and eating patterns, and it changes your relationships with friends and family.
You are also exposed to human traumas and scenes that become increasingly hard to shrug off when you get home at the end of your shift. I simply didn’t realise the personal price I was paying for my career. By 2011 I was 34 years old and the feelings of pride and excitement for my job had changed to those of being overwhelmed and burnt out. I was struggling with the demands of the job whilst supporting my young family and my husband. I felt emotionally disconnected from the difficult jobs we were dealing with nearly every day - I just didn’t have it in me to care about them any more. I desperately wanted to tell my supervisor that I wasn’t coping, but I was too ashamed. I believed that I was the only one who couldn’t cope, so I blamed myself for not being tough enough or good enough to do a better job.
The stigma around mental and emotional health issues is more heightened in the Emergency Services than it is in wider society; we didn’t talk about it, we didn’t deal with it and often we simply didn’t understand it. I spent my whole career looking after others who were going through a difficult time, but I had no idea how to do that for myself, and I simply didn’t understand the importance of self-care.
Then I discovered a lump in my breast. Tests soon confirmed that I had breast cancer.
My diagnosis left me reeling in shock and fear. But there was another emotion that I was feeling, too - a feeling of absolute relief. Relief that I didn’t have to go into work the next day and face it all again. Throughout my surgery and chemotherapy treatment, through losing my hair and dealing with many difficult emotions, there was that constant recurring thought, ‘at least I don’t have to go in to work.’
Following many months off sick, I did eventually return to work. But within a few months my cancer had returned, and it was during this second period of illness, facing more treatment and time off work, that the full realisation of my situation began to sink in; the way I was living and working was making me sick - it was literally killing me. I took a long, hard look at my life and lifestyle, both at work and at home, and I knew that something had to change.
My choice was clear; I needed to learn and understand how to become really well - physically, mentally and emotionally - or continue to suffer and be unwell.
I chose to resign from the Police Force, to be able to focus on my own recovery and health. Over the following weeks, months and years I learnt how to reduce my stress load, pay attention to my thoughts and mindset, move my body more and yet listen to it when it needed to rest and repair. BWRT sessions helped remove the crippling emotions that I still carried around following the different traumas that I had experienced during my time in the police force. I fully believe that all of the treatment and work that I did through this time is what has led me to be healthy, happy and cancer free to this day.
I later retrained to enable me to dedicate my career to helping others who were struggling, particularly specialising in those working in our Emergency Services. I wanted to use the experiences I had gone through, together with my skills and training, to help anyone that may be dealing with a difficult period in their life.
The stigma around mental health still remains the biggest block around people not speaking up and accessing help when they desperately need it. Please don’t be one of them - I’ve been there, done that, and got the uniform - and I know that there is a better way.
Below are the services I offer which can all be tailored to suit your specific needs - either individually or those of your organisation.
I offer private coaching and therapy sessions on a 1-2-1 basis, delivering bespoke support and guidance around all your mental health and wellbeing needs.
I am available to speak at your event to share my experience of mental health and wellbeing within the Emergency Services. A talk based on research, awareness and accessing help when needed.
Perhaps the most important part of any Wellbeing journey, is the education and awareness around Wellbeing itself. I can help in educating your staff members.