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 mentioned 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 Emergency Services.
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 - it affects how you sleep, eat and rest; your stress levels soar, and your relationships with friends and family change.
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 embarrassed. I believed that I was the only one who couldn’t cope, so I blamed myself for not being tough enough and 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 career fighting for others who were going through a difficult time; caring, rescuing, listening and supporting, 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.
Following my diagnosis, amidst the fear, shock and distress that I was feeling, I also noticed another emotion - one that I was not expecting at all; 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 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 and months 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.
I later retrained to enable me to dedicate my career to helping others in the Emergency Services - providing private coaching, awareness talks and educational workshops through Blue Light Wellbeing. Click here for more information about my services
Despite an abundance of scientific evidence proving the relationship between stress and mental and physical illness, the service organisations are still not doing enough to educate and support employees to protect them from stress-related illness. 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. Please get in touch today for a free discovery call and see how I may be able to help you.
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 Wellbeing sessions on a 1-2-1 basis, delivering bespoke support and guidance around all your 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.