This is #MyOneTeamGov — One Team Gov Wellbeing Camp edition, what’s yours?
I have not found the courage to open up about my wellbeing, until now. In my own words, I will talk about my experiences and emotions during that time and after.
Inspired by the proactive and enthusiastic professionals who care deeply about making government more effective, I’m writing a Wellbeing Camp edition of #MyOneTeamGov about why One Team Gov is important to me.
In order to understand about the role I have played in One Team Gov, I’d recommend you read these blog posts first:
I’m writing an open letter (of sorts). As a huge supporter of being able to work in the open and take practical action, especially in the public sector, there’s something I feel is important to share.
I’ve been reflecting on the past four months planning for One Team Gov Wellbeing Camp — of the journey, of how we arrived here, of the reasons we’re doing this. I have decided to share my experience of wellbeing in support of One Team Gov Wellbeing Camp, which aims to get the public sector talking and taking positive action on wellbeing and inclusion. For those undecided about whether to attend Wellbeing Camp, this is for you.
In March 2017, I faced the irrefutable fact that I was about to lose my father to a dreadful and very rare degenerative brain disease. The news came quickly. One test. One result. It was spelt out simply: it was terminal. There was no treatment. There was no cure. I was told at the time that the disease can be dormant for 30–50 years before it rears its ugly head.
My father was only 57 years old.
I could not imagine spending the rest of my life not talking to him. I knew it would not been an easy road after losing him. I would probably grieve well and not so well. I have a tendency at times to stuff things down and try to be strong. It would be messy — and internalised. It was. I carried the sadness, and have grieved privately.
It is a loss I will feel for the rest of my life.
The diagnosis came out of the blue and I had no idea how much it would affect me. The disease was cruel. I saw my father waste away, declining rapidly. He was left a very different from the man he once was. It is a horrible thing to watch a loved one deteriorate before your eyes and be unable to do a thing. Knowing how he was suffering, I just felt like I couldn’t do anything to help, surrounded by that feeling of helplessness. There are words that hover, forever unspoken, in the space between us.
In the aftermath of diagnosis and death, I have been only left with questions, heartache, and the inability to find answers.
I knew what was coming. I always felt like there was a big black cloud hovering above me, unsure of when it was going to land on me. I felt as if I was living on borrowed time. It was hard and emotional exhausting in some ways waiting for the inevitable. I knew my life is about to shatter further and I would be left picking up the pieces. I was not sure I was ready for the raw, gut-wrenching road ahead. My father’s death was tied in was a certain amount of relief that he wasn’t going to be suffering any more.
He survived for just nine months after diagnosis.
I have never really talked about becoming a carer. It was just something that I had to do, and something I wanted to do. I have not yet managed to find a way to have this interaction. I did not find the courage to say it outright until after that period of my life was no longer my day-to-day, and by then my father had passed away. I believed one day I would summon the courage to tell my story in the hope it would help others.
I have spent the majority of my working life as a civil servant in the Commercial Function, starting in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and currently in the Ministry of Defence. I have spent this time in operational delivery and on complex programmes. I am the quintessential high achiever, always juggling a colossal amount of activity in demanding roles where I am hurtling at breakneck speed. These types of roles rarely go ‘according to plan’, even in the best of circumstances. At the time, there were distructive behaviours and a toxic culture. I’ve found the repair process takes distance, time and unpacking.
I have no doubt that the harm will follow me wherever I go, for years to come.
I attempted to apply my high-achieving nature to being a carer and to my grief. I felt I couldn’t openly speak about it. In the end, I chose to open up to my mentor, who I trusted with my innermost feelings. She taught me to, “give myself permission to take a break”. I was fortunate enough to have her and a fearless therapist who encouraged me to feel whatever I needed to feel for as long as I needed to feel it. Together they ensured I was on the road to feeling stronger, seeking the help I would not have otherwise sought on my own. It was the darkest time of my life and this is not the place to describe that experience.
Instead, I want to end with a few thoughts. Firstly, life can change in an instant. I’ve had a lot of time to process my feelings during that very emotionally vulnerable time. There is courage in vulnerability. Grief is strange — it made me act differently, overwhelmed me at the worst possible times, and continues to sneak up on me when I least expect it. Every moment of every day required more courage, kindness, compassion, empathy and humility than I have ever known.
Secondly, I have found my tribe in One Team Gov. It spoke to me at a time when I needed it most. Because of One Team Gov there exists the hope of will be. The future of multifarious possibilities. I have written about my experiences of organising One Team Gov Global and stepping forward to give my time to One Team Gov this year. I am on a journey that leaves me invigorated to continue along my career path in the public sector. It is the best thing I could have done.
To pay forward the privilege of support I received, I have ploughed my energies into One Team Gov, in particular Wellbeing Camp.
One Team Gov has shown what a collective passions for kindness, generosity, and empathy can do — and how far it can go. We could never have imagined what the journey looked like before last year’s One Team Gov Global Unconference. Now, we don’t have to.
I am at the stage where I am doing lots of different things again. I am participating. I am taking my seat at the table. I am leaning in.
I believe we can do a great deal — and I believe we can do it together.
Will you lean in with me?
That’s #MyOneTeamGov — Wellbeing Camp edition, what’s yours?