How redundancy affected me

This is my redundancy story. It’s quite personal and I share how being made redundant affected my mental and physical health. I share how this has affected my choice of career moving forwards.

In November last year I had the news that my post was being considered for deletion. Lovely word to describe the massive upheaval that’s coming your way, isn’t it? I worked for a local authority and every year budgets would be cut. So every year from September onwards me and my colleagues would be aware that news of job cuts would be coming. Every year we’d be wondering and waiting for the news.

This year it was my time. It was an ordinary Tuesday morning in November. It was going to be a busy day with lots of volunteers and project work. As I walked down the corridor to my office I was called back by a senior manager ‘Lauren, could I have a word?’ My heart sunk as I thought ‘well I know what this is about…’ Lo and behold I received the news that later that day a consultation document would be distributed to all staff. This would include the news that my job was proposed to be deleted. I received the news with tears. Despite being aware that job cuts would be coming it was still a massive shock that this upheaval was coming my way. I then had to tell my immediate manager about the news that I had just received, as she had no idea. After a little while I realised that I wasn’t able to face people and pretend that everything was okay. I drove home, crying in the car.

I had a couple of days off work, trying to let the news sink in. I was still very much in shock when I returned to work on Thursday but received lots of love and support from my colleagues. I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time and it helped that in the last couple of years I have opened up online about this through blogging. A couple of weeks later I visited my doctor due to the panic attacks I was having – struggling to breath is the most horrible feeling. At this appointment I increased the dose of my antidepressants and took some other medication short term for anxiety.

At this time there was a consultation. Staff were being asked their views on the proposed cuts and to offer possibilities for alternative savings. For four weeks my redundancy wasn’t certain. This uncertainty and regular discussions about the process, the cuts and my job were really difficult. I was booked in to present at a regional conference to discuss a recent project I had instigated and managed. It was supposed to be a great opportunity to advocate for my museum and my work – when I had no idea if that was going to continue! My anxiety was through the roof. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. But I did. I presented to over 130 delegates and was praised for being a ‘stand out speaker’.

I continually tried to tell myself that this wasn’t personal. It was my role which was being deleted due to budget cuts and it wasn’t a reflection on me or my work. However many times I repeated it to myself it still felt like a rejection. Unfortunately that feeling was emphasised after the consultation period. Lots of my colleagues had written comments of support, not only for me but for my role. They emphasised all of the things that would have to change or wouldn’t happen without my role. The management response: ‘We know things will have to change.’ This felt like a real kick to the stomach and all of the work that I had been doing felt worthless. This felt like the ultimate rejection.

Just before Christmas I had a job interview. I didn’t get the job. By the sounds of it I came a very close second. This wasn’t a surprise as I have come second in many job interviews! At this time I felt exhausted. I was so tired and didn’t feel very cheerful. I had a lovely break from work and as soon as New Years was over I felt dread, I felt despair and depressed. I was dreading returning to work, knowing that now Christmas was over that this was the final countdown until my last day. I was having suicidal thoughts, life didn’t feel worth living, my future did not feel positive. I realised things were bad. I spoke to a counsellor over the phone and considered going to my GP but didn’t make an appointment.

Throughout this I managed to get an application in for a job while truly believing that I had no hope of getting it. I planned to go to the interview, wouldn’t get offered the job and would then concentrate on looking after myself rather than job hunting. I knew that I was super stressed and that it was now affecting my body physically. It scared me that my body was feeling the affects of all of this. So on a Monday morning I went to the interview. I met my partner for lunch afterwards and was completely out of it, I felt like a zombie. I was in shock. I made my way home and got in bed. When I received the phone call later on that I was being offered the job I was still in shock – so much that the employer asked me ‘I’ve shocked you, haven’t I?’

I told my parents, told my sister and went to work the next day to tell my colleagues. Their happiness for me was infectious and I became happy. This was a good job, in the museum sector, a higher salary and a big F*** you to my employer who were letting me go. That evening I felt completely different. The feelings of dread, despair and depression were back. The next day I couldn’t stop crying. I desperately felt that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do that job.

This was a breakdown. This time I did go to my doctor. My antidepressants were increased again. I turned down the job due to my mental health. Ultimately I was signed off work for seven weeks when I carefully tried to put myself together. That time whizzed by. I was determined to go back to work. With only a few weeks left until my notice ran out I wanted to go back to my job. I wanted to wrap up my work and say goodbye to my colleagues. It was really important to me to finish strongly and with my head held high. I went back on a phased return and then had quite a bit of annual leave to use up so I was essentially working part time until my last day on the 29th March 2019.

Now – I am self employed but I am still working out exactly what that means! I am calling myself a Wellbeing Advocate, aiming to improve mental health and wellbeing. I’m exploring options with freelance writing, organising events, coaching, consulting and training. The topic and sector is quite a shift from what I was doing before but many of my skills (organisation, communication and project management) overlap. It is something I am super passionate about, quite knowledgeable about through my own experience and there is a need for it. I am in charge of my own destiny and forging a new path.

Originally published on LinkedIn 8th May 2019.

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