Were you open about your disability during the application process? What support was provided to you?
My illness came after being at Citi for 5 and a half years which meant I had to be open about my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with PND and anxiety shortly after the birth of my first baby while on maternity leave. I was open about my illness with my managers and employers during my return to work because not only did I need more support during my return to work but they too needed to understand that not only had I become a mum during the year I was away I had also been through a very frightening experience and may need more time away from my desk, more breaks, less pressure etc. By being upfront about it, it gave us the opportunity to have open conversations and it reduced my anxiety greatly.
What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join Citi?
I feel that Citi actually chose me. I always say to people who are unhappy in their job that the perfect job isn’t going to call them and say “come and work here”. You have to go out and find it. That may mean temping, changing roles or changing companies to find the perfect fit. But my job, role and organisation did find me! Having just taken a Head of EA role at another company I didn’t for one minute contemplate moving somewhere else. I wasn’t happy in the position but did hope that time would change that and in the future, I would look forward to going to work. Then I got a call from an ex colleague who had recently moved to Citi and well the rest is history.
How do you manage your disability at work?
Mental health issues don’t discriminate against the person or the time that they decide to rear their ugly head. I am always conscious of my PND and anxiety and because of this have a personalised care plan to ensure that I can deal with an attack quickly and as effectively as possible having minimal effect on my day/impact on those around me. Being able to talk about my issues on a public stage through Citi’s recent mental health campaign I have been able to tell people on mass that I struggle at times and this, in turn, has meant that people are more accepting. If I feel anxious I make sure I am hydrated then I go for a short walk outside to get fresh air or around the shopping area for distraction. I tend to take my phone with me as a back-up but try not to use it as it can be detrimental to me. I do carry medication that is called a PRN (pro re nata) and basically is a prescribed medication that is taken as and when required rather than daily. Pro re nata translates to ‘as the thing is needed’ which is exactly what it is. Especially at work, I do my best to remove myself from stressful situations where possible.
What is Citi’s approach to disability; how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
If I had to answer this in one word it would be AMAZING. With any company, there are changes that could always be made but Citi have definitely started the ball rolling by making it a more inclusive environment for people with mental health issues to work for them. When I was ill and an inpatient at a mother and baby unit the thought of telling my employers that I had a mental health illness filled me with dread. I believed the minute I told them I would be fired, I didn’t think for one minute I would be part of a video for their diversity campaign telling people publicly I had been ill six months after returning to work. Citi has given me a platform to speak out, something I never thought I would be given the opportunity to do.
Tell us about a personal strength or a valuable plus which you have developed, as a result of your disability. How has it helped you in your career?
A valuable plus has definitely been for me as an employee, a mum, a friend, a partner is learning to say no! Taking on too much, trying to be everything to everyone can be a catalyst for anxiety and depression. Before having my baby I would take on everything not wanting to let anyone down or leave people in the lurch often to my detriment. Since getting my diagnosis I have learned the value of saying no. It not only benefits me as it gives me time to breathe, makes it easier for me to manage my time and also reduces the worry of unnecessary commitments and deadlines but to those around me it means I can manage their expectations and needs too. If I am honest and say “no sorry I cannot do that for you this time” they have the time to ask someone else and get what they need doing done. If I say “yes” when I already have a lot of things on my plate and then get sick I feel that I have let them down and they feel guilty/annoyed.
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
Do not let mental health issues define you or take you from the path you want to go down. There is an endless list of charities, resources and people out there who are there to help you and get you to where you want to go to you just need to find the one that is right for you. Some of the biggest earners, celebrities and public figures in the world have suffered at some time in their life with a mental health illness. You are not alone, you never will be.