A blog post from awards finalist Claire Russell - part 3

Back A blog post from awards finalist Claire Russell - part 3

Courage 

In the first two instalments of this three-part blog I have talked about my journey as a young woman, in business, in the insurance industry. I have shared some of my experiences and challenges and how they have helped shape who I have become.

I started my second business, a specialist Solicitors Professional Indemnity brokerage, in 2003. I ran that business, very successfully, from home for the next 8 years. During that time I had two babies and was able to run my business around the needs of my little ones.

I had absolutely no intention of selling my business. No way! I couldn’t imagine working for anyone else ever again. And then one day I received a call from the Chief Exec of a well-known, large, independent (then) Broker, who wanted to buy my business. I definitely wasn’t selling.

3 months later, I had sold my business and was a branch Director of the business that bought mine. This wasn’t in my plan! Not long after, I was asked to join the Group leadership team as Group Operations Director.

This was a big role. Sure, I had a lot of experience – but I had been running small businesses. I experienced imposter syndrome on a regular basis in the first year in that role. I remember this feeling of waiting for someone to realise that I didn’t know what I was doing. I know now that a lot of people – and certainly a lot of women that I have spoken to, experience this. I also know that that feeling – of being an imposter, isn’t telling you anything about what anyone else thinks of you – it’s just your own anxiety or fear finding a voice.

I continued in the role for three years and then it was time for me to move on. I didn’t want to do so much travelling – I wanted to be closer to home and have more time with my children.

I took on another role that turned out to be the wrong role for me.

The combination of how hard I had worked for so many years, and mounting stress, anxiety- and fear that I had made a really bad decision; combined together to lead me to experience a mental breakdown.

My breakdown didn’t just happen overnight. With hindsight I can see that I experienced a lot of stress and anxiety over a prolonged period. Like many of us, I became very good at putting on my mask and facing whatever each day brought – while in private I was falling apart.

I had a complete breakdown in the end. Or perhaps it was two breakdowns over the space of a year. I’m not quite sure. In the end I asked for help – I saw my doctor and was prescribed a cocktail of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Counselling.

I didn’t instantly get better. It took a year. Or maybe it was two. I had various changes of medication, and increased dosages, until eventually I started to feel like myself again.

I was fortunate. I have recovered. I had so much support from the people that loved me. I was able to step off the merry-go-round while I got well again.

I’m still an insurance broker – I co-own a midlands based business. I also run a mental health training business, speak about mental health issues, and volunteer to help people that are struggling as I once did.

It’s really hard to speak up when you are struggling – it takes enormous courage. But it’s so important that we do.

We’ll all experience difficult times during our lives – whether that’s physical health problems, mental health problems, financial difficulty, bereavement. All of these things are facts of life. Sometimes we need help to overcome those things – and we always, always become more resilient when we do overcome them.

Claire Russell If you would like to find out more about the work that Mental Health in Business do, or to contact Claire, please see www.mhib.co.uk.

If you are struggling and need someone to talk with, please contact Samaritans on 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org