The first step in being able to move forward for Libby was an initial conversation with her line manager. She recalls many irrational thoughts running through her mind at the time.
“The first thoughts that popped into my head were things like ‘It’s going to be portrayed as a weakness’ or ‘It will be flagged on my record so the next person who hires me will think I’m someone who struggles with anxiety’,“she says.
In reality, her manager was extremely supportive, saying thing like ‘It’s ok, I know who you are’, ‘This is not something that’s going to be held against you’, ‘Do what you need to do to be your best at work and your best at home’.
“Having that conversation with my manager at that time made me feel like it was ok to not be strong and superhuman all the time,” says Libby.
An objective perspective
“I talked to my husband but I also engaged ANZ’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) at the time as well, just from a support point of view,” says Libby. “[It was helpful to speak to] someone who didn’t have a vested interest in me because I feel like if you speak to someone who knows you really well they tend to say things like ‘don’t be silly you’re not like that’ or ‘don’t think that, it’s not like that at all’.”
Libby eventually sought out medical advice from her doctor.
“He offered me medication but I knew I wasn’t ok with taking medication. I knew what I needed was just time and a moment to talk about it,” she says.
She recalls him advising her “I’m not a counsellor but I strongly suggest taking a week off even without the kids. A week that’s just for you. Take a journal and just start writing things down”.
Libby went back to her manager to let her know she needed to take a week of annual leave. She remembers her manager saying “It’s actually sick leave because of what you’re going through. The doctor told you to do this – don’t take it out of your annual leave”.
So Libby went home.
“Whenever I go back home to New Zealand, there’s something about the place that I feel spiritually connected to. Going back to the land of where you’re from – it’s just so invigorating,” she says.
“One of the first things I always do when I go back home is to take my shoes off and put my feet on the grass or the sand to reconnect and reroute to where I come from.
“It’s a thing in our culture – you come from the land and you give everything back to the land.”
Libby’s brother picked her up from the airport and her first request was for them to go straight to the beach.
“I hadn’t told him anything of what I was going through,” she remembers. “And he just sat there beside me. He didn’t ask me anything. We both took our shoes off and sat on the sand with the water going over our feet.
“I was thinking ‘You’ve got this. It’s all good.’ It was one of the most healing moments.”
“Journaling did help,” replies Libby when asked about the other piece of doctor’s advice.
“I have a tendency to numb quite a lot. I’ll just go on technology or watch TV so I don’t really have to connect with what’s really happening. At first I was just writing anything down – you know all the superficial stuff about what I did on that particular day,” she says.
“And then I started listening to my thoughts and whatever was running through my head. Sometimes they were ridiculous things I knew weren’t true like ‘You’re not worthy’. It made me think, ‘I’ve just spent 20 minutes and I’ve got all these [negative] thoughts on paper. I must go eight hours a day not listening to what those thoughts are telling me and they’re turning into self-beliefs.
“Getting them out allowed me to say to myself ‘No. I actually don’t believe that’s true’”.