Nina’s story

My name is Nina. I am 42 years old and live in Lewisham, where I have lived for the last seven years. I trained as an occupational therapist and started my career in 2013. I specialised in older adults in the acute setting. However shortly after starting a band 7 dementia specialist post in 2017, my mental health quickly deteriorated.

I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, and after a year of serious asthma attacks and numerous hospital admissions for asthma, my mental health deteriorated.

I spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital and during this time my sister sadly died, causing a further deterioration. Unfortunately, I was told that I would be dismissed from my job and so had to hand in my notice to avoid this. I then spent the next four years in and out of hospital with two admissions over a year long.

I reached a state where I could not concentrate or get any enjoyment out of activities. I felt completely lost and felt I had nothing to live for. My self esteem was at an all time low and I felt I was no longer part of society, and had lost my career. I had crippling anxiety and was intent on ending my life.

I was discharged from hospital in September 2021, and had a short relapse and hospital admission following the death of a friend and a hysterectomy in November 2021. Since then, I worked hard in therapy and taking part in activities to build up my self esteem and started doing voluntary work in a dementia day centre.

In January 2022, I decided that I wanted to get back into employment after nearly a five year gap. I started to complete online training and conferences to help me build up my skills again and continued to volunteer. I then started to look for full time employment but found the process very overwhelming and anxiety provoking.

I managed to get job interviews for both of the posts I applied for but was unsuccessful at the interview stage despite preparing very hard for the interview. I felt rejected and that I would never get a job.

When I started to see the employment specialist I was given advice about alternative ways to search for jobs such as LinkedIn, and was given advice about interviews. I applied for another job and was successful at the interview stage.

My anxiety was still high as I needed to negotiate reasonable adjustments. I was given support around this which helped me to reach an agreement with my employers and I don’t think I would have managed this without the support. I was also given practical support around benefits and managing money.

I was helped to prepare for work in terms of any difficulties I might face and coping strategies I could use, and was supported to build up my confidence leading up to starting the new job. I am now waiting to start my job in two weeks time and will continue to have some support from my employment coach, which is very reassuring and is helping me to manage my anxiety.

I don’t think I would have managed this after so long out of work and I am so grateful for the support I have been given. I would advise anyone in a similar position to keep trying and not to give up, and to use the support service as much as you can as it will really help you to achieve your goals. A year ago I would not have imagined that I would be out of hospital, and ready to resume my career and I am so excited to start my new role.

If you’re unemployed or having difficulties at work, support is available. Check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.