Having had multiple roles at the airport, two in Airside Operations, I applied for and accepted my current role as Airside Operations Compliance Manager. Since my Airport journey began, all my various roles had been shift based. This would be my first foray into the world of 9 to 5. The new role started as a secondment, with my soon-to-be predecessor and mentor concentrating on the transfer to EASA certification, leaving me to link with the various airfield projects ensuring that the required compliance was being met. This was a happy time for me as I, in the words of my colleagues, was always going to fulfil this type of work because I always took an active interest in what the current incumbent of the role did at the time.
After around six months my predecessor retired after many years of valued service, leaving me to take control of the airfield compliance function as a whole. It was at this time that the anxiety (I didn’t know what it was at the time. I just knew it made me feel horrible) started to rear its ugly head.
As a shift worker I always had support on the same peer level, and at the end of shift I simply had a handover with my colleague and then left the work phone behind. Now in this new role, I felt overwhelmed as it began to dawn on me that the required work was going to be extensive. In all my previous roles, my work was of a high standard, and I had no intention of letting these standards drop. I found myself regularly waking up during the night wondering how I was going to pull it all together, and the anxiety was hitting me over the head like a blunt object .
The following year was my annus horribilus. I was still trying to juggle my role, and three things happened throughout the year that tipped me over edge:
· My brother-in-law took his own life.
· I was diagnosed with a heart condition (dilated cardiomyopathy).
· My mother was stuck in Egypt after a Russian airliner was shot down shortly after departure from SSH.
Now, I realise that the first two points, on paper, seem a lot more serious than perhaps the third. The third point was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Between the anxiety that work was causing me, the sudden death of my brother-in-law and being told that I had heart failure. (heart failure was the consultant’s words). On hearing the third point I suffered a breakdown.
Edinburgh Airport’s Occupational Health Team are excellent, and they were key in my road to recovery (I hope everyone reading this is as lucky as I am on this front).
I quickly learned that professional mental help was needed, and I was referred to a psychologist. I had never been to a “head doctor” before so this was going to be a new experience for me.
I learned some key facts about myself:
· I couldn’t do it all; I’m not a machine
So, why did I feel I need to be able to do it all? − no one seemed to have the same airfield knowledge as me; I felt I needed to involve myself in everything airside related.
I continue to be the person that people go to for airfield knowledge, so what changed?
I learned to say NO. For my character this is not easy. I learned to prioritise my workload by putting tasks into imaginary boxes and opening one box at a time.
· I needed to accept the fact I was doing a good job. From internal/external audits to various work reviews, I was doing well. However, I felt that I was not.
Why did I feel this way and what changed?
Due to my lack of good work-prioritisation, I always felt I wasn’t getting things done in good time leading me to believe that I was doing a job to an unacceptable standard. Through the sessions with my psychologist I learned and accepted that this was not the case. The evidence that I was doing a good job was always there. I just could not accept or see it.
I have learned where the edge of the cliff is, and I use tools such as the imaginary boxes to ensure that I don’t fall off said cliff.
I learned that it is highly likely that I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This explains a lot and not just work-related. I use the condition to my advantage.
I have learned to enjoy my role in Airside Compliance, and I always set realistic goals.
It’s a cliché, however, talking is great therapy, and having individuals and friends that listen is, for me, important.
Not everyone will be as lucky as I have been. Edinburgh Airport have a fantastic staff support system in place, and without that support I do not know how I would have coped. Please utilise any help your company offers
We are currently in unprecedented times, and the country's anxiety levels are high. I find that chatting things through continues to help me. So If anyone relates to my story, or not, and wants to reach out for a chat, work-related or not, then please get in touch.
P.S. I miss my brother-in-law and think of him often. I manage the heart condition through lifestyle choices (could be healthier) and drugs. I’m doing well, and my mother got back from Egypt safe and sound.
Aviation Action can help if you find yourself dealing with anxiety, whether personal, professional or both...we are here to help! Please get in touch if you need our support.