In this blog, Becky discusses her journey with her physical and mental health, which included a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

*Trigger Warning – Disability, Mental Health, Workplace Bullying, Suicide, Self Harming and Alcohol Abuse.

“My name is Becky and I am an RVN who qualified in 2008. I am also a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis and ongoing mental health struggles.

I was fully able bodied when I first started veterinary nursing, had no health issues and could bench press a 30kg dog without any help and no issues! That is now a very distant memory.

During my years of VN training I was verbally bullied by a senior manager and a vet at my first practice, this led to the start of excessive alcohol consumption and a spiralling of my mental health issues. I became a head nurse after qualification and thought things would change, but they just became worse steadily.

I found my first few months as a qualified veterinary nurse difficult and along with the treatment I received in the workplace, I was drinking large amounts and hardly eating at all. It’s amazing how well you can hide things within the workplace and smile through the pain of your mental health. At this time, I lived alone above the practice where I worked and gave up most of my free time to look after the inpatients. Most nights I would stay up and drink and I was lucky if I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. I was mentally and physically exhausted but I continued with a smile on my face and a few jokes during my work day.

After a few months, my sister noticed something wasn’t right, she came to stay with me for a night and noticed the empty bottles in the recycling and the amount I was drinking. Without her intervention, I may well have ended up giving up nursing completely and drinking myself into an early grave.

My sister took me to see some local properties for rent in the area and I ended up in a bungalow with my dog and 3 cats which my sister helped me to move into. She also took me to the doctors and encouraged me to seek help, the doctor was amazing and referred me to counselling which I attended and this really helped me deal with my issues.

The biggest change I made was to leave the practice I was working in and find another practice to work at. Moving on from the practice was really a positive move. I then started to have a social life and found myself a partner, who is now my husband and life began to improve. I was in a more secure job and found life all together happier. I still had a drink but was able to control myself and knew when to stop.

Move forward 10 years and I found myself again in a toxic workplace where I was working hard for very little reward. The drinking started again and my husband noticed a huge change in my temperament and behaviour.

We decided in December of that year to take a Christmas holiday break to Cornwall with the dogs and have a week relaxing. We stayed in a lovely secluded location and walked the dogs several times a day, ate lots of yummy food and relaxed.

One day on the way in from walking the dogs, I slipped on the tiled floor. I laughed it off with my husband, but later in the day I started to get pins and needles in my legs – something wasn’t right. We went to the local A&E and they told us to go to the larger hospital over an hour away. We decided to head home and go to a local hospital. The pain on that 4 hour drive home was something I have never felt before and even though I had taken pain killers, nothing helped.

Skip forward 4 trips to the local A&E and finally I was admitted after I had lost the total use of both legs and could no longer feel anything below my waist. 2 weeks in hospital and several tests later, with many many tears, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My whole world fell apart. My mental health plummeted, I tried self harming and the drinking started again.

I was discharged from hospital using a wheelchair and crutches and my husband being my constant support. I was confined to the house, unless I had someone with me to help me out and about. I sat crying, not eating or overeating and drinking large amounts. I barely slept and my marriage was really struggling. I wanted to end my life and stop the pain I was constantly feeling.

I decided I couldn’t go back to the job I was doing and that was a great decision as my mental health improved without the worry of going back to a toxic workplace. I worked with a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist to get back to walking without aids and this in turn helped to improve my mental health. Myself and my husband went on to healthy eating and cut alcohol out completely.

I was able to get out in the garden without anyone being home with me and in turn my mental health improved. I decided then it was time to return to veterinary nursing. I found a local practice and started part time which seemed to suit me. My mental health improved and the team I worked with was generally great.

I have now moved away from the area completely and live in Devon, work within an amazing team part time and have massive support from everyone. I live closer to family and have a great relationship with my husband.

Some days are tougher than others but being stubborn and not giving in to mental health struggles or health issues really helps. I still have struggles with my mental health but I am now able to talk about it to either friends, family, work colleagues or my husband and things are dealt with quickly to ensure it doesn’t spiral.

I feel extremely lucky to be where I am with my physical and mental health and hope that things continue to remain positive moving forwards.

If I could share any piece of advice with similar sufferers I would always say – please ask for help and speak up – if you are struggling – talking is one of the best remedies.

Moving on from toxic workplaces is also important as positive changes can really help physical and mental wellbeing which in the Veterinary line of work is so important.”

If you are struggling with anything mentioned in this story and need to seek help, please look at our Mental Health Toolkit, and/or the following signposts;