Meghan Conroy is a registered veterinary nurse who qualified in 2013. Since then Meghan has worked in both first opinion and referral practices and is now head nurse of a group of practices in Southampton. Her passions include medical nursing, emergency and critical care and raising clinical standards for general practice nurses.
I always knew I had the black dog of depression with me, lurking in the shadows. I had grown up watching a close relative tackle anxiety and depression everyday. That relative was a warrior but I knew I didn’t ever want to face what they did on a daily basis and I was determined not to acknowledge my struggles. Determined not to be deemed weak and incapable.
It was a dark day in January when I first felt the pain of discrimination due to my mental health. After years of battling and coming to terms with my mental illness, I never thought that my beloved veterinary profession would turn its back on me, but it did. Opportunities given to others, being slowly pushed out of a job you love because of your mental health. Using the excuse of not wanting to ‘stress’ you. I had watched this happen to the same family member as above before and I could feel my world crumbling. A job I loved slipping through my fingertips because of my mental health. Eventually, for my health I left the job I loved, putting my ego and shame into a box and off to find a practice that embraced me with all that entailed.
It was difficult at first, I was ‘too honest’ at interviews. I told my potential employers about my experiences with depression and anxiety and how I felt that made me a stronger nurse. I wanted to be honest but maybe all I wanted was acceptance. I even had one potential employer openly tell me my mental health impacted her decision. After a few more interviews with me holding my tongue I found a job at Brook House veterinary surgery in Southampton part of a group of four practices known as the Southampton Hub. The head nurse and practice manager were great from the get go. Supportive, embracing and approachable.
Within those first few months my confidence grew and my experiences were acknowledged. The healing had begun but I knew my challenges were not over. In January 2018 I was promoted to Head nurse for the Hub of practices and had volunteered for BSAVA Southern region and congress committee. I felt on top of the world. I was married in July 2018, the best day of my life. But then suddenly, my black dog was upon me. Everything from the last eighteen months crashed down on me like a tsunami. Everything I had pushed to the back of my mind came flooding back. This is when I truly started to change how I viewed my mental health.
Before it was a dark, damning secret that I was ashamed of. Now I had supportive colleagues who genuinely just wanted me to get better. After five weeks off work, medication and starting counselling I was ready to give work another go. I remember taking my first blood sample, shaking and tears filling my eyes. I didn’t think I would ever be whole again. Eight months on from my last episode, I feel stronger than ever, I fought every day until one day it became easier. My employers at the Southampton Hub and wider CVS have been incredible. Giving me the tools I need to help myself and allowing me great opportunities.
Hopefully this year I will be starting my graduate nursing diploma and continuing on my journey of self worth. I’m now head nurse of five practices and still volunteer for BSAVA. We talk often about what our mental health takes away from us but what has my mental health given me? It’s given me a greater understanding and empathy towards others. My mental health is a part of me, but it does not define me. Certainly not as a nurse.