I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help

559 words, approx. 4 minutes to read

In her second blog, Emma talks about caring for her mum after her dad’s death.

My dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year. When he passed away in January this year, reality finally hit me. Despite knowing the cancer was going to kill him, we didn’t expect him to go so soon. Thankfully, his death was peaceful and he was spared the horrific pain we’d seen others go through.

But the suddenness of his death meant nothing practical had been sorted out. Dad was the primary carer for my mum, who has supra nuclear palsy. There was so much he did for her that he didn’t have time to share and, as an only child, it all fell to me when he was gone.

Unexpected events

Although my mum had been poorly for a number of years, we only found out in November what was really going on. Her diagnosis gave me yet another research job, which soon made it clear that she was going to deteriorate rapidly too.

My mum entered hospital a week after my dad passed away. Part of her disease means she can’t think broadly – unless she’s asked a specific question, she can’t tell you anything hurts or is wrong. One morning, while I was planning my dad’s funeral, I found her on the floor. I rang an ambulance which took her to hospital, where we found out she had sepsis. She’d ignored a water infection which had spread up into her bladder, kidneys and lung. 24 hours later and she’d have been dead – always a useful thing to hear from a paramedic when you’re already terrified!

Sharing the load

I thought I was the only one going through what felt like hell, completely making it up as I went along. But that’s where PACT came in. Nobody’s experiences are the same, but there are similarities – like the complexities of caring – that bring us together and form the basis of a strong support network. We’re all there for each other, whether it’s just a silly picture, a hug or some treats when we’re having a hard day.

The past eight months have been tough to put it lightly. I’ve lost my dad and brought my mum back from the brink of death, while running two households and darting between both to care for our family pets. I’ve been trying to register for probate and navigating the wonders of the social care system, without having any idea what I’m doing. Working full time alongside all that would take its toll on anyone’s mental health, and it’s stretched me in a way I never thought possible.

A positive view

That stretch has taught me a huge amount about what you can do when you put your mind to it. I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help. I’ve learnt how important it is to give myself a bit of a break from time to time, and hold onto the happy things in life. Ultimately I’ve learnt that it’s all about perspective; I’ve got friends I know will be there for me for years to come, and that makes the future much brighter than it seemed a few months ago.

If you’ve got caring responsibilities, might have them in the future or are managing someone with caring responsibilities come and get in touch with us at PACT. Although our experiences are all different we know what it’s like and are always here to support.

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager

 

If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email pact@coop.co.uk.

It’s never easy when things in your life change, but talking about it really helps

577 words, approx. 4 minutes to read

As part of Carer’s Week, Emma Ainsworth shares the first of two blogs about navigating life while supporting her parents.

At 69 years young, my dad was spending his retirement skiing, pottering round the garden and spoiling our pet cats rotten. I’d never even known him to have a headache, let alone anything serious. To me he was invincible, the anchor in my life that would always be there whenever I needed him.

This time last year my view of the world completely changed. After having a cough and a bit of a sore chest for a few weeks, my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and I radically came to the realisation that he was no longer invincible. The cancer had spread to many of his other organs and left him with only a year to live. We were completely astounded. It simply didn’t make sense to me that he could be poorly, let alone terminally ill.

My response

I put on a brave face and spent endless hours researching treatments. I put all my energy into finding answers, but the only options available were my dad’s idea of hell. He’d lose his independence and be bed-bound, trapped in a room and unable to be around people.
There was no way he’d agree to that and, after more days of frenzied research, my dad made the tough decision to forego chemotherapy. An eternal optimist, he became determined to continue living his life, spending all of his time enjoying his favourite things. Although it was an incredibly difficult decision, the days that followed became eerily calm as we all realised our time together was running out and we needed to make the most of it.

Until then, I’d been focusing mostly on my career. But suddenly work wasn’t my top priority and the life I knew disappeared pretty much before my eyes. The next six months became a frantic balancing act of keeping on top of everything but never getting caught up in the detail. I couldn’t give anything my full attention and my usual high standards disappeared. Things would get done, but I wasn’t going to bully myself if they weren’t perfect. There simply wasn’t time for that.

Meeting PACT

I spent my days constantly reprioritising and asking for support from my friends and colleagues. It was then that I started going to PACT lunches, and they were an amazing anchor for me. Despite everything being completely up in the air in the rest of my life, I’d found a place where people really understood, because they were going through similar things too. We talked about anything and everything, sometimes just ending up laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

My dad passed away on the 19 January 2019 and reality finally hit. The man who had always been there for me was gone and I had to juggle everything else without him there to support me or tell me what to do when I felt lost.

A helping hand

The following months have been incredibly hard but the amazing people I’ve met through PACT have kept me going, always there to support me, give me advice and share in my pain. It’s never easy when things in your life change, but talking about it really helps. It’s been invaluable having people around me who understand and I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.

If you’re going through something similar, or might have caring responsibilities to come in the future, come and talk to us. We’d love to see you and we’re always here with a biscuit and a brew!

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager

 

If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email pact@coop.co.uk.

Post-natal depression and me, how talking and support have helped

480 words approx. 4 minutes to read

In support of mental health week, Charlotte Bleasdale shares her experience of living with post-natal depression.

I was diagnosed with having post-natal depression 7 years ago, a few months after the birth of my son, Jack. I have two children, Jack and Holly.  I can still remember how ashamed I felt admitting I needed help. I was so low during a period when I should have been so happy. I felt like such a failure not being able to pull myself together and be the bubbly, happy person everyone knows me to be.

I kept my feelings to myself for a few months before asking my husband, Andrew for help.  I was in a place of trying to understand why I felt the way I did and not wanting to see anyone or leave the house.

Over the years, the way I feel and what I can only describe as periods of darkness I feel, haven’t changed. But the way I handle myself and cope with my feelings has got easier. I’ve found coming to work has been a huge help. There are days I just want to hide under my duvet and not face the world but coming in has helped me bring out the best in me and be the person I want to be again.  I find this hard to say, as I realise at home, with my loving and supportive family they are the ones who suffer the most from me not being the best mummy or wife.

Moving forward

Until recently, I hadn’t ever wanted to share how I feel with anyone at work. I felt I couldn’t. It would be career suicide. I was worried people would think I was some sort of crazy person.

But in January this year this changed. Over Christmas I’d been ill with the flu, things just spiralled and I didn’t want to come to work at all.  I met with Andy, my manager, cried and cried, and shared my feelings. Andy was brilliant, he listened, didn’t judge and was as supportive as ever. Nothing has changed and I haven’t been treated any differently which is what I was most worried about. My biggest fear is that people see me differently and then act in a different way towards me.

I cannot express the sense of relief I felt to share my feelings; it was like a huge weight had been lifted, like I could be open and free.

Support and encouragement

It is okay to not be okay. My friends, family and work family are all amazing and love me no matter what I am feeling or going through. I realise now everyone is there to support me and doesn’t judge me.

I wanted to share my story in the hope of inspiring others to reach out for help and support and to encourage managers to be as supportive as mine.

Charlotte Bleasdale
Programme Manager, Supplier Engagement and Change Integration

 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story you may be interested in joining Aspire and our parent and careers network, PACT. You can email Aspire at aspire@coop.co.uk.

For more support, you can also contact:

PANDAS Helpline – for women experiencing pre and post-natal depression: www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/helpline/.

Co-op Employee Assistance Programme: colleagues.coop.co.uk/employee-assistance-programme.

It’s been another busy year for Aspire

527 words, approx. 4 minutes to read

Aspire’s Co-Chair Louise celebrates the network’s best bits from 2018.

2018’s been another momentous year for women. We celebrated 100 years of suffrage, read gender pay gap reports from all employers with 250+ colleagues, and saw Hollywood bring feminism to the center stage at the Golden Globes.

Inside Co-op, gender equality remains a top priority and the small army of colleagues who are part of the Aspire community has been working hard to make a difference.

Volunteer power

We’ve achieved a heck of a lot this year, and it’s down to our people. Colleagues involved with Aspire and other D&I activity are all volunteers, and they all role model the ways of Being Co-op. Without their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm we wouldn’t be able to achieve everything we have this year:

– 3 inspirational career story roundtables
– 3 mentor and mentee training days
– 3 new regional networks launched
– 4 Parents and Carers Together (aka PACT) lunches and workshops
– 5 blog posts on our new diversity blog
– 8 personal development days
– 9 Know Your Co-op events
– 11 newsletters
– 15 International Women’s Day celebration events
– 17 colleagues trialling the personal development support network
– 17 colleagues in our steering group
– 100+ parent and carers buddies
– 150+ colleagues involved with the mentoring scheme
– 500+ Facebook group members
– 800+ newsletter subscribers
– 1,900+ Twitter followers

Phew! Well done everyone.

A refreshed identity

When Aspire was established in 2012, our purpose was to create a network that encourages women in lower grades to ‘aspire’ for senior roles.

Rebalancing the numbers is still important, but being a woman involves much more than career development and we wanted Aspire to reflect this. We wanted to move from being a network to a community, strengthen our purpose and change perceptions of being ‘women only’. After lots of workshops and input from colleagues, we’ve agreed on a new mission statement:

Aspire is a community of colleagues who believe that all women in Co-op have a right to equality. We support others with their career development, challenge others to support women and raise awareness of issues which affect women.

For our brand, we’ve kept the name Aspire but a new, less work-focused tagline – ‘Women in Co-op‘.  For big moments, such as International Women’s Day, we’re also using a new purple cloverleaf Co-op brand; purple’s the international colour of women, and it signifies Co-op’s commitment to gender equality.

Growing our community

When Christine and I became chair this year, we both agreed that growing an inclusive Aspire community was really important. We would both love for every single colleague, all 65,000+, to be involved!

We now have a web page and a national Facebook Group so our community can chat, share ideas and organise activity in a safe space. We’re also helping colleagues to set up regional groups so they can focus on their specific needs. Colleagues in Glasgow, Plymouth and Insurance held their first Aspire events this year.

Get involved

We’ve got big ideas and plans for Aspire next year and we’re always looking for colleagues who want to get involved. Find out more information on our webpage:
https://colleagues.coop.co.uk/aspire

Louise Anderson
Aspire Co-Chair

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