We all remember the days that changes us – whether they are good days, or bad.
I thought I was heading into an ordinary weekend – one spent with love and laughter – as I prepared to head home and visit family in Charlotte, North Carolina. To my surprise, however, my life changed forever when I learned that my cousin had committed suicide. I never thought this could happen to us, but there we were – trying to make sense of it all.
My cousin’s battle with depression was something I had been aware of for a short while, as we would talk almost daily about his struggle with this disease. Because he often spoke to me about his mental health, his death almost made me feel responsible, because I didn’t do more to save his life.
I was devastated. I knew that this trauma was going to have a long-lasting impact on me, and I knew that I needed to do whatever I could to heal from this. I just didn’t quite know where to start.
Consumed by the recent news, I didn’t even know how I was going to go back to work. I was having a breakdown almost every hour and had no idea how I could be successful at my job while dealing with my personal life. Luckily, I am a part of a team at Cisco that cares more about its people than even it’s quarterly successes. People are at the heart of Cisco, and so I knew I could talk to my manager about what was happening in my life outside of my day-to-day work.
She was, of course, understanding and – while I may have been lost in a fog – she knew just how to guide me through the resources Cisco offers its employees to help in difficult times like these. It was during this time, I realized the importance of a company’s focus on mental health – and how Cisco is leading in this area too (our CEO, Chuck Robbins, even sent out a company-wide email to employees letting us know benefits that were there to help employees and our families in regards to mental health).
Because of Cisco’s flexibility, I was able to take the time I needed to work from home, be with my family, and begin to cope with our loss. Cisco’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offered me access to attend therapy for FREE, which was exactly what I needed to start the recovery process from such a traumatic experience.
Additionally, I had a support system outside of my immediate team. The Leaders in Finance & Technology (LIFT) Program is not just a group of my coworkers; many of them have become my friends and support system.
I couldn’t have gotten through this time in my life, let alone share this story with others, without the support of my co-workers and the resources that Cisco offers. It’s often so easy to forget to take care of yourself and your mental health, especially with the fast-paced world that we live in, but at Cisco we are committed to having those difficult conversations and supporting one another through tough times.
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