A bride-to-be whose anxiety nearly derailed her job as a newly qualified vet has asked her wedding guests to donate to the pioneering social enterprise that helped get her career back on track.
Chrissie Diesel from Ruthin turned to Rhyl-based Rhyl City Strategy (RCS Wales) for help when she found she was struggling to adjust to the demands of life as a vet after graduating from Liverpool University.
Concerned her dream job was under pressure, Chrissie received counselling through RCS’s innovative In Work Support programme, designed to help people who are on or at risk of going on sick leave, to remain in work.
The twenty five-year-old, who lives with her fiancé Huw Bill, 29, has now asked for donations to RCS instead of wedding gifts when the couple get married next July.
She hopes that money raised for her wedding will enable more people to get the support they need to stay in work.
RCS recently received a £6.2m funding boost to continue running the In Work Support service in Denbighshire, Conwy, Anglesey and Gwynedd for another four years.
The EU and Welsh Government funding was announced by Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport Ken Skates at a special event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of RCS, which has offices in Rhyl and Bangor.
Speaking of her decision to raise money through her wedding for RCS, Chrissy said:
“It is paying it forward as I totally believe in the work that RCS does, and I was lucky to have found them.
“If I can help someone else in my situation by donating money, then that gives me a tremendous amount of joy.”
Chrissie, who was born in South Africa, moved to Gloucester with her family when she was 10, heard she had been offered her first job as a vet on the day she graduated in 2016.
A lifelong animal lover – she currently has two rescue dogs, a cat, three ducks, two chickens and a rescued baby hedgehog called ‘Flea-on’ – Chrissie was delighted to have secured her ‘dream job’ and excited about starting her veterinary career.
However, feelings of anxiety appeared on the first day in her new role at the busy Wern vetinary practice in Ruthin, although she didn’t recognize what they were at time.
“I was physically nauseous on the first day, and then the whole of the first month and I thought there was something wrong with me,” said Chrissie, “It was quite a change from being a student on work experience to a vet responsible for an animal’s life, but I was really enjoying it, so I didn’t expect that kind of reaction.”
Chrissie initially continued to work through her concerns and soon became a popular vet with clients and colleagues. But her nausea continued, and she started to get ‘nagging doubts’ about whether she was up to the job.
“I am a good vet and my performance was not suffering but it was a huge transition,” Chrissie explained. “Part of me was saying ‘hey, come on you have only just started’, but something else was telling me that perhaps I was not good enough.”
Over time, Chrissie started to feel her resilience and confidence was being whittled away by her rising levels of anxiety.
“My work was a high standard and my colleagues were very supportive, but behind the scenes I would drive around in my truck bawling my eyes out.
“I would also bring it home – I am so very lucky with Huw as he is my rock and he totally understood. He was a good pick me up and wouldn’t let me wallow in it too long.”
Supported by Huw – who she met three years ago, while on work experience at the Genus Bull Stud in Ruthin where he works – Chrissie eventually went to see her GP.
“My doctor just put his pen down and listened to me for 40 minutes. He then told me about RCS Wales and suggested I gave them a go.”
A not-for-profit organisation, RCS delivers a range of services to help more people to enter and sustain in employment through improving their employability and wellbeing.
Within a week of her GP appointment, Chrissie had met with her RCS case coordinator Hayley Romain.
“It was so easy and really professional,” said Chrissie, “I sat with Hayley and we talked about my situation and worked out which therapist would be best for me. I was given six free sessions – it was wonderful and what I had been waiting for.”
A week later and Chrissie was starting her sessions with a cognitive behavioural therapist and taking the first steps to getting her career as a vet back on track.
“I was 100% honest as I didn’t know her, so I could get through to what I was actually upset about and we could figure out the tools I needed to deal with it.”
Working with her therapist, Chrissie was able to identify her anxieties and how she could deal with them. The difference the scheme has made to her working life, Chrissie says, is remarkable.
“I would have never given up being a vet, but I think I would have become a very unhappy person if I hadn’t had some help.
“I am the same person I was before, but I can now take a step back from a situation and deal with it non-reactively. When it comes to my job, I really enjoy the challenges that used to freak me out and I now have a career as a vet that excites me rather than stresses me, which is fantastic.”
So successful was Chrissie’s experience with the RCS’s In Work Support, that she has continued to see her therapist privately ‘as maintenance’ and also recommends the programme to others.
“My colleagues have definitely seen a positive change in me and I have been asked how they can also get help to deal with these things which is wonderful.
“Mental health needs to be talked about and we need to open ourselves to getting the help we may need so we don’t lose what we have worked so hard to get. RCS Wales are a preventative measure to keep people in work and flourishing.”
RCS Case Coordinator Hayley Romain said Chrissie’s experience with the In Work Support programme was an example of how it is ‘ok to ask for help’.
“If you are struggling it’s OK to reach out for support. Everyone needs this from time to time. It can be easy for people like Chrissie who are in work to feel like they should be able to cope alone, but stress and anxiety can affect anyone and RCS services are here to help.
“It’s been really rewarding to see the positive impact In Work Support has had on Chrissie and her decision to donate instead of wedding gifts is a lovely gesture.
“We hope this donation can help to make a difference to many more people who need our help.”