I’ve thought long and hard about whether to write this post – it’s one that’s been in my mind for a while, but after attending a LearnConnectDo* event last week, seeing the above image (acknowledgements to @avogado6 on twitter), and having watched Zoe Ball’s ‘Hardest Road Home’ for sport relief yesterday, the timing feels right.
For over 20 years, depression (and to a large extent OCD) has been a companion. That makes it sound like something warm and friendly doesn’t it? It isn’t. Its an exhausting, energy sapping, confidence shattering, questioning, demanding companion. At its worst my own brain slowly dismantles everything that feels hopeful, lovely, positive and light and just leaves an empty hole.
I countered (and still counter) depression with excitement, enthusiasm, optimism and energy – my natural state is all of those things; but trying to switch them back on whilst in the grip of depression can be overwhelming and exhausting.
I was always really proud to say that my depression had never affected my ability to work (I met all my commitments, got good feedback etc), and whilst I think that was largely true, it was most definitely affecting me. It takes an enormous amount of energy to become ‘me’ when depression is at its worst, and the physical and mental toll of doing this for any length of time can be significant.
It felt so acceptable to excuse myself from commitments when I broke my collarbone or ruptured ankle ligaments – but I still find it an enormous challenge to offer myself the same level of compassion when my mental health needs some time to heal; I’m learning though. Learning to spot the signs earlier, and listen to them. Learning to accept that sometimes there’s a limit to what I can do and that’s ok.
Over the last couple of years I’ve started to talk a little more about my depression and OCD with close work colleagues. I’ve drawn courage from others who have shared their stories, and feel grateful that the way that society is talking about depression and mental health is changing. So it feels right to share a little of my story, not for sympathy, but for anyone else who might be walking through life with a similar companion – you’re not on your own.
*LearnConnectDo is a superb quarterly event hosted by Helen Amery