“If you can’t imagine what it feels like to live with depression, this is how i describe it; You are walking along a path, all around you are the people and things you love, ahead of you are all of your hopes and dreams, things you are working towards and looking forward to. But a thick fog descends over you and you are suddenly all alone, and you can’t see any of those good things in your life. Logically, you know they are still there, but you just cant find your way back to them. No matter how much your loved ones shout out to you, reach for you, you can’t get past the fog. It’s terrifying. It’s lonely. And it’s totally out of your control.
I have suffered from depression since my early teens, but it wasn’t until my early 20’s I recognised what it was. Since then I have been on and off medication, gone through good and bad patches, but generally managed. That is until I found myself in a job where i was being bullied by a senior member of staff, and things spiraled quickly. Looking back, I can see the warning signs; I was becoming more and more anxious, feeling homesick (something I had never experienced before), worrying about family members. I bought a new car because I was convinced mine was going to break down, and that was too much for me to deal with. My confidence took a nosedive, and I was never the most confident anyway. That only gave the bully more ammunition to say I was rubbish at my job, when in fact I was being put in situations I should never have been in, with no guidance. That on top of constant, thinly veiled comments about me, led to me being signed off work with anxiety and depression.
What followed was a long period of me trying desperately to return to work, to prove them all wrong, only to find myself deteriorating quickly each time it came closer to me going back to work. At this point I couldn’t recognise that I was being bullied by the people I worked with. I just felt like a failure. I spent days, weeks, lying on the sofa in tears. Thoughts raced round and round my head. My medication was increased until I was on the maximum dose. I spoke to my Mum or Dad every day on the phone. My fiancé (now husband) looked after me day and night. I had an incredible support network around me, but I couldn’t find my way out of the fog.
I became suicidal. I was teetering on the edge of completely losing control and it was terrifying. I found myself on the phone to The Samaritans because I was scared of what I was going to do. The GP I saw next saved my life. She was the first one to point out to me that I got worse every time I was due to go back to work. She told my that no job is worth feeling like life is not worth living. I realised she was right, and made the difficult decision to quit.
That was the turning point for me, I felt free. It was still a long road to recovery, a lot of damage had been done and I’m still working through it 2 years later. But that’s the key; it won’t happen overnight, so don’t beat yourself up when it feels you aren’t getting anywhere. Each day is a success story in itself. And let the people around you help in whatever way they can. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the amazing people supporting me. Talk to them. Cry to them. Let them wrap you up in a blanket and just sit. Whatever you need.
I’m now lucky enough to do a job that I love, with the most amazingly supportive team around me, and I can’t believe I ever considered going back to my old job. Mental health at work is so important; you spend so much time there – if you aren’t happy it can have a huge impact on you. Listen to your gut! Looking back, I never felt comfortable there but I ignored all the warning signs. I believe I will always be susceptible to depression and anxiety, but I also know that a bad patch won’t last forever. The most important thing for me is to recognise and act on the warning signs, rather than hope it will go away.
I try to be really open about my mental health struggles, because the more we talk about it, the less it is a source of shame. No one should EVER feel ashamed about mental illness; it’s real, it’s scary, and sadly it’s all too common. So I want to raise awareness and try to keep the conversation going, so that people feel they can speak up and ask for help.
I also want to remind people to be kind. It’s such a simple thing, but so important. If a few people had just been a little bit kinder to me, I may not have got the the point I did. My favourite quote puts it perfectly: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'”
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