I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for three years now, and it is really getting me down.
I am writing a short personal account about my depression and anxiety because I strongly believe that being open and honest about mental illness helps reduce the stigma and discrimination that people face – and helps people struggling themselves with their own mental health problems.
My experiences with depression
This is not the first time I have suffered from depression, having had a prolonged and serious episode at university, but since then I had kept it largely under control, working full-time for the next 9 years, with many and varied responsibilities and consistent promotions, as well as a total of less days absence than years worked.
I continued during the first 9 months of depression to work full-time, but mistreatment at work combined with the loss of managers, structure & friends due to their redundancy were taking their toll on my private life, where I was withdrawing more and more from the slightest activity or contact.
This withdrawal I suppose was a subconscious fear of getting too close to people and then losing them – I have not been in communication with my parents for many years, my remaining grandparents died shortly before the depression set in and close friends had moved and/or drifted away in the same period. The redundancies of friends and my management team subsequently added to these losses, and consequently deepened my anxiety, depression and ongoing problems with sleeping.
It all came to a head when I was shot down on attempting to stand up to the bullying and neglect at work, and I quickly imploded, not sleeping for a number of days and doubting myself to the point of being ready to attempt suicide.
An intervention from my GP and the mental health crisis team meant that I ended up in hospital rather than dead, but by this time anxiety had set in like I had never previously known. I was having panic attacks going outside, and was anxious all the time.
Over the next few months I began a recovery supported by the unrelenting positivity, compassion and communication from my sister, together with support from a couple of friends. After a major breakthrough in counselling allowed me to stop heaping blame on myself so much, I returned to work part-time.
A few months at work, and, despite some effort, a continued lack of support and understanding, together with a failure to resolve the problems with mistreatment, led to my depression and anxiety deepening again. After many months of psychology, I returned to work a second time and despite one manager making a concerted effort, I was disenfranchised and had a similarly rough experience. People continued to make assumptions on what I was thinking, and what I could and could not do, and there was a continued failure to resolve the original problems. With my self-worth once again reduced to near zero, I ended up leaving about a year ago.
Through all this time, the anxiety about going outside has remained – meaning I have often gone a day or two without food until hunger has trumped anxiety – and then I’ve gone to the corner shop and ended up stuffing myself with pies and/or chocolate.
I’ve developed food intolerances whilst suffering from anxiety, which has made going out for food even more difficult. I’ve struggled to get out of bed for days at a time, been fatigued almost constantly, and fairly often fallen into a trance trying to make decisions.
I’ve struggled to look after myself at all – to clean myself, my flat, clothes or dishes, to cook, to spend time enjoying myself or relaxing. My concentration has been awful with any passive tasks like reading or watching TV, and I’ve struggled with a lack of any motivation much of the time – with headaches, exaggerated anxious reactions and a clouded mind making this even worse.
My mental health has put considerable strain on my relationship with my sister, and around the time I quit work it had really started taking its toll. My sister has had to greatly reduce her contact with me to protect her own mental health, and together with the much reduced social contact due to not working, and more friends departing from regular contact, the brief upturn in my mood following leaving work was not sustained.
Over the last year I have gained purpose and friendship through volunteering with Mind in Salford, and have also resumed going to counselling – and combined these have managed to keep me together enough to keep going most of the time. I can not emphasize enough how important a purpose, social contact and discussing my problems are for me to maintain any semblance of mental health.
Over the last couple of months I have made a few steps towards a recovery – the first being asking for help (and receiving it!). Thanks to the support of Diane (one of Mind’s advocates), I am finally getting support to address my anxiety, and am finally getting seen by a psychiatrist to reassess my treatment.
The hope gained from this medical and support intervention is keeping me improving and I’m still positive that I can recover with the right help, despite ups and downs in my ongoing recovery.
I urge anyone who feels they are not getting appropriate help or support, who feels they are not being heard, it is important that you reach out for help. Asking for help from an advocate can help this plea be heard – and provide hope.