There’s no doubt that stress can lead to depression and chronic stress to severe depression and it’s a vicious circle – the things you need to do when you’re stressed, like exercising and practising mindfulness, often give way to stronger, negative behaviours like taking drugs, comfort eating or heavy drinking.
Stress in small amounts can be good for you – those cortisol levels that are raised by a looming project deadline and the satisfaction of attaining an end goal are beneficial.
But losing a loved one, illness, losing a job, poor relationships, continuing poor lifestyle choices can make stress damaging.
In fact, let’s not beat around the bush, stress kills.
Once you’re on that slow slide into depression, and I’ve been there and got the T shirts, you don’t make sound decisions to reduce the impacts of stress.
I got pissed nightly. That was my escape mechanism. It made the depression worse.
At night, I’d lie awake picking over the carcass of the past; now permanently sober, I can control whether I pick the scab of the past – the loss of my career was devastating at the time, but now? Events still hurt. The lying bastards who colluded still occasionally rear their ugly heads, but because I’m sober as a judge and lifelong teetotal after alcohol dependency (or if honest. alcoholism) I now control my thoughts and actions.
When the stress made me breakdown, when I was reduced daily to crying from traumatic events at my workplace, when I felt like I was in a battle, I did what everyone does. I retired from social activity and stayed indoors, usually in bed, waiting for the clock to strike 5pm when the drinking could begin big time.
I neglected my wife, my children, my friends because my depression was so debilitating that I wanted only solitude and alcohol.
A shit vicious circle.
If you’re depressed – and I was for three years – you need help.
Not being told to pull yourself together, or snap out of it, but professional help.
I got it from trauma counsellors, psychologists, occupational health, my wife, many good friends, and the GP.
I was saved.
I now do several things that have helped me, when I’d seriously considered suicide as a better way of living than actual living.
- Exercise. I joined Bannatynes to get me out of the house.
- A dog. I rescued a dog last September and she makes me laugh and smile and exercise daily.
- Teetotal. I’d willingly go back to alcohol if I could have a glass of wine, a pint of cider and say that’s it until the weekend. But I couldn’t – so I had to stop totally. Sober 19 months now.
- Changing job. If you hate your job, look for something else. My job as a teacher made me so stressed and depressed that I used to sit in the car, with chest tightening, crying, unable to get to within a mile of that workplace. I’m out of there and education now. It’s been a major factor in me becoming well again.
- Moved house. We downsized from a huge Edwardian villa to a new build a third of its size. But it abuts woodland and is cheaper to run, meaning the pressure for two big salaries has lessened.
If you’re stressed and depressed, please seek professional help. I did. I’m now happy and mentally well. I’m in a good place.
5 years ago, I had no choice but to seek help, but it saved me, saved my life and today I’ve got my old self back.
It feels good too.