Depression affects 20% of the global population and it kills.
84 men a week take their own lives in the U.K. alone – depression, stress, anxiety and suicide are colossal epidemics, amongst men and women.
As someone who suffered from a major depressive disorder from 2013 to late 2016, and has chronicled it repeatedly, I feel qualified to talk about what depression did to me and the strategies I’ve used to recover.
CAUSES OF MY DEPRESSION
I cannot honestly pinpoint a moment when my life went tits up, but I can share moments and as these episodes accumulated, I became utterly lost in depression and mental illness. I’d had episodes before when my world caved in and I sought solace in going AWOL from work in 2001, but 2013 was when the shit really hit the fan and I reached rock bottom – a nadir that was to last for 3 years.
3 years of blaming others, blaming myself, feeling worthless, seeking solace in prescription drugs laced with alcohol and making unhealthy physical and psychological choices.
3 years when I considered suicide often and would visualise my death, falling from a building, crashing my car into a wall, or overdosing.
A series of pernicious incidents in the workplace made an already fragile mind even worse and I was marooned in a sea of misery, hopelessness and despair.
STRATEGIES TO CURE DEPRESSION
I did what all men do, back in 2013, when I hit a deep trough – I refused to talk about it to professionals but blabbered manically on to any Tom, Dick or Harry who would listen and pour another large drink and revisit the recent past, with mania continuing.
I had talking therapy, counselling, support from Occupational Health and close family and friends (my wife, children and mates who didn’t abandon me as some mad man). They’d seen, you see, the fairly normal me, and were alarmed at my descent into major depression.
Therapy helped, as did crying openly about what had happened to me in a toxic workplace in the recent past and the bigger picture, I was encouraged to visualise and understand the fact that work can be poison but you can leave it, and that realisation put me on the slow path to recovery.
You see, I had no energy or motivation, no appetite for going out, just a burning shame about letting my family down, my colleagues down and the many lovely students I’d abandoned as I went into full flight mechanism and ran from what felt like was a battlefield.
It was a battle. The kind where you’re not sure who your enemies are.
Schools are so often like that: insidious and nasty, led by psychopaths.
THE BIG PICTURE
When I climbed back on the teaching saddle in 2015, I was quickly thrown off and the whole process of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation reared its head again.
I won though. I beat depression. It took me 3 years, but I won.
I’m now much better.
I’ve dropped education and that fucking awful recent past and focused on building my own business of writing and web design.
I know now that those days are behind me because those cumulative episodes of stress and anxiety, induced in teaching, means I’ll never go back to it.
I can not only see the bigger picture. I’m bloody painting one, when people said I’d never paint and you know what, I’m doing well in it.
That painted selfie is of me smiling.