It was a seemingly normal working day when I found myself sitting in my car at lunchtime, parked in a supermarket car park. Having finished my lunch, I knew it was time to start the car engine and head back to work. And then it happened. A dark cloud descended and I knew I couldn’t go back to work. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to, it’s that I couldn’t. Everything was all my fault, I was a total failure and my boss hated me.
So, what was it about this particular day that got me to this point? Yes, I’d had a difficult morning, but I’d had difficult mornings before. Yes, I had a deadline looming, but I always had deadlines looming. What was different? The truth is, I don’t know what was special about that particular day, but I did know that things couldn’t carry on the way they were – something had to change - and I needed help. I phoned HR and then I phoned the doctor’s surgery and then I drove home. How I made the 12-mile journey home I don’t know - I was crying all the way.
As I got home, my wife was returning from the shops and was shocked to see me. I collapsed in her arms. Later, we went to the doctor together and I got some medication and a promise of counselling. Many people will tell you that depression causes insomnia. In my case, the opposite was true – I just slept and slept and slept.
That was three years ago.
Right now, I have been in my current job for eight months and am off all depression medication. In-between, I had days when I couldn’t go out, days when I managed a walk, days when I couldn’t face the supermarket, or friends, or family or anything, and other days when a small step felt like a giant leap forward. I’ve had many months off work, got a job, lost a job again and got another one. And now I am completely well. In fact, I would say I was strong – definitely stronger than before.
I now know I wasn’t a failure, everything wasn’t my fault and my boss didn’t hate me. I know that my total exhaustion was caused by my determination to keep going – I had been running on pure adrenaline for too long – trying to remain strong for far too long.
What got me through? Definitely counselling and, yes, medication. I would also say walking, or just being outside, was very helpful for me. Most of all, it was the love and support of family and friends.
I now know that when a fog descends, just because I can’t see the street lights, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means I can’t see them - but they are still shining.
And the fog WILL lift. It really will.