Coming out about depression

Coming out about depression

By Dominic Stevenson

It was like fighting a battle from within the castle walls.  I worked for the NHS and I was diagnosed with depression.

Looking back now, I think there had been a problem for a long time.  My temper was too short and occasionally uncontrollable but having been at university for several years, the people who knew me best couldn’t see this.  They weren’t able to see what I was like because when I went home for the holidays I managed to mask it.

It came to a head when I went abroad to volunteer with young children who had been trafficked into different countries and rescued.  I felt that I had seen evil, pure unadulterated evil and it enveloped everything.

Blackness descending

When I got back to England I shut myself away and decided I wanted to change the world, to make it a better place but the more I felt like that, the more it consumed me and crippled me to the point where I couldn’t leave my bedroom.  After a year and a half I moved back to my home town where I ended up working for the NHS.

When I was first diagnosed with depression I was referred to the local cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) centre.  As the NHS trusts PR officer, it was my job to promote the centre and now I was faced with being a service user.

Coming out

Before my first session I decided to confide in my boss, I wanted to speak to my family but I didn’t know how.  My sister was training as a psychologist and I didn’t want to burden her and although I knew my parents would understand, I still wanted to hide it so that I didn’t upset them.

When I told my boss she just hugged me and then drove me to my first session, waited outside and then took me home.  I felt like I had found someone who would support me throughout whatever I was embarking on.  She drove me to all of my sessions and always called me afterwards to see how it had gone.

The rise and fall of recovery

As time went by I made tentative steps on the road to something like a recovery but every so often I would fall and I would fall harder than ever before.  I turned on myself and those who love me.  Eventually I confided in a few more friends at the organisation at which I worked and they were all equally as accepting but it felt to me like I was under the microscope and I couldn’t help regretting doing so.

I didn’t gain much from the CBT, maybe it was the over familiarity with the people treating me or maybe it was because I have an A-level in psychology and so thought I knew it all.

In the months that followed me starting the sessions I began to turn on my boss and focus any negativity at her, I felt that she was my best friend, my rock and could never turn her back.  For my eternal benefit and her eternal credit she never did but it dragged her down and she couldn’t take it anymore.

Walking a tightrope

I left my job and moved to London to move in with a friend and find a job.  Shortly after moving in though, I found my flat mate hanging by a rope in the kitchen.  I cut her down and carried her to hospital and then broke down.  It showed me more clearly than ever before that I was walking a tightrope and one false move, however incidental, by anyone around me could tip me over the edge.  This was the moment I thought, the one that would break me forever. I got a job the next week, I moved into a new flat and I made contact with the friends that I had shut out in my last year in London before moving home.  I don’t talk to my old boss anymore, though I wish I could just once to say that I am sorry.  I don’t talk to the flat mate who I found hanging because I am still not strong enough to offer the help that they need.

I was lucky that I have a sister who is a trained psychologist because when I eventually spoke to her, it helped so much.  I didn’t realise that I could tell my family the worst bits of me but I did and they loved me just the same.

Right now I am working in a very positive environment, I have good people around me and if I dip, then I talk to my family.  I still have occasional sessions where I talk to a professional but I am learning to accept that I am who I am.  Suffering from depression isn’t my shiniest badge of honour but it certainly doesn’t hide away in shame.

I now tell people who I work in close quarters with because if you spend seven hours a day with someone then I believe that they should know.  It’s not contagious but it affects your mood and thus affects working relationships.  Honesty makes forgiveness for the nasty things that people can say much easier.

So far I have not had a bad experience at work after telling people but I am lucky enough to work in healthcare.  Not everyone will be so understanding but maybe one day, my story won’t be a story, it will be what used to happen.

It takes a brave person to be honest, I was not brave, I was just lucky that exactly the right people were around me at a time in my life.  I would like to think that this was the rule not the exception, maybe, just maybe, one day it will.

For more about Dominic please visit his website

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