If someone had said to me during my twenties that at some point during my future life, I was statistically likely to suffer with one or more depressive episodes I would have thought it not credible. Why would I, a young adult at married at 22, a dad at 26 and then again at 30 with a busy career in construction be likely to succumb to instances of depression, stress & anxiety? Surely not?
Well, looking back on the last 25 years, I can now see that, yes, I have unfortunately experienced at least 2 marked episodes in my life of stress, depression & anxiety. Interestingly however, is the fact that the circumstances and causes are significantly different from each other.
My first period of depression, stress & anxiety occurred in my late twenties, going into my early 30’s and lasted for perhaps 2 years. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but a close friend and colleague spotted the symptoms and alerted me to his concerns. Unfortunately, I had an aggressive line manager who took it upon himself to pressurise me with workload and I was subjected to much unwarranted criticism.
My self-esteem, confidence and motivation all took a hit whilst this (bullying) culture continued for an ongoing period. A brief respite from this individual was secondment to Birmingham and Swindon, although the downside to this was long commuting hours which then affected quality family time. My way out of this situation came out the blue with a transfer of division with an immediate improvement in working environment and consequent gains in confidence, motivation, self-esteem which naturally benefitted my family circumstances.
My second period of depression, stress & anxiety came soon after turning 40 and was because of my marriage collapsing. I think it’s fair to say that my marriage struggled in the prior 5 years with a number of issues, both personal & professional, and that the collapse wasn’t down to a single event, but a cumulative series of issues. The depression, the stress, the anxiety when it hit soon after manifested itself in several identifiable ways:
- Anger & aggression – not thinking things through calmly, sensibly and logically.
- Poor sleep patterns – too many thoughts running around my head preventing healthy rest.
- Alcohol – a pattern of self-medication arose for time, a way to drown out the noise.
- Motivation – I struggled with work for about 9 months and took myself off sick for 10 weeks.
I elected to be prescribed anti-depressants in early 2010 to help with my low moods thinking it would be a short-term thing. In reality my use of anti-depressants lasted some 7½ years.
1st July 2017: That was my first proper day of being 100% anti-depressant free. I had weaned myself off them over the previous 3 months by reducing the dosage to alternate days. So, yes, 17th July 2017 was a big, positive step forward for me and even now more than 3 years later I don’t even think about them. It’s true to say they helped, but their use was so much longer than I had ever anticipated.
The divorce process was unnecessarily aggravating and ought to have been quicker to resolve in my view. I came through the other end reasonably intact and an unplanned benefit was my dog coming to reside with me and then a few months later my eldest daughter elected to come and live with me full time. This was what grounded me in those early years; this was what gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of responsibility, lifted my self-esteem and motivation, got me up in the morning to work hard and provide for my new, adjusted family. My second daughter, being 3 years younger than her sister, stayed living with her mum and visited myself and her sister regularly and so that relationship is as strong as ever.
Improvements to my life? Exercise. I took up regular swimming from 2010, great for both mind and body. In 2013, my new partner of 2 years encouraged me into the gym. I’ve never looked back since. Pool and gym are a big part of my life. Alcohol? A very modest drinker these days (no more self-medication). Work? I’m in a job where I feel and know I’m very much part of a much larger team, a family in fact. Holidays? My young lady and I travel as much as possible, Europe one year, long haul the next. Renovations? My home post-divorce is slowly being improved, putting my own stamp on the place.
It’s taken me a good 8 years or so to get through this dark period of my life. It was at times slow, arduous, frustrating but I’m now in a much happier, settled & calmer environment. My relationship with my daughters was maintained and improved upon. I’m pleased to say my new (well 9 year) relationship is solid, intimate and relaxed. Any issues, big or small, are resolved promptly and with little fuss. With the benefit of some hindsight, as painful as the divorce was, I feel I’m now a better person, more rounded, settled, and happier.
We encourage any staff member who experiences mental health problems or simply needs someone to talk to, to contact our Mental Health Champions through HR Manager, Tim Johnson on TJohnson@cmbeng.co.uk.
For any extra information or support please visit Time to Change Wales – https://www.timetochangewales.org.uk/en/