Depression Jam

2020 has been a bad year for everyone thanks to the global pandemic. Everyone has their own story to tell about how they’ve coped (and sometimes not) in these turbulent, dangerous times. This post describes my recent struggle with depression.

I want to start by saying don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are worried about your mental health! These are free helplines for those in the UK:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • CALM: 0800 58 58 58
  • Young Minds: 0800 018 2138
  • The Mix (under 25s): 0808 808 4994

At the end of 2019 I hit a wall. With a year of an extremely high workload coupled with a number of difficult personal circumstances, I found myself grounding to a halt. One day I left work in tears feeling like the world was falling apart. The next day I was on route to the office but never arrived, instead finding myself in the doctors surgery waiting room for an emergency mental health appointment.

After a couple of weeks I returned to work but I still felt broken. I had lost interest in the projects I was working on and struggled to find comfort in any leisure activities. Everything felt incredibly futile. I didn’t have the will to fight for the things I knew to be important. More broadly I was questioning my relationships to those closest to me, feeling alone and unworthy of others’ care and attention.

As the pandemic hit the university had to quickly adapt to providing remote modes of course delivery and student services. I did my part. I made guides for students and staff to set expectations for this new landscape, centring care and compassion as core principals as to how we should treat ourselves and others. I designed and delivered training to large numbers of academic staff. I advised on how to format and deliver student information, course content, online and offline activities, and how systems and platforms could be best utilised going forward.

But gradually the toll of poor working conditions and an extremely high workload in combination with existing stress and depression symptoms became too much. There was no snap moment or big trigger. I just ground to a halt, gradually getting so ill I was unable to move or speak or do much of anything at all.

I’ve now been off work almost six months. I’ve recently got to a point where I can do basic things for myself again like shopping, cleaning and cooking. I still struggle with sleep or finding motivation for life things. But I’ve worked hard to get better and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far.

My recovery so far has only been possible with the love and support of family and friends, and the invaluable continuous care of the NHS. My heart goes out to anyone who is / has been in a similar position, especially those who do not have such a support system. As terrifying and painful as my experience has been I can’t imagine how much worse the situation could be.

In the past I wouldn’t have seen myself as someone who would reach out for mental health support, and this was my first time to do so. I was at a point where I had no choice but to. But I’m now proud of the courage it took for me to reach out for support. I would encourage anyone however big or small your struggles with depression or anxiety may be to seek support where you can – the sooner you can get help the easier recovery / management will be.

In a follow up post to this depression jam I’ll talk about the incredible amount of preserves I’ve made as part of my path to, well, managing to do anything again. Feel like this post is already long enough so a part II on how making things helped me get back on my feet will be along soon.

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