There’s No Shame in Depression

I have always been hesitant in applying the word “depression” to myself. We all have periods of low mood sometimes, and I’ve long known that I have – if you’ll excuse the pretension – a melancholic temperament. I had seen former colleagues made seriously ill with depression: normally happy, jokey people turned into a frightened shell. To me, that is what depression was (I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness). Even when, a few years ago, the periods of low mood seemed to be lasting longer, I was hesitant. I could still function, could still get up, go to work and churn out the numbers. To apply the word to myself seemed self-indulgent.

However, I came to reassess that view. Some colleagues had noticed changes in my behaviour and were kind enough to ask how I was. This was a surprise as I hadn’t noticed any such changes, but I was touched that they asked. Talking with them made me realise that “depression” covers many signs and symptoms of varying severity: increased irritability, appetite disturbance, sleep disruption, difficulty taking pleasure in anything, hopelessness. I experienced all of these to some degree, and the more I thought about it, I realised I’d been feeling like that for a long time. So I went to the doctor and was duly diagnosed. He put me on anti-depressants, a prospect I’d previously found appalling.

But they helped. It was a slow process, and after 18 months I was able to come off them. Unfortunately, the deteriorating situation at work meant I had to go back on them a few months later, this time for over two years. The pills enabled me to function, to carry on, to continue working, and ultimately, to get better. And I regarded that as one in the eye for the bullying, uncaring management.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s to not be in denial if you think you’re ill. Talk to people, go and see the doctor. Above all, don’t be ashamed. It is an illness, and there’s no shame in being ill. You’re not alone.

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