I’ve been wanting to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but have been a bit scared to do so in case the act of writing it destroyed the mood. But it is something I want to get out in the open so here we go.
I think I am now safe to declare that I am coming out of the worst six or seven months of mental turmoil I have experienced in the last 15+ years. It really has not been a fun ride in my head of late but things are pretty much back on an even keel now, and even if nobody else ever reads this I want to record a few thoughts so I can look back on this in future if I feel myself sliding again.
My main problem is anxiety and dwelling on the past rather than straight depression, but one leads to the other in my case and in this instance I know the exact trigger that set it off. As readers may know, I deal with bus stops, shelters etc. in my day job and over the last couple of years we have done a load of work in Ipswich. Both bus stations refurbished, new real time information system and other stuff. And I have also been getting new bus shelters and enhanced bus stops done across the rest of the County as well. All during a time when I have basically had no help – my team member was seconded to another role and it was over a year before we were allowed to replace him. And that has taken three attempts with the first person refusing the job in the end and the second failing his probationary period (basically wasting six months trying to bring him up to speed). So to say I was under a bit of pressure would be an understatement.
Then when we got to the Christmas works break imposed on us by the town centre people there was a big fuss in the media about how the project was running late, important bits weren't working and so forth. A lot of that concentrated on the real time system to the point of the local radio station interviewing people at one of the bus stations and pointing out the one screen that wasn't working and ignoring the rest that all were doing fine. Being the kind of chap who takes things to heart, this sent me spiralling off the deep end and by the time Christmas itself came around I was in a real black place.
I'm not really sure how I got through Christmas as I just wanted to run and hide most of time. This will sound terrible, but I guess it helped that Joan had a bad tooth over the festive period. Being able to focus on taking her to the dentist a couple of times and having her to worry about managed to draw my focus away from me. When I went back to work in the New Year I knew I had to do something about it.
So, I went to see my doctor and got my anti-depressants upped, and took the step of seeking out some more help through our occupational health service. I had had some counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy back in 2000 last time I had a real flare up, so I knew it would help, but admitting to myself that I needed it was one of the toughest things I have ever done. But my word it helped, six sessions over a couple of months with a really great bloke and I'm close to feeling normal again. Some of the hardest conversations I've ever had – the sessions left me physically as well as mentally drained at first while I poured things out. I'm still reviewing bits of them a month or so later and trying to look for the positives.
One thing that has become clear to me is that I function best with plans and targets – and not just in the work environment. When we have a week off I like to think about things we could do, places to visit and so forth and am terrible at just taking each day as it comes. For example when we hit the states last year I had spent hours on the web looking for things to see near our hotels, places to check out when we had free time and so forth. And it didn't matter to me at the end that we had done hardly any of them as the holiday was well structured anyway, but going into it without a plan to fall back on gave me the creeps. I'm the same every weekend – I need to think about when we will go shopping, if we can take a day trip or whatever. Just waking up on Saturday morning with nothing on the agenda scares me! I feel like I flounder around and waste the day without something to aim for. So telling myself that I want to sit in the sun and read a couple of days in advance is much easier than just deciding to relax and do just that on the day.
We have also stopped paying attention to the local press, as they seem to delight in pouncing on the smallest mistake or problem whilst ignoring many of the great things that are being done.
I had planned to write more than that when I started this draft a couple of days ago, but can't now recall what so instead I shall drop in something I wrote after the fourth session which sums up a lot of how I felt.
I am sitting at a desk, in an office, in an average building in an ordinary town and I wonder why I am still here. I am not the oldest person in my team, but I often feel I ought to be as I have been here longer than anyone else. They make a joke of it when new people join us: “oh, he's part of the furniture” they say. And I wonder which part.
I have been trodden on by the ambitious as they make their way into jobs I have better skills for, so maybe I am the carpet. But does that count? Is a carpet really furniture? So maybe I am a chair – certainly I feel the weight of days sitting on me sometimes. And I have saved many an overeager manager from hitting the floor when their plans have gone awry.
Or perhaps I am a desk – holding paper and pens and computers. The tools we all need to meet our objectives. But no, most days I am a filing cabinet – or in these modern times a data server. Overflowing with images and information. Most of it forgotten, but there to be dragged out when needed. Yes, that must be me, Been here so long that I have seen it all before and stored it away, ready to share and help when the others meet a problem for the first time.
And now someone else has a question for me, and of course I know the answer. But maybe this time the file will be encrypted. Let them find the password to unlock my potential and then, perhaps, I can be me again.
Make of that what you will!