A couple of months ago my depression came back with a real bang. A proper wallop right across the bonce.
For me, depression does not just bring a deep, seemingly irremovable sadness painted across the surface of everything I enjoy and love, it also brings with it a rage. A rage pointed directly at me. Me and my actions. My failings. My thoughts. My feelings. My response to others. And on and on and on and on until it culminates in me physically harming myself.
During this recent bout, work was becoming a mountain that not only I was physically unable to climb, but one I just couldn’t be arsed to even strap up my boots for. And that was upsetting, because I love my job. I get to play with words and ideas and it varies from day to day.
I’m also very fortunate to work with passionate, intelligent people determined to produce good work, while not stepping on others in the process. And it was this compassionate side that helped me at my worst.
My line-manager started to notice I wasn’t doing too well – I tend to wear exhaustion quite visibly under my eyes! – and asked me how things were going. I chatted and he listened and I cried and he took me seriously. Eventually we spoke to my department’s head who instantly said: “We’ll do whatever we can to make things easier for you at work. Shall we have a think?”
Unbelievable. Not only was I being given the opportunity to alter my working day to make things easier, I was doing it as a part of a team. During a time when thinking clearly was the hardest thing in the world, my boss was sharing the responsibility of coming up with a solution and not leaving it up to me.
The solution we came to was me working from home on Tuesdays.
It might sound like a simple thing, but I think Tuesdays have saved my life.
It was suddenly no longer just the second day of the week. It was one day a week I didn’t have to ridicule myself for not being able to peel my lead-weight limbs off my bed at 7am. A day I could have poached eggs as I read my emails. A day I didn’t have to go and have a 10-minute talk to myself in the work loos after feeling inconsolable because I didn’t like the tone I used when speaking to someone. A day I didn’t have to speak to anyone! A day when if I was struggling to complete a project I didn’t have to pretend I was fine, I could swear and shout and huff and puff. A day when I could worry about myself, without worrying about others.
Sure my depression still comes and goes and sometimes it even appears on a Wednesday or a Thursday – Tuesdays are great, but not magic – however just knowing there’s a day that I can nurture my wellbeing and be a little selfish is so, so useful.
And the only way they’ve been possible is a simple case of a handful of people at work being understanding, compassionate and human. I might never become a manager in my career but if I do, I’ve got some wonderful examples to learn from.
© Carl Burkitt 2017
To celebrate World Mental Health Day I’m selling poems for just a ONE POUND donation to Rethink Mental Illness. It can be about ANYTHING you want, for ANYONE you like. Just ask. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @CarlBurkitt.
Here are some examples I’ve done in the past to whet the whistle.