I’m Dani. I’m 35 and an Office Manager for an amazing branding agency. I’ve lived with depression since 2001 when my mum passed away. Fast forward to 2010 – my first panic attack. I had a job interview and I literally could not leave the house, my older brother found me completely unable to cope. He didn’t know what to do, so he took me to A&E. I was subsequently diagnosed with Clinical Depression and referred to my boroughs Mental Health Team who were great. 6 years on and I’m doing much better, but being able to cope is an ongoing challenge for me. I know I still need help. This is a day in my truth.
Friday 6th May 2016
08:10 I’m up, finally!
My alarm went off at 07:00 but I couldn’t get up, my head and my heart feel heavy. For me to get to work on time I need to leave in 5 minutes. “Why do I feel this way when I feel ‘ok’?” Last night I was on the phone with my bestie, Fay and we were talking about how far I’ve come since the beginning of the year. I teared up a bit. The end of January was shit. I dealt with 3 losses of varying capacities within the space of 7 days. But my comeback was my quickest from a breakdown to date. It was strong and had a purpose. The tears were “I made it! But I’m so tired” tears. I went to bed around 11:00 and managed 2 hours deep sleep. By 01:00, I was awake and aware of everything around me and just couldn’t settle back down.
I’ve emailed work and let them know I didn’t have a good night, so I’ll be late in. As I get myself ready I cry the entire time, I still don’t know why I feel unable to cope when I feel ‘ok’. I give myself a pep talk before I leave the house. “You’re a queen, Dani. Look how far you’ve come. This feeling will only last a moment, just keep at it! You’re so strong!”
I’m at the bus stop, leaving the house was hard – sometimes the thought of going outside makes me anxious. I feel safer at home, I feel as though the outside has no remorse. Luckily it’s nice outside; it’s a mild day, the sun is shining and I’m aware of the breeze against my face. The whole journey to work I feel like I want to cry. From the pit of my stomach to the back of my throat, my eyes fill up every so often because I don’t know why I feel this way when I feel ‘ok’. I daren’t cry! Not on a bus or a train, especially not during rush hour.
I’m almost at work. “Don’t forget to eat, you know how you get when you’re hungry” I run into Pret outside the station and get a breakfast roll and treat myself to a shortbread biscuit – it’s the little things. As I walk towards work over the cobblestones I’m thinking “I hope today goes well, I hope I get through today…Today will go well, I will get through today! It’s Friday, just a few more hours and you can get home and rest”.
I’ve arrived at work, we always have music playing in the background, which I love. The office is open plan with a modern/industrial feel to it – it’s a great space to work in. I’m settling in at my desk and going through my emails, as I’m eating I still want to cry; my stomach is contracting from holding in the tears. Now I’m completely overcome. “Not here Dani, not now!” I can’t stop the wave of emotion from coming and I end up putting my head in my hands, tears streaming silently down my face at my desk. I get up calmly and walk out without bringing attention to myself. My desk buddy/friend/strength affirmer: Laura follows me out and gives me a hug. She tells me it’s ok to let go and I do.
Truth is I am happy but my birthday is coming up and I miss my mum terribly. I miss her most when I’m at my happiest and saddest. She’ll be gone 15 years this year but it still feels like yesterday. She’s all I have but she’s gone. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. Laura reminds me how strong I am and tells me to take as much time as I need.
Felicity my colleague arrives with Wallace her pet Lab. He comes to the office with her every Friday, he’s a treat! That picks me up, I love dogs; they’re super intuitive and so unconditional. He has the sweetest spirit. Having him around the office is quite therapeutic, whenever he’s around he calms me down and relieves whatever stress I’m feeling at the time.
He comes over with his new toy, drops it next to my chair and looks at me as if to say “I want to play. Entertain me” lol We play a few runs of fetch before I continue with my work.
I’m trying so hard to interact with the team. It takes a lot of energy and effort when part of you is fighting not to be present. My inbox is full and I am finding it difficult to read my emails. I get to the end of a paragraph and forget what it said in the beginning. I find myself reading the same thing over and over again and getting nowhere. My inability to concentrate frustrates me and I can feel myself getting anxious.
It’s a beautiful day so the whole team takes a walk down Clerkenwell Road to Leather Lane. We get food and pick up a few beers on the way to the park. It feels great to be outside but even in a group I walk alone. I don’t speak much, but there’s no pressure to. At least I ate something and got some vitamin D.
I’ve got so much work I want to finish that I really don’t want to take it into next week with me, but the realisation sets in that I won’t finish up. I can’t concentrate. I’m still wondering why I still feel like this. I’ve established I miss mum; I’ve had my cry; I’ve eaten lunch. I feel ‘ok’ but I’m unable to focus. I mentally block out the office. “I just have to prioritise. What can’t wait? People who want their money.” I log into HSBC and get through my invoices. Before I know it, its 5pm but it’s Friday which means alcohol! Lol The gin and tonic Jak makes me is much appreciated!
I’m so relieved to get home. I workout, have something to eat and enjoy my evening. I write about the things I am grateful for and I meditate. Reflecting on all the good that has happened, rather than focusing on the bad helps me to remain positive.
I got to the end of the day without giving up and I got all the important stuff done! That’s what I try to do on days like this, I power through. Even if I gave up and went home, that would’ve been fine. I won’t always have the energy to show up and deliver; it takes a lot out of me.
“You have more strength than most people without Depression” my bestie said to me last night. It’s true. It’s so exhausting; it slows me down, and at times it feels as if I’m treading water and it stops me from living my life how I want. It’s a weight in my head that is equal parts non-caring when I want to care, non-motivating when I want to be productive, non-social when I want to be around people, tired when I want to get up and go and teary when I could think of 100 other things I’d rather do but cry. I liken it to constant background noise that exists whether I’m happy or not. I’ll have lulls that can last from a few days to a few months, which may be triggered by a breakdown or lead up to one. Still, I stay strong and get shit done. I live the best life I can for the moment I’m in.
I may have a mental illness, I may get teary, my pace may be slower and I may have breakdowns that make my mind weak – it’s what happens when my brain has to deal with too much. It doesn’t mean I’m a weak person or weak in character. If anything, in some respects it’s the complete opposite! To me, it’s symbolic of a computer shutting down and rebooting – I get to try again. I am as fragile as I am strong and that’s ok.