A year ago this month I had some kind of emotional breakdown. It hit me practically overnight, and floored me for a few weeks. The fallout from that period is still being dealt with to some extent, with a diagnosis of depression and subsequent (I would say successful) treatment . As an analytical person, I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of what happened, and why. There were plenty of factors, from the stress of parenting to the stress of running a business to the isolation of my particular line of business and the way I choose to work, to wider issues going on in my life at the time. Too much to go in to here.
But trying to pinpoint why it happened kind of goes against the point I want to make, which is that such events don’t necessarily have an obvious cause. Our society has come a long way in dealing with mental illnesses, and the ‘just snap out of it’ and ‘it’s all in your head’ responses seem to – on the whole – have vanished. But one question that still crops up, in various guises – and, crucially, by sufferers themselves – goes along the lines of “well, what does he / she / I have to be depressed about?” Especially when you have so much great stuff in your life.
No one would look at someone breaking their leg in the same, almost critical, way. The analogy does break down, because events in your life can trigger depression of course, but it can also hit you very suddenly, but for no obvious reason, and that was the case for me.
I’m a quiet person, not that comfortable in big groups, an introvert. Admitting this even in writing is a big deal for me. Few from this time last year know the details because I tried to cover it up as best I could (not very successfully, perhaps). But I’m very interested in how the mind works (I studied Psychology at University) and society’s relationship with such illnesses and episodes interests me, and worries me. So I’m taking a big breath and putting this out there – be the change you want to see in the world, and all that.
I don’t know what would have happened without the support of friends and family (even if some didn’t know what was going on), some of whom I asked of more than I deserved. It goes a little against my point to suggest what can be done to prevent such events, but that doesn’t mean we can’t perhaps lessen the chances. Look out for the warning signals, and look after yourself.
It’s too easy to neglect your own needs when you have young kids, and your mind and body is still adjusting to a new way of life. And talk to people, even if it’s not in your nature. Remember, though, if such an event does come to you, try not to make yourself feel worse through guilt because of everything you have that others may not – be thankful for those things and use them to help you through it.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography