Depression and anxiety - my experience as a young professional
Posted Monday 24 September 2012
“Snap out of it”, “Get over it”, “Stop being dramatic”. I started to believe that I really was just being dramatic, there were plenty of other people worse off than me. I’d had a great childhood, did well at school, had good friends and a great job, what was there to be sad about?
I’m 23 years old and have suffered with depression since I was 13. I didn’t really know anything about depression though until I was 18 and saw my GP. Those five years inbetween were very difficult but even after seeing my GP I didn’t fully acknowledge the issue. I stopped taking my medication after three weeks and continued to go through phases of depression until everything came to a head.
I had been working as a social worker for just over one year. An extremely stressful job but one I found myself able to deal with and I enjoyed the challenges that came with it. I saw other people go off on the sick and always told myself (and other people) “I will never let it get that bad”. I was wrong.
I started suffering from anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, eat or concentrate on one task as I had so many things going on in my head. This then triggered my depression again. I would come home crying, get to work crying. Cry at my desk, in my car and sit shaking with anxiety at all the things going on in my mind. I didn’t know how to deal with it and knew I needed some help but because I hadn’t been qualified for very long I decided not to share any of this with my manager as I worried she would think I was just incompetent and couldn’t hack the job.
I spoke to my partner who had noticed a real change in me and he suggested I go and see my GP. I did and they prescribed me with medication for the depression. I went back to work but nothing really changed, the medication was for depression but all my anxieties remained. One day I was physically ill and had to go home from work. I booked another GP appointment and they gave me a four week sick note. The one thing I never thought I’d need or get.
It was time to have to open up to my manager. I had convinced myself this was it. They would find some reason to sack me and pretend it was nothing to do with me being incompetent.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. My manager was understanding, supportive and kind. She really understood and urged me to be more open with her. We kept in contact while I was on sick and my colleagues were all really supportive too.
I was put on medication to treat both the depression and anxiety and began cognitive behavioural therapy. I read about mental illness on the ‘Mind’ website as well as NHS websites, and did some exercises on the ‘Mood Gym’ website. I also had a consultation with a local Mind service. I only attended 4 CBT sessions and she signed me off. My therapist saw a real difference in me after a few weeks which I believe was down to not just the medication but the support around me from friends and family too. I was so relieved that I could finally talk to people about how I was feeling and that I wasn’t just being dramatic or incompetent at my job, I had a real illness that could actually be treated.
I returned to work one month later and dreaded walking into the office. I was convinced everyone would be talking about me and saying I was “crazy”. They weren’t! Everyone was really supportive, kind and helpful to me. My manager made sure I wasn’t put under too much pressure and allowed me time to get back on my feet.
I learned that mental illness can affect anyone no matter how old/young, qualified/unqualified you are and that being open about it is the first and best step to recovery. I have now began a new career as a manager and I’m an example that mental illness cannot stop you doing what you want to do!
You can follow Becca on Twitter @bexxxthompson
It can be hard talking to your employer about how you're feeling, or returning to work after taking some time off. The Mind guide to surviving working life has some tips that might help.
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