I never thought I’d be one to write this sort of article. Come on, I’m large, loud and laugh a lot, never backward with an opinion, always quick to lend a helping hand.
I’ve been described as the life and soul of the party, The Big Eejit in the middle when there are shenanigans, the one that’s usually started them too. My daughter calls me a man child and my son, he’s usually telling me to stop being an imbecile. He’s eight and he uses words like imbecile to describe me. I rather like that.
My wife and I have been together twenty years now and not a day goes by that I wonder what she sees in me. Me being a rowdy Scot and her being a pretty, well educated, beautifully spoken English girl, who my former band mates described as Lady Mackay due to her plummy accent. I married my best friend and we laugh together, facing everything as one.
With all that in mind, why the hell do I suffer from depression and anxiety?
Not an easy question to answer but I do think it has been being too stressed in a pressured environment for too long. Having been a Project Manager on some massive and critical programmes, I was working for years in pressure kegs, usually being brought in to get things moving again when they had gone wrong. Early mornings, late nights, intense days and the pressure of being a consultant with my own business, while working for some of the most difficult people I’ve ever encountered (none more than the civil service) just ended up taking its toll on me. I was burnt out and demoralised.
That was when I chucked it for a different life, leaving the corporate jungle of morons and despots to continue their hand wringing without me. I was delighted to have got out, bought a cafe and settled into what I thought would be a way of managing my own destiny, slaying some demons and having a lot of fun working with two big loves in my life – coffee and food.
Long story short, it didn’t work out that way. There are different pressures in running a business of that nature and the way out I thought I had, was not to be. I wasn’t sleeping, I lost a lot of weight, was obsessing with small things, worrying constantly over the bank balance, couldn’t concentrate, my memory was shot and I was constantly on edge.
How I managed to get through it all without breaking I’ll never know. The health professionals don’t use the phrase anymore, but what I suffered was a mental breakdown. I couldn’t talk about anything emotional or close to me as I was in tears before I knew it. Driving to work, I was hoping, fingers crossed, that the cafe had burnt down and I would be free. Of course it hadn’t, so I’d go in alone, sit down at a table and cry. I’d pick myself up for the staff coming in and get on with the job in hand, but every day was so hard to put one foot in front of the other, keep going, keep others going, when all I wanted to do was drive away as far as I could.
The intense feeling of despair, being on my own in a world of pain and not knowing what the hell to do is one of the worst emotions I’ve experienced. I felt trapped, helpless and desperate, with regular thoughts that I’d be better off dead. I couldn’t slow down my brain, stop the thoughts from racing and my attempts at meditation were not putting the brakes on. Every day seemed to bring a new issue which was like water torture but the tap wasn’t on slow drip, it was more full on than that.
It kept pouring in on me, relentlessly.
I had a conversation with one of my staff, a more mature lady, and she saw I’d lost a lot of weight, always tired, etc. She kept saying that it must be the stress of this place and was a touch surprised when I said that I was ill.
“You?”, she said loudly in a shocked tone. “How can you be depressed?”
That summed it up for me, that I was very good at hiding things, always joking, keeping on going, being that Big Eejit for everyone else that they never noticed. Being so good at hiding it was hurting me more.
This illness has also cost me a lot personally, never mind financially. I’ve lost two businesses, given up coaching of kids football which I loved (was in tears leaving the ground one day, with the welfare officer being concerned about me), I’ve lost friends, given up regular activities and avoid social / community events. I stopped playing in pipe bands and haven’t picked up an instrument for a long while, which is something I did regularly and enjoyed for years.
I went home to meet up with old friends about eighteen months ago, people who are more like brothers to me and crashed, massively. I was exhausted, on edge and even suicidal, which brought me to the realisation that I needed urgent help. For the good of my family and those around me that I hold dear, I needed help. I was on a destructive and damaging journey which needed to stop.
Thanks to Lady Mackay, who is the most exceptional human being I’ve ever had the blind luck to meet and the support of good friends, I am slowly getting back to health. Right now, I’m not working, not even sure what I am able or want to do but I’m here. I have good days and bad days, and as long as the good days outnumber the bad, then it’s a life worth living. I make my kids laugh, watch my wife smile and try to live in the moment, grateful for having them in my life.
We’re working out where we go from here and what’s best for all of us. Main thing is that we do it together and be happy.
That’s all we can ask for in life. Right?