April 2, 2013

Photo of sunshine | Time to ChangeI could hear the sound of chatter and phones coming from the open window above me. I was stood in the car park at my place of work. A place that I hadn't been to in almost two months since the doctor signed me off with depression.

My depression had been the subject of much tutting and eye-rolling at work

I'd heard through a friend who worked in a different department that I had recently become the subject of some contention and the cause of much tutting and eye-rolling. I work in a busy environment and my absence was not well received.

I had recently been 'tagged' in a Facebook photograph at the beach with my children and there had apparently been cries of "if she's well enough to go to the beach then she's well enough to come to work".

They were unaware that I had to try and hide a panic attack

I understood their logic however, they were unaware that I had been persuaded for over an hour to leave the sanctuary of my bed and go out to the beach to get some fresh air. They were unaware that I had fought back stabby, burning tears in the car on the way to beach, such was my discomfort at being out 'on display' in public. They were also unaware that the sound of the seagulls ignited a panic attack that I, unsuccessfully, tried to conceal from my children.

I had decided to pop into my office to drop off my latest sick-note in person and say hello, show my face and hopefully have a bit of a chat about what was happening to me and why I was away. I liked my colleagues and a couple of months ago, I was pretty sure that they like me too. Now I wasn't so sure but hoped that I was just being paranoid (another delightful aspect of my depression).

Surely my colleages wouldn't think less of me?

I walked into the corridor and headed towards my office. As I approached I could hear the familiar voices of my colleagues. Some were laughing and bantering with each other, others were on the phone and I could hear others tapping frantically away on their keyboards. I felt annoyed at myself for being so nervous about walking into a room that I had spent so many hours of my life in. I also mentally chastised myself for thinking so little of my colleagues, surely they wouldn't actually think any less of me for being unable to work due to a mental illness? I took a deep breath and walked into the office.

The voices that had been previously laughing and bantering went quiet. I smiled a very wonky and unconvincing smile and after what felt like an age but in reality was only a matter of seconds one voice said "alright?" and then the laughing and bantering continued where it had left off. I headed over to a girl who I often sit next to, saw that she was on the phone and gave a little wave and a smile to which she sighed, raised a quizzical eyebrow and shifted in her chair to face her back towards me. I can honestly say at that moment, I felt the most shame about my illness that I had ever experienced.

I put my sick-note on my line managers desk and walked out

I put my sick-note on my line managers desk and walked out, locked myself into the toilet and cried big ploppy tears into my lap. The tears became sobs and I tried to stifle any tell-tale sounds of crying that anyone passing by might have heard. That would be the icing on the crazy-cake, my colleagues discussing the fact that I had turned up, spoiled their conversation then hid in the toilet crying like a reclusive Moaning Myrtle.

When I felt like the tear tsunami had subsided enough for me to face the world again, I stood up and looked in the mirror. A reflection that looked like a panda and Alice Cooper's love -child stared back. I did the best I could to mop up the excess mascara, fumbled around in my bag for some lipstick which I slicked on hoping (somewhat optimistically) that the pink lips may detract from my fetching blotchy face and puffy red eyes and headed back to office.

My depression was not caused by the man in the moon

My line manager was now in the office and was sat at her desk. She smiled at me, got up and put her arms around me in what was a very welcome and hugely appreciated hug. She told me very confidently that she was sure that I'd be 'on the mend' soon seeing as the current lunar activity was coming to an end. I nodded sagely in agreement despite the bewilderment and irritation that her innocent but ignorant comment had caused me to feel.

She had been so nice by smiling at me, speaking to me and hugging me that I didn't want to appear rude or ungrateful by explaining that my depression was not caused by the man in the moon, I was also interested whether she was also convinced that the alleged cause of my illness was a huge ball of cheddar floating miles away as that seemed about as logical as her last comment but thought it would be rude to ask.

I stayed only a short while before leaving and heading home. Disappointed that on this occasion my paranoia was for once, intuitive rather than delusional.

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