August 28, 2013

Fire alarmWhen I was first diagnosed with depression brought on by a fairly impressive breakdown owing to work stresses in 2007, a most unlikely friend and ally came into his own.

Whilst I was lucky to have the support and concern of my family and best friends, it was Pete, who was back then really no more than an acquaintance or casual friend, that reached out to me and helped me to recover.

Pete's eldest brother had died a few years earlier

It was empathy that cemented this bond between us. I was aware that Pete's eldest brother had died a few years earlier as a result of his own mental illness so I guess on some level he understood what I was going through more than anybody else.

Back in 2007 when I got ill, we'd arranged to go, before my breakdown, to Glastonbury Festival. I was assured by all my friends in the party that they would look after me and they did, putting up with my occasional fainting and general slow progress around the site brought on by panic attacks at the size of the crowds. But it was Pete who became my guide that weekend; if I wished to go and see a band that the rest of the group were not interested in, he'd happily troop through the mud with me so I could replenish my natural serotonin through the enjoyment of the music.

I realised that I had a great friend

From then I realised that I had a great friend who I could always rely on if things got tough again.

Mental illness and depression being what they are, there have been less serious relapses since 2007 but beyond my long suffering wife (who I hold in equal thrall) it’s always been Pete who's spotted the symptoms way before anyone else. When my Facebook or twitter posts have been edged with darkness, he's always been the first to respond and offer assistance. Often this is all that is needed; a friend who understands to just be there and to listen usually helps me to pull out of most flat spins.

Over six months ago I lost my job because my mental health issues were deemed too severe for me to do my job. Straightaway it was Pete who came to me and said if I couldn't find any work he had a suitable position for me within his company that would be available in 6 months time. As I write I've been working for Pete for a month which admittedly is strange having a close friend as your boss but what better support could you ask for?

You'd be surprise how helpful the Pete's in your world can be

He understands better than anyone how I work, what drives me and I truly hope I will repay his trust with good work, loyalty and productivity. I also know deep down that if I have to step down as a result of not being able to cope, he wouldn't judge me either; the mark, of course, of a true friend.

You'd be surprised who, when the wheels come off, steps out from the shadows to help. But just because you don't know them that well, you shouldn't dismiss their offers of support. Those that have the understanding or experience of mental health issues in their lives will more often 'get you' so much easier and quicker than those close to you who naturally need time to see through your mood swings and such behaviour. You'd be surprised just how helpful the Pete's in your world can be.

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