July 25, 2012

Photo of Johnnie, a Time to Change blogger"What is normal?" This is a question I've mulled over at many times in my job and personal life.

I always considered myself to be pretty 'normal'; good, solid upbringing, parents married (and still are), close family ties, good education and a trusted circle of friends. Only recently things have unravelled beyond anything I could have imagined...

That is not the opening line to some fantastical story. It's real and has tested everything I am. Without explaining my entire life history, I've been in a long term relationship since my final years at university and was happy enough as far as my judgement of a relationship goes.

I started to have feelings of general uncertainty about 2 years ago. I shrugged them off as work stress as I was teaching at the time and finding it a massive challenge to my organisational skills, time, patience and mental abilities. It was also something of a distraction from the real issues I've been fighting with for a long time. At this point, I'll add that I won't discuss my partner, as she has been, in my eyes, faultless.

You're not depressed, you're a lazy student and you are not a good partner

Flashback to when I was at university and struggling with juggling the demands of a degree, social life and a serious relationship. Through lethargy and apathy, I considered the idea that I might have depression, so consulted my GP. His words (and I paraphrase only slightly) were: "You're not depressed, you're a lazy student and you are not a good partner, you need to get real and start acting like a grown up."

Not one to question the advice of a professional, I took this in and got on with life. Finished my degree, got a job, of sorts. Got married, moved again, got a more 'grown up' job. I can't see a point where it all began to unravel but it l did. I didn't deal with things, rather hid any feelings of self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, uncertainty or unhappiness away to try and maintain the life I'd built up.

it takes a damn good actor to hide them in the long term

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it wasn't a perfectly good life to lead and I was loved. However, when you have so many issues bubbling away under the surface, it takes a damn good actor to hide them in the long term. I've made decisions that have led to my own undoing, overlooked the things I truly wanted and most importantly of all, not spoken up about things when they got bad.

The breakdown of my relationship was the hardest thing I've ever had to face, especially dealing with the fact it was my decision to end things and what effect it had on the other person. Saying that, it's the first time I've spoken about all my insecurities and 'flaws' (as far as I saw them) and my partner was amazing in listening to this and helping me through, even though I was orchestrating the end of things between us.

I've spoken to many people about all of my issues with depression

Getting back to the present, I've spoken to many people about all of my issues with depression and feelings of low self worth. I've sought help from organisations and GPs and I feel positive. Going it alone after 10 years is hard. I knew it would be but the one thing I've learned is not to hide behind this 'black dog'.

It was for fear of not being understood by others, even friends and family, that I hid it all away, but all it did was break me down. It's hard to talk about mental health issues when it's such a sensitive issue but when I did I was surprised and shocked in some cases at people telling me their experiences, even family. It really makes you feel less secluded and alone to know that other people have these kinds of issues.

The first step is talking to someone about it

The first step is talking to someone about it: a friend, relative, counsellor, GP, even social networking helps at times. As hard as it is, there is support out there. Yes, it's scary and you might think no one will understand or care but they do. All the worries about others’ perception of my issues were unfounded. My friends have accepted it with open arms, colleagues too. My family have been amazing and I realised that we don’t talk enough. Things get better.

If you're wondering...I don't think there is such a thing as normal. We're all very different, unique, constantly-changing individuals and we all have different strategies and ways of coping but, in the end, we're only human.

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Johnnie's blog

Thanks for sharing your story. Johnnie. It's not easy when everything is under the black cloud but talking about things to someone really does help. It's also useful to sort things out in your own head, having to explain things to somebody else. Good luck on your continuing road to better mental health!!

Hi,ive suffered with

Hi,ive suffered with depression ect since age 16,now age 39,i refuse to take,any medication as i. found out it made me worse.Ive learned to live with it.Ave too cause no 1 seems to care in this day+age+its sad

Great article

Wow, this could have been written about me. So much is the same. Great read and excellent advice. Good luck Johnnie.

What is normal?

I can really relate, and I'm so glad people are finally speaking about this. Well done xx

Glad you told your story

I suffer from depression badly every few years. I had a lot of anger at "Normal" people and how they get it easy. But what is normal? And what do normal people think?

Frear Article

It's so true that we don't talk enough. This one fact is responsible for an unsurmountable amount of death and suffering. Once I became open about my depression, which was hard at first, I felt so much better - leas alone and not pressurred to carry on the burden of keeping a secret. I also discovered many others have had similar experiences and nobody is as judgemental as I imagined they would be, on the contrary they felt privileged that I shared with them.

Hi Johnnie, thanks for

Hi Johnnie, thanks for sharing this wonderful story, it resonates well with me. It is not easy in this world where you are supposed to show you have no issues within and everything is "normal" with you. I really commend your strength for sharing this. I am experiencing this myself and I am sure many others who face this despite "normal" upbringing, family and friends so it is somewhat comforting that I am not alone in this phase of my life journey. And you are right there is no such thing as normal as people indulge in all sorts of escapist behaviour to get away from this issue and we see that all around us. It is time that society is more open about discussing this. Personally I have found meditation and yoga practice beneficial in dealing with these issues/phase.

Thanks for sharing ...

It's a brave thing to stand up and tell your story publicly. Your story feels so familiar me and I think it is important that people realise that so many people who seem 'normal' and 'coping' in everyday life have those issues bubbling under the surface and threatening to spill over at any time. I'm glad you've finally got the help you deserve and are in a positive place. Good luck for the future!

your blog

Thank you... for your openess. I hid mine for so long... thinking I was just letting people and hating myself for not coping when others had so much worse going on in their lives. I hate being defeated and I saw myself as not trying. It was at the begging of a good friend that i went to the docs, and I was lucky that straight away he knew and understood. And then gave me the best advice I'd ever received..... To stop hating and beating myself up for the depression. The more I did this the worse it would feel. And I did hate myself.. and it was killing me slowly. Admitting to people that I was diagnoised with depression was the hardest thing I have EVER had to do. It's like admitting I have a drinking problem or such. Some people understand, others still look at me like Im a freak. But they ones who do understand have been amazing and have helped. Im taking it one day at a time.... good days and not-so-good days..... they are hard... and scary and lonely. trying hard not to let this finish me. but admitting is hard.. so i understand and am very pleased and proud for ya.

thank you for sharing your

thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to the doing it all alone myself. I am scared of people's reaction and how they will treat me

Mental health not been taken serious in the workplace

I've been working for a huge company now for nearly 4 1/2 years and for nearly 2 of them ive worked myself up a level, but not without great difficulty. I suffer from depression a lot of the times I could be on a high for a week and then ready to kill myself after that! I've been off work with stress related issues, my manager has taken me in recently saying that my absence for my role is unacceptable!!! She knows I suffer from depression as I've told them I also told them that I'm addicted to prescription drugs and want to be able to get on with my life and my job everyday but that I struggle really hard to do this!.Her answer is " we choose how we are going to feel when we wake up in the morning" it's us that have to want to get up and get on with daily tasks like work and taking the kids to school etc.....She also said that she can she no WANT in me to do these things, I do but I can't think I've hit rock bottom cause I don't wana feel like this anymore.. In also afraid that I could lose my job over this so this is stressing me out more. ..... Can anyone help me or give me advise on the work issue???

Hi,There is information about

<p>Hi,</p><p>There is information about your rights on our website:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/support-workplace">http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/support-workplace</a>&nbsp;If you want to talk to someone about these issues you can contact the Mind or Rethink Mental Illness infolines who have experts on information and support available to you.</p><p>You can contact Mind on&nbsp;0300 123 3393 or by emailing&nbsp;info@mind.org.uk. You can contact Rethink on&nbsp;0845 456 0455.</p>

I have had the same experience and NOT nice

Firstly, never give up hope and when things are bad just ride it out and it passes, even waiting 5 minutes can change negative thoughts. I don't want to sound like a psychologist but like you have been to that bad place called depression and classed as 'poor attendance'. People like you and me can get companies to change there practices. One I wall name is NHS - believe me when it comes to poor support for staff with any condition they come out on top. I enjoyed shredding my written warning and am moving on eventually into a new job and part time. Yes have the up hill battle to gain employment again but am determined to carry on. Being male is also hard as we are not supposed to cry. Just today I had my second visit with a consultant for the first time in over 20 years as 51, unemployed and been through depression - even told my current circumstances, age and gender make me a high risk of that unmentiuonable word but I carry on. Take each day and step slowly and confidence builds and remember you have achieved big goals and will achieve them again.

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