The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.Sylvia Plath
Let’s talk about depression – specifically my journey with depression.
PART 1: I was first diagnosed with depression around 25 years ago when I was working as a Chartered accountant in the corporate tax section of a huge international bank in London. The incident that sparked my walking out of the office and not returning for three months was a crashed spreadsheet. I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back!
I am still in shock that I actually stood up from my desk, walked out, and went home. That was so not me! I was the ‘good’ girl. The ‘responsible girl.’ The ‘never let anyone down’ girl. The girl who was taught that no matter what, you suck it up and keep on going. But, I did it.
I must have rung my boss to let him know and, thankfully for me, even though it was the horrible stress of that environment that had tipped me over the edge, there was a plan in place for helping stressed out employees. So, I was allocated a private health psychiatrist and a counsellor. The psychiatrist, of course, prescribed antidepressants, which I dutifully took as all ‘good girls’ do. I was prescribed a very small dose of Citalopram, one of the top 10 SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.)
So began my recovery. I spent a lot of those three months in parks around London…which, (apart from my guilt over not being ‘good’ enough) was a good experience. I walked, I sat and gazed at flowers and people, I rested and I recharged.
My counsellor over that period also helped and started me on a journey with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I found CBT interesting but also hard at times. When you are depressed, motivation to do anything can be very low. It was good to have a place to be every week though and someone impartial to share my journey with.
This is also when I began my long standing relationship with yoga and meditation. There was a wonderful Hatha yoga practitioner at my local gym. She gave me permission to check in with my body and to rest. She used to tell us to go home and have a long bath after our yoga sessions and relax. This was so foreign to me at that time! I loved her because at that point when I was ‘pushing’ so hard with everything else in my life, she showed me it was ok to start to be kind to myself.
After 3 months I was slowly integrated back to work and continued on. After about a year I ended up coming off my very low dose of antidepressants. I continued my counselling sessions even after I went back to work.
I left that job eventually and found some contracting work in a smaller organisation in a role where they thought I was fabulous. I remember very clearly though, walking to work one morning, when I was contemplating leaving the Corporate Tax role, and thinking to myself that my career would be over if I left. It was, after all, one of the biggest banks in the world. Where could I go from there? It’s funny the things our minds tells us.
I do not regret leaving that organisation at all. In fact it was the best things I ever did! I do have to give credit to the amazing American, female Head of the Tax Department at that time. She was a wise and compassionate women and very forward thinking in her views and support for people experiencing mental health issues, especially in such a male dominated environment as the corporate banking work was at that time.
I also see now that this was also the beginning of the end of my accounting career but it took me another 20 years to finally let go of that too!