Living and working with depression and anxiety

There have been many mornings in the last two or three years where I just have not wanted to wake up. Where my bed has been the most welcoming and comforting place in the world. This, of course, is troublesome, especially when you need to get up to go to a place of work every day. I’m writing this as I wait for a train to London, from the south of England (which, as some of you will know, isn’t the easiest of journeys at the moment).

Depression affects me every day, to some degree or another. I have ways of managing this, but sometimes these mitigations don’t always work. Anxiety, also, in situations that generate stress. This sometimes occurs when I am late for an event or appointment, (this gets worse if I’m late because of depression) or have lost an important item like my keys or wallet. Of late, it’s also been an issue when trapped inside a train vestibule cramped against hundreds of other unfortunate people. (Thanks, Southern Rail and Thameslink)

My work does help with this, especially on rewarding and productive days. But in order to have a productive day, I need to pull myself out of bed. Practising the ability to do things you don’t feel like doing is hard work. This is often far harder and far more challenging than my professional work. So what does help?

For some, medical treatment works very well. Largely this does work for me. For about a year I was taking Citalopram. This was helping somewhat with depression, but very little for my anxiety. It also gave me horrible muscle cramps, usually in my legs. So, back to square one.

Last year, I switched to taking Sertraline. This usually helps very well with my anxiety, and moderately well with depression. Also, no muscle cramps, which is good. Remember that everyone is different, and will have needs, so speak to your GP if this is something of concern to you.

Exercise is also a great help, but I’m not a skilled sportsperson. I used to play football, rugby and cricket as a child but was always the last to get picked for teams. With my long-term back injury, running, and my previous love, squash, are now out of the question.

However, I find that swimming is the best exercise for me. It alleviates a lot of stress. Swimming also requires a lot of concentration and mindfulness, to maintain a decent pace, quality of stroke and movement through the water.

Haywards Heath Leisure Centre

Haywards Heath Leisure Centre

There are other ways and means to alleviate these feelings, but ultimately they don’t go away. It’s a case of having to build your own coping strategies.

Avoiding circumstances that exacerbate depression and anxiety is often more of a challenge. When interpersonal, work and family situations are often a trigger for depression and anxiety, then it’s often almost impossible. There are some situations you simply cannot avoid.

In the past I’ve allowed myself to let my anxiety control my behaviour, resulting in professional and personal consequences. It’s hard to give advice on this, and I won’t pretend to be able to. Everyone has different circumstances, levels of capability and needs. Just explore what is right for you.

The last thing to say is that this is an ongoing journey of discovery for me. I’m now in my early forties and wish that I could have had a better understanding of my mental health earlier in my life. If depression and anxiety is something that you live with, you will have your own stories and journeys. Explore and understand them. Very soon, I’ll be posting more on this topic, in the context of my work.