You don’t need a crisis to have a plan

We talk enough about brands in crisis, we advocate honesty and showing a human-side. I put a presentation together on that very topic:

However, this is not the main focus for this blog post.

I’ve dealt with depression from my early teens but have been lucky enough to only experience three crippling lows in that time. If it’s a part of us it will find its way into our working lives at some point or other and unfortunately my most recent dip occurred only earlier this year.

According to our Human Resources department, depression is abundant within our industry, which begs the question; why aren’t we talking about it? Supporting each other? Sharing our coping strategies? I’m assured that it’s no longer the taboo topic of yore but all signs point to the fact that it is.

Inspired by the articles that former BBH colleague Shadi writes for the Huffington Post but lacking the same journalistic talents, I’m using this space to explain some of things that have helped me.

Warning Signs

Prevention being better than cure, the most important thing to know is when you’re slipping. Unfortunately, it’s minor things that add up or the extremes of quite normal emotions, they also differ from person to person, making them all the more difficult to spot. I’ve listed mine:

  • Wanting to get away/go somewhere new – We all fancy a holiday more often than not but this is a strong desire to pack it all in and be somewhere anti-Cheers; where nobody knows your name
  • Over-eating at sporadic intervals – Like preparing for hibernation this may be my body anticipating the fact I’m about to enter into a state where I won’t be taking care of myself. Or it could be a comfort thing. Or I could be reading too far into it
  • Putting myself down, feeling that everyone is better than me
  • Over-reaction to trivial things – Having certain thoughts that I obsess about
  • Wanting total silence both around me and in my mind – Probably as a response to the previous point
  • Paranoia – reading too far into the nuances of conversation – It’s very difficult to step back and see yourself as being irrational

Most of these points are examples of ‘unhelpful thinking’. CBT is a great way to try and break these habits and, though hideous (clipart alert), this was a handy link that I was given.

Feeling Wafty

A ridiculous word that a family friend uses to describe that sinking feeling.

It tends to start with exhaustion and a complete lack of motivation. This often leads to guilt for me; wanting to give my life to someone who could use it better.

The best thing is often to ride it through. Keep busy but pace yourself. Step back but don’t retreat. Stick to a light routine, easing up on the workload where possible and alerting your line manager that things may not have the same rate of productivity that they usually do.

Cure

Too late, I can’t get out of bed. Short term next steps (N.B. You won’t want to do any of these):

  • Speak to someone – I’m lucky enough to have 3 people who I know I can call on no matter what state I’m in and I hope they feel they can do the same with me. You don’t have to engage in a high level of conversation but just alerting someone to how you’re feeling really can help. They may also be able to help you with some of the other steps
  • Open the curtains and switch the light on
  • Have a shower – My friend describes it as being like a re-boot

Changing thinking patterns is the most difficult part of recovery but there are two other areas that can help you get there:

  • Go for a walk – Endorphins, you know this
  • Cook something – Maybe a personal one but making something (however slowly) puts my mind into a manageable task
Health

Rather than striving for happiness, it’s more realistic and beneficial to strive for health

Finally, know that it will get better but be prepared for it to get worse before it does. It sounds trite but you’ll look back on an episode and find it hard to understand why it seemed so insurmountable.

My hope is that this will be useful, not only to people who are fighting depression but to their friends and colleagues who care about them.

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