Time to Talk

Greetings everyone and apologies for my recent absence from writing blogs, it’s been a busy period for me and I have been focussed on keeping myself well which sadly meant the writing had to take a back seat for a bit. I haven’t had anything resembling a slip backwards in my recovery I am please to say, but rather a feeling that if I had tried to keep up with all of the commitments I had set myself, then I might find myself starting to slide.

Part of the reason for the busy period is most definitely a positive thing, I have found out that I am going to become a father in July this year which is amazing and a little terrifying as well! I am happy to say that I feel up to this adventure which is something I do not think I would have been confident about coping with this time last year.

So, what did get me to sit down and write today? Well, it is Time to Talk day on Thursday, an annual day promoted by the wonderful Time to Change organisation who helped me get in to writing blogs on mental health back in September last year. If you haven’t heard of them, please do check them out!

time to talk 2018

How it Helps

Time to talk day just encourages people to have a conversation about mental health. Simply put, the more people talk about it, the less stigma and shame is attached to the subject. I was very much one of those people who hid my illness for many years and I can’t help but contemplate the amount of time I may have wasted in this futile pursuit, instead of just getting stuck in to getting better.

My being more open about mental health and my experiences was scary to begin with but becomes much easier as the months go by. The experiences I have had have all been very positive and in some cases, were the complete opposite of what I had imagined they would be.

Benefits and Stigma

The benefits of a day like Time to Talk day just helps to normalise conversations about mental health problems. People with mental health difficulties are often kept from seeking help by the stigma they feel will be attached to them as a result of asking for help or being open about what they are experiencing.

My being open about my illness has had unexpected, beneficial results in the last week which has only reinforced my belief in the value of what people like me are trying to do by being open about our experiences. A colleague spoke to me confidentially about some concerns they had and wanting my advice on how to start getting some help.

I was caught somewhat off guard as this was a person who outwardly seemed to have it all together and this just reminded me of how I must have seemed last year to most people at work. The masks we wear can be very convincing! I was only too happy to give some pointers as to the options available to them but the conversation was not altogether positive. The main concern of my colleague was whether they would have to inform our employer about this and wanted to know if there was any way the company could find out if they sought help via one of the mechanisms provided through our benefits scheme. There isn’t, but this just hammered home the fact that most people are immediately concerned about the effect a mental health related problem could have on their career prospects.

This is a result of stigma, pure and simple.

How to do your Part

How are You

So, what to do? Simply have a conversation with anyone about mental health, ask someone if they know it is “Time to Talk” day and what their views are of the stigma’s surrounding mental health. If there is someone close to you that you are concerned about, just ask them, “How are you?” not casually and off handed, but REALLY ask them. If you are concerned about a problem you think you have, make this the day you reach out to someone. It can be anyone, a family member, a close friend, a colleague you know has had experience, someone anonymously like the Samaritans, you could even send me an email if you choose.

There are many ways and many people who will listen and want to help. If you need some help in starting a conversation with someone, there are some great tips on the “Time to Talk” web page.

Be brave and be caring out there! Together, we can really start making an impact and everyone has the ability and opportunity to make a huge difference to someone, you could even save their life.

Best Recent Podcast:

Achieve ultimate health in 10 days – Dr. Mark Hyman

If you can look past the outrageous title of this Tony Robbins podcast, you will get an intriguing view of how nutrition could play a major role in combatting some of the symptoms of depression. I know for one I am ordering the book and having a crack at this.

What I am reading:

The Sky Song by Abi Elphinstonesky song - Abi Elphinstone

This is not for any personal development as such but I have been struggling to find the motivation to read recently so I have taken a different approach and read something light, entertaining and not dauntingly long. I’ve only just started this but have been a fan of Abi’s for a few years so looking forward to see how it turns out.


Face Your Fears


Further to my last post about deciding not to take my meds, I was, however, very determined to go along with the suggestion of talk therapy. I had long ago rejected the idea that pills alone would eventually cure me and if you think they will cure you, then I’m sorry to say they won’t. I do believe meds can have their role but I do not believe they are a single solution alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t looking forward to therapy but I was determined to go and make the best of it. The other terrifying thing is that it was group therapy. This idea I hated but my Psychiatrist insisted that he felt this was the best thing  for me to begin with. I strongly disagreed but wasn’t given an option. Why would I want to go and talk about stuff with a bunch of strangers? I mean, I wasn’t really that mentally ill and I felt like a charlatan. I was so certain that I would be judged as pathetic for being off work and not really very ill, that my anxiety was super high., (I can appreciate the irony of that last statement with hindsight!) To cap it all, therapy was a good 35 minute drive away on the other side of Southampton and somewhere I wasn’t really familiar with driving. Driving often made me anxious if I didn’t know where I was going and when I was going somewhere I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be, it only made things worse.

I arrived at the Marchwood Priory courtesy of my corporate BUPA insurance about 10 days after I was signed off sick. I was plenty early because of my nervousness and walked up to the doors feeling so out of place, thinking all the while that I was going to be discovered at any moment as having no genuine reason to be there. Worse still what if someone saw me there? What did the drivers on the road outside think of me for turning in to this place? Will the people in group just look at me scornfully? Did the Psychiatrist send me to group to show me what people with real illnesses looked like? What if some of them are proper, you know, mental? I am ashamed to say that I had so many stigmatic thoughts running through my head at this point.

I sat in the waiting room not making eye contact with anyone. Were they all like me? Or are they “normal” and looking at me wondering what is wrong with me? I made a coffee to distract myself, only finding out later that to my disgust it was not only instant but instant decaff (possibly the worst thing for a self confessed coffee snob). I met my therapist shortly before group and had to fill out some forms etc. The standard things and the depression and anxiety self assessment questionnaire. I always hated that form. She was lovely and put me at ease, so much so that I spilled my coffee all over my left leg just before group, great going you complete dick. Now I had to turn up to group with a bunch of people who weren’t going to take me seriously and looking like I had pissed myself in to the bargain. Sweet.

In to the Dragon’s Lair


I was one of the first in the room. It was a big room, with high ceilings and semi new chairs of assorted shapes arranged in a circle. It was like I had imagined and this did nothing to quell the anxiety monster’s fortune telling about how bad this was going to be, only giving more weight to the disastrous scenarios playing in my head. I began to be glad that the coffee was decaff as I was getting pretty worked up already and caffeine would have only fuelled that fire further. At least I wasn’t sweating profusely yet. Why did I have to think about that? I can feel myself starting to perspire now. The door opened. A perfectly normal looking person walked in, said “Hi” and sat down. Hmmm, maybe another staff member? As the room gradually filled up, I realised that everyone looked pretty normal, they also seemed to get on pretty well together and chatted pretty easily. Great, it’s going to be a clique and I’m the outsider again as usual.

The session started with an introduction and a check in with everyone. I bit the bullet and just tell them the abridged story, admitting that I have hidden this for years and need to get better quickly. I get a lot of understanding nods and words of support and am relieved. No one has challenged my right to be there and no one has called me on my bullshit reason for being there. I had overcome the first hurdle. I sat there listening and cannot for the life of me recall what the exercise was but I realised it wasn’t even remotely as bad as I had feared. These were all professional people with similar experiences and problems. It showed me that I wasn’t alone, wasn’t a freak and certainly wasn’t a charlatan for being there. Dammit, I guess that was the point the psychiatrist was trying to make after all!

CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Twaddle

So I had been put in to a CBT group and this was something else I wasn’t greatly enthused about as I’d tried that before and it hadn’t worked, so it was all nonsense right? Well, as it turns out this is also not true and was a combination of poorly administered CBT and lack of enthusiasm on my part previously. This stuff does work if you actually commit to it and suspend your scorn/derision for this technique. If you do not have any of these preconceived ideas, great! It is likely to be very beneficial to you if you actually are honest and truthful with the exercises. You shouldn’t ever have to share things with the group if you do not feel comfortable doing so. Those pieces of paper should be filled out with the things you don’t neccessarily want out in the open, the true, raw thoughts and feelings you have. I got in to the practice of keeping all of mine from a certain point, which I found to be very useful down the road a ways.

After a few sessions I was surprised about how much I had relaxed and was comfortable opening up with some pretty deep fears and thoughts which I normally tried to keep very deeply buried, as I was sure that these were the ones that would single me out as being a total weirdo. I was quite surprised when I found others agreeing with me or empathising and sharing their own similar thoughts or feelings! It felt pretty good to realise that I was just like these other people who I viewed as perfectly sane and normal. Maybe I didn’t need to hide so much and could actually be myself? I just needed to figure out who that is now, I have adopted so many fronts and masks over the years that I felt a deep sense of uncertainty about my authenticity. Something else to add to the list of things to figure out along the way.

Group therapy turned out to be a significantly better experience than I imagined and it was defintely a case of the fear of something being way worse than the reality. Read, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” for more on this! I now am a firm believer in the power of group therapy and CBT as treatments for depression and anxiety. Believe me, I could not have been more skeptical about this at the outset. In particular, because I am male, I had one of my masculine masks firmly welded on at the time. It doesn’t make any difference if you get a private group like the one I attended, or an NHS one in the UK as the practitioners are pretty much the same.

If you get offered group therapy then take it and approach it with an open mind and let go of preconceptions. They may just get you started on your own path to recovery.

What am I Reading?

Well truth be told it is still the Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes! I am writing this post pretty much immediately after the late one previously and am not reading particularly fast at the moment. I have a looong reading list to get through though so will be sure to move on to something else really soon.

Recommended Podcast of the Week:

Well, not technically a podcast but it got me headed down the path of discovering what gems there are to discover in the world of podcasts for people suffering from mental health problems. This is a TED talk by Andrew Solomon and it really got me thinking and acknowledging the possibility that someone who is depressed can also lead a successful and inspirational life. Watch it here and let me know what you think.

Look after yourselves,

Bear x

The Journey Begins

An Apology

e9050faa7983d36c669594b5cd829fa7--jack-frost-cat-artA quick apology before the start of this post; I am late with this one, I know I am. A whole bunch of things cropped up, the good the bad and the ugly but these things happen in life and I couldn’t find the time to finish this and publish it. Life gets in the way sometimes but I am proud to say that I have coped with everything it has thrown at me in the past few weeks and I see this as a sign that my recovery continues on the right path, Yay Me! Thank you for your patience and on with the post…..

A Journey of 1,000 Miles Starts with a Single Step

I was conflicted. I had achieved  what I had yearned for; time. Time off from work to heal and get better. I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame and relief. What would the neighbours think when I was at home all the time? What are my colleagues saying about me at work? Will my parents be embarrassed? Will my wife think I’m weak? Will I be able to admit it to my friends?

It was difficult to say the least. The anxiety from all of these things was distracting and while previously I used to fantasize about having days where I didn’t need to do anything and I could play video games, watch films or sleep in; but it just didn’t match up to reality. Sure I tried these things and secretly ate a load of crap too but none of it really helped. I couldn’t focus on games, I found they made the anxiety worse sometimes, like I was a failure if I didn’t succeed a mission or died in the game. Can people see how crap I am at this game? To counter the anxiety I changed the difficulty setting to easy so I could be a bit more casual about it. I felt ashamed and pathetic doing this too. I still couldn’t focus and felt deeply unfulfilled.

This wasn’t helping at all and so after a few days I decided to crawl out from my pit and take action. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done as my mood was not improving and rest was not making me feel less tired. Time to get busy and throw everything at this illness. I’d been band aiding it for 16 years and I wanted to bury it once and for all. My Mum had been pestering me for ages to go and see Karen, a fabulous acupuncturist in Winchester and I hadn’t bothered. She has treated me before and I felt like a failure going back so avoided it but I bit the bullet and went for it.

Decision Point


My first appointment with Karen was a few days after I got signed off and started taking the Fluoxetine. We had a long chat about things and discussed medication etc. She has seen me on various meds and tentatively asked if I would consider going med free. This stunned me as I hadn’t really considered it as an option, like I had freedom of choice in the matter. I thought about it, as I had long considered that meds often made me feel worse and where they didn’t make me feel worse they really dampened my emotions so I felt hollow inside. I know part of the point is for them to take the edge off of the major low points but in my experience they cap the high points too so I lost the ability to really experience joy and happiness a lot of the time.

We discussed alternative supplements which might be of benefit and as she rightly pointed out I could go on my meds whenever I chose if I felt that it was the right course of action. She read me a passage from a book about pharmaceuticals and the negative effects; muscle weakness, headaches, appetite suppressant etc. etc., were ones I was experiencing. The one that gave me pause was appetite suppressant as I had poor body image and an eating disorder, this was something I counted as a major positive and I was tempted. I decided to think about it and we continued with the acupuncture and made another for the following week.

I realised I had a major decision to make and I cannot stress this enough, this is a dangerous thing to play with and I am in no way saying this is the right thing to do for everyone. Pharmaceuticals have their place for sure and I do not and will not ever recommend people come off their meds without supervision. Not Ever. That said, for me I decided to give it a try. Besides, I had tried so many in the past and never fully climbed out of the pit. I was sick of the effects they had on my ability to experience life, good and bad, plus the effect on libido was horrendous to boot. I had my safety net, close support and supervision, plus I was in no way suicidal at any point during this time. Your own personal safety is number one here people, don’t mess about with this if you are showing any signs of wanting to harm yourself.

The Alternative Way

Coming off meds was tough, tougher than I thought but I kept myself going by thinking that this was one less hurdle to deal with later. A week or two later I was feeling a bit better and had started experiencing a fuller range of emotions which was both good and bad but felt real. Since Fluoxetine is an SSRI, meaning that it inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin in the blood, I wasn’t able to start some of the alternative supplements while still having Fluoxetine in my system. Combining the two would not be wise. I initially started on Cordyceps, a type of mushroom (go shroom power!) which are great for boosting energy and lowering stress. There is an article here on the wide ranging benefits. To try and boost my serotonin levels we supplemented with American Ginseng which is believed to help regulate serotonin in it’s own right, more on that here. I am still taking these supplements today and do feel like they helped a lot but they do take time to get to work.

Acupuncture has been a massive help through my recovery and that is as much to do with the actual acupuncture as it is to do with the practitioner, Karen. She has gone above and beyond anything I could have expected to try and help me through this and I owe her a great deal. It is amazing when you find someone with such a big heart who puts you at ease and genuinely cares about you as a person. So much so that her support and treatment has been a major cornerstone of my recovery journey.

If you are interested in exploring the option of acupuncture in treating depression or anxiety, then do your homework and look for a practitioner that is trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Elements acupuncture. The best ones should offer a free consultation and The British Acupuncture Council has a searchable list of practitioners which would be a good place to start, unless you can go by recommendation.

Karen, the wonderful lady that she is, works out of Winchester Health and Beauty in Hampshire and I never hesitate recommending her to anyone. She is the first of the heroes we will encounter in this tale.

What I am reading right now?


The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes. A fantastic book. I am finding it very thought provoking as one of my biggest challenges has been a lack of identity. I have fought so hard to hide my mental health challenges that I adopted many different “masks” as I called them. As if by magic, here Lewis identifies each and every one of them and deconstructs them. A very timely book and one for anyone to read, male or female as we can all adopt these masks. It just so happens that this is written from Lewis’ own perspective and experiences, it is a very open and vulnerable portrayal of his life and ever so powerful because of that.

Recommended Podcast

Really to go with the above, this one is Lewis Howes on “The One You Feed” podcast and it will give you a brilliant introduction to what the book is about and also to the ever amazing One You Feed podcast which has helped me in numerous ways over the past few months. Lewis Howes also has his own podcast called “The School of Greatness” and this is also worth a listen too. I will talk more about this one in later blogs as it has been incredibly inspirational but may not be as beneficial to people early in their journey!

Next Blog post coming really soon so I’ll get back on track. Look after yourselves and catch you next time,

Bear x


The Tipping Point

The Story So Far

In my last post I wrote about where I currently am on my journey and promised a return to the start of everything, so this is that. The direction this blog will now take is an almost episodic view of my experiences and the things I have found helpful along the way. I plan to publish a new post every week so feel free to keep me accountable for that! I have my timeline laid out now and so no excuses.

In summary, I have battled depression on and off since around 2001. This was a secret and lonely battle which in hindsight I could see that I wasn’t going to win under those circumstances. This time around I had been on medication (Citalopram and then Mirtazapine) for around 18 months via my GP and had gotten to the point where I felt the need to tell my boss at work. This was a tough call as I didn’t know how he would react but I could feel myself slipping slowly deeper in to the pit, in spite of the medication.

For me this felt like I was literally clinging by my fingertips to the edge of stability and looking down in to the whirling, dark maelstrom of the pit and my grip was steadily slipping. I was losing this round and the rate I was losing was increasing day by day. At home I was shut down and uncommunicative, every ounce of energy I had was burned up day by day keeping my mask in place. I was struggling with my hours at work, shaving some time off here and there when I could get away with it, longing for off days when I could do nothing. On these days I was just trying to recover enough for the next round which would start on Monday.

In my heart I knew that I was flirting with some monumental collapse, I was either going to lose it at work or just turn in to a gibbering wreck. Something big was coming and it scared the shit out of me.

The Tipping Point

The event that saved me was totally unexpected. A colleague of mine who I got on with  personally asked me to go for a coffee. I really didn’t want to go though as we have very different views on certain things in a work capacity and had been clashing a lot in recent weeks, but I didn’t feel I could say no.

Over that coffee he said he was concerned about me and wanted to know what he had done to upset me as he had found me to be increasingly aggressive and intimidating to work with. This took me by surprise a bit as I thought we had just been having some “constructive conflict” which is something corporations tend to get all excited about as it leads to “dynamic improvement” or some such nonsense. I immediately realised what had happened, my mask had slipped. The cracks were beginning to show and I wasn’t in control any more.

Last Chance Saloon

A couple of weeks prior to this meeting, I had spoken to my manager about my frustrations of just getting changes of meds and no real help from the GP. He suggested I book my BUPA medical through work and see if the doctor there could help. Luckily my appointment was just a few days after the incident with my colleague so my mind was made up, this was the last chance I had to act before I went past the point of no return.

I tolerated the poking and prodding and tests that you have to go through and couldn’t care less what the results were as I just wanted to get to the appointment with the doctor and beg for help. I think she was a bit taken aback by the outpouring of emotion she was confronted with after asking, “How are you?” but I couldn’t hold it in any more and needed someone to hear my cry for help.

It may be an indication of how hamstrung our GP’s in the NHS are over mental health funding or a lack of understanding on the part of my GP specifically but the options at the disposal of a BUPA doctor is pretty breathtaking at times. I was expecting to have to wait months for an appointment with a specialist but I was told to phone and book with a psychiatrist directly and she even recommended one for me to call. In less than a week I was in his office for an hour and a half.

Hindsight is 20/20

The psychiatrist, it turned out, I had seen some years before. I had a hazy memory of this as I was in a bad way at the time and pretty much refused his help. I just wanted him to authorise some one to one sessions that I could have in secret and still hide my illness from everyone else. Looking back, I can’t help but feel slightly embarrassed about what a dick I was not to start this process way back then. Still, can’t be helped!

He was great. I was rushing through everything assuming we had a 10 minute appointment like with a GP and I was amazed when he seemed to be in no hurry and just let me waffle on for an hour and a half. This was very new territory for me and I couldn’t believe that anyone would take my insignificant problems seriously. I assumed that he would think I was just a bit weak and a bit of a flake. This is what I believed about myself so why would he think any differently? He, after all, was a professional who saw people with “real” illnesses all the time and I was just some pathetic whining guy who just needed to man the F up.

He told me I was very seriously depressed, had generalised anxiety disorder, body dis-morphia and an eating disorder. This shut me up quite abruptly. He wrote me a letter instructing my doctor to sign me off, booked me in for half day therapy sessions, wrote me a private prescription for Fluoxetine and told me to stop taking Mirtazapine immediately as the dose I was on was pretty much ineffective anyway. This I was pleased about as they had made me feel like crap from day 1, something I was unable to communicate effectively to my doctor.

Mixed Emotions

So I left his office and went to the car to call my manager and give him the news. I was in a state of shock and felt equally relieved and ashamed. On the one had I could stop battling through every day, I could just stop. On the other hand it meant that everyone at work would know how weak I was, how I just couldn’t cope and would think “what a pussy”.

My manager was OK about this and we had talked about this possible outcome. Fortunately there was someone who could slot in to my role fairly seamlessly so that was a load off my mind. Making that phone call and admitting this though was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Once done, I started the car and began my journey.


Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It’s off to work I go

First and foremost to you all, Happy World Mental Health Day 2017!

world mental health day

It is so important to end stigma and to empower people to be able to speak about their mental health problems, if you are reading this and are suffering in silence then make today the day you reach out to someone. It can be a friend, a relative, a professional or even a stranger! For those in crisis, there are always people ready to listen and help. Never forget that the Samaritans are just such an organisation. It may only take one conversation to completely change a life, or even save one.


The Samaritans cover the UK and Ireland but for those of you outside of these areas, check out the Befrienders Worldwide site to find similar support in your country.


So I have had A LOT of time off this year to try and get well again, this all started back at the end of March or early April when I felt like I was at breaking point and just not getting anywhere with my regular doctor. Fortunately I was eligible for a BUPA wellness check through work and my manager suggested I go and speak to them about how much trouble I was having. I did, and within a week I had an hour and a half appointment with a Psychiatrist who told me he was signing me off work until I was in a better place. Fast forward 6 months of therapy and other treatments (which I’ll come to in later posts, think of this as a bit like the film Momento, where you get the end first!), and here I am having completed my first few days back at work.

I am incredibly grateful for being able to follow this path and I know it is not one which is available to everyone. That said, everyone is entitled to get a second opinion from another doctor at your surgery, maybe even at a different practice. I believe some are better with mental health than others but I think it is a bit pot luck to be honest. I’d love to be corrected on this point though. Counselling through the NHS is pretty much the same as through private although often not as quick to access. If you get offered a group session and are skeptical, give it a try as this proved very beneficial for me despite my initial misgivings.

“Nice Summer Off?”

I know I am not alone when it comes to the Sunday evening dread of having to go back to work, on this occasion I think it started about a week before that last Sunday night before work! One of my biggest problems I am still working through is the fear of judgment from others, that and mind reading where I believe I know what someone is thinking about me. It helps sometimes to remind myself that other people probably don’t find me half as interesting as I think they do. Anyhow, that said, I was dreading going back in to work. I was imagining a bunch of very sarcastic comments, the one which really stuck was various people asking me if I, “had a nice summer off”. The thought of being asked this was really allowing my anxiety monster to go wild.

I simply had no idea how I would react. Would I be able to laugh it off? Would I respond with something viciously cutting? Would I punch them? In my head I had a jumble of reactions to this and I hadn’t really prepared the response I would actually use when it came time to enter the building.


I have been using the gym as a key part of my recovery and I plan for it to be a cornerstone of my resilience going forwards. Since I had a 10am start on my first day back, I resolved to get to the gym before I went to work. I had a hard time getting that done as my sleep has been really erratic recently with me waking up around 3:30 or 4am most mornings and struggling to get back to sleep. The Sunday before work was no different and unsurprisingly I woke a couple of times in the night. So I was knackered and anxious but get to the gym I did. This helped a great deal as it meant I had already accomplished something with my day, got my endorphins flowing and expended some tension so mitigated the chance of me punching someone.

I went home and got ready for work. It felt like the first day at big school. I was properly nervous and so I set myself up with an inspiring podcast to listen to on my way in. The one I listened to was “The One You Feed” podcast with guest Tim Urban. I didn’t think I was going to listen to much of it so distracted was I by my own thoughts; but it actually got through to me as it dealt with the concept of taking little steps which add up to something momentous and how you can tackle “Icky” daunting tasks. Pretty much perfect for me on this day. This is a series of Podcasts I have found helpful so check them out if you aren’t aware of them.

The One You Feed with Tim Urban – Wait but Why?

So it was time, I had arrived and was sat in the car park. I guess there was nothing else for it but to take a few deep breaths and head in to work.

Time to Run the Gauntlet

running the gautlet

In this case, I’m a salmon

I had been speaking with my manager pretty much weekly since I was off and he has been a great help, far more so than my HR representative who possibly made things worse rather than better on the whole. We had agreed that he would meet me outside the building and bring me in to somewhere quiet in case I freaked out, a very real concern of mine in the days preceding the return to work. He met me outside the building and we entered through a very little used entrance to minimise the possibility of running in to anyone. Nervous and over hydrated from the gym I took the opportunity to pee before entering the office areas proper before heading in to the main thoroughfare of the offices.

I was tense and alert to all noises, my fight or flight reaction in full flow as I entered the corridor. It was empty. We got all the way to the door to the area where I would be now working and I’d started to relax but then the door opened and a friend of mine came out. I think he was as surprised as I was at this encounter. I received a friendly handshake and, “Good to see you back!” along a promise to come find me later and that was it. One down and so far so good, although he wasn’t one of the pricks I was really worried about. True to his word, he did come back and see me and we had a really good catch up.

Opening the door to the small area I would be working in was daunting but again it was blessedly empty apart from the director sitting in his office. It was a newly created area and most people hadn’t moved down yet so that suited me perfectly I thought. We pitched straight in to a chat with said director who I would be working for during my phased return and all was well. I screwed up my courage and asked if I knew why I had been off. He didn’t. I dug deep and said out loud, “I have had depression.” I could feel the sweating start a bit, he was an ex-serviceman and I figured I had about a 50/50 chance over how he would react and again I got lucky. He said something to me that I will value for a long time. He said, “I have the utmost respect for people like you, who can go off sick for a long time, get well and come back. That takes true courage.” He went on to tell me that his wife has similarly struggled with depression and was pleased to see I was doing well in my recovery.

I left his office after about an hour and the back of my shirt was pretty damp, clearly I had been more worked up about that initial meeting than I thought but it was done and I felt a bit more confident. I chose a desk, the best one with a window of course, good for vitamin D and all that. I settled in and logged on to my laptop. In a moment of devil may care impulsiveness, I selected EVERYTHING in my inbox and hit delete. I did the same for my archive and my calendar. This was going to physically represent a fresh start. It also felt great.

To Pee or Not to Pee

to pee or not to pee

After an hour or so of organising myself and de-cluttering all of the crap that seemed so important 6 months ago, I realised that I needed to pee. This was not something I had planned for and my earlier smugness about not having to physically see lots of people began to wear off. I wasn’t going to ask for an escort so I didn’t really have any option other than wet myself, which on balance would probably be worse than seeing some people. This decision to go to the toilet on my own became one of the hardest parts of my day, how weird is that!? Anyhow, I didn’t get off to a great start as upon walking out the door of my room I came face to face with one of the aforementioned “pricks” I had spent ages worrying about how they would react. I was equally pleased and disappointed as I got a handshake and a “Good to see you back”. I may have misjudged the man.

Over the next couple of days I ran in to a number of people and have had numerous offers of coffee and a catch up and wall to wall “Good to see you” comments. I have ventured to the canteen and in to other areas of the building slowly building my “comfort zone”. None of my fears came to pass and I regret wasting so much time agonizing over it in the last 2 weeks before going back but still lesson learned. Words from “Feel the Fear and do it anyway” were helpful and kept me from trying to back out on that first day. This is a good read for anyone who suffers from anxiety and fear of being judged.

I have done 3, 5 hour days now and I am glad to be back but the days are taking it out of me quite a lot, so definitely need that build up of a phased return. In short I wish I had done this years ago, taken the time out that was recommended before and not tried to keep myself hanging in there, I have wasted a lot of time fighting myself. If you are having problems please reach out, it may not be as scary as you think. So far, no one has asked me if I had a nice summer off and I haven’t punched anyone.

Look after yourself,


Introductory Post


Hi, and thank you for checking out my Blog. This is a brand new venture on my part where I hope to combine my life long passion for writing with my experiences of living with depression and anxiety. Ironically my depression and anxiety are the things that have stopped me from pursuing my interest in writing so it seems fitting that I use writing to help me on my recovery from it.

Why do this?

I have a lot of experience of what has and has not worked for me when dealing with depression and anxiety. Often I have taken some unconventional approaches to tackling this illness and so hope some of what I have learned may be beneficial to others and could prevent them from making some of the mistakes I did along the way.

Why now?

I have been off work and finally feel like I am on the road to recovery, bumpy though it may be. I have never admitted to having a mental illness easily to anyone, least of all to myself, but admitting it and talking about it takes power away from the stigmatic shame I feel about it.

The people I have met on my journey have inspired me to speak out and share my experiences. Even if it only ends up helping one person then I am comfortable with that, the work I put in to this will be worth it. I am passionate about trying to help people and feel that men are often more in need than most since societal ideals and imagery for men are still leaning very much toward the macho. Emotions are for pussies and we must be strong and blah blah blah. It’s total BS unfortunately. I became a master over the years of masking my true self to fit in and to hide my illness. The end result, I came very close to burning myself out and needed to be taken off work for several months in order to try and tackle this properly.

Time to Change

Last week I was honoured to have been part of “Story Camp”, an event run by the UK Charity Organisation, Time to Change where people are invited to come along who are interested in using Blogs or Vlogs as a way to tell their stories and help combat the negative stigma around mental health in society. This was exactly the right shove I needed in order to finally put fingers to keys on this blog. I originally set this up back in July and then procrastinated for 2 months following a bit of a back slide in recovery and an attack of fear about putting things out in to the world.

I am still not sure what I am more scared of, people not ever reading this or the idea that people might actually read this.

What will it be about?

Alternative treatments

I have taken somewhat of a holistic approach to recovery this time around and have spurned the use of anti-depressants as I have always reacted badly to them in the past and I have lost count of the different ones I have tried over the years. I must stress, the ONLY reason I considered doing this against the advice of medical professionals is because at no time during this cycle of illness have I felt anything like suicidal. I believe that anti-depressants have their place in treatment but I wanted to find a way to do it without them as long as I could stay safe. I will cover what treatments and supplements I have tried, why I tried them and whether they were found to be beneficial or not in this blog.


I am also back in to my fitness training as this is something I chose early on as a key part of my future resilience once I was back at work. Here I will delve in to what I have been doing and how I found it to begin with.

Returning to work

I am returning to work in the next couple of weeks so I will definitely cover my experiences of that and how my anxiety levels are before, during and after!


I have fallen in love with a great many podcasts over the past few months and a lot of them have had a profound effect on me and my journey. I will post information about these in my blog and give my views on why they were particularly helpful to me.


One of the issues I will refer to frequently in this blog is stigma and the good and bad experiences I have (and have had) when opening up about mental health.

Self Care

I have learned a great deal about how to be kinder to myself over the past few months and I am still learning. I will share new things and tricks I use to break the self deprecating habits that are so deeply ingrained in me.

My story

Finally I will continually reference back to my story and as I gain confidence will probably unpack some of the tougher aspects of what lead me here in the first place. There is a ton of stuff I want to share and will attempt to do so in a coherent and enjoyable way.

Thank you for reading this introductory blog and please leave feedback or contact me directly. I look forward to sharing my journey with you all and hope it is helpful.

Look after yourselves,