What came first? The depression or the egg?

Anonymous author – please respect their privacy

CW: depression, anxiety

If I were an animal, I’d be a Quokka. Have you seen their adorable smiles? I am so disgustingly positive that people confuse my compliments for sarcasm. Unfortunately, despite my sunny disposition, I’m not immune to mental illness.

Antonio Mora

In the past, I’ve mostly struggled with anxiety. Thankfully my anxiety is well-and-truly under control thanks to many psychologists and some top-notch medication.

Over the past few years, and particularly this year, I’ve been battling depression. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t loved 2020. I feel compelled to add that my experiences this year pale in comparison to the experiences of others across the globe. I’m still going to use this opportunity to share my story, as hopefully, it will provide others with some clarity or a sense of solidarity.

This time last year, I got my dream job! I’ve worked very hard for many years with the goal of ‘making it’ in my chosen industry. It didn’t take long for the dust to settle and the reality to sink in.

The workload was insane. It’s well-known that to have a successful career in this industry you must work weekends and you may as well throw in some evenings while you’re at it.

The expectations were ridiculous. Anywhere else, my colleagues would have been considered brilliant and outstanding. Here, they were considered satisfactory.

Additionally, there were significant diversity issues. There were both conscious and unconscious biases in the workplace. Whilst these did impact me, it hurt more to see them affect my more junior colleagues.

Despite these issues, it was hard to give up on my ‘dream’ job. I found myself questioning my instincts:

Am I depressed because I hate my job, or do I hate my job because I’m depressed?

Maybe you’ve felt like this before. I’ve also questioned myself in relationships:

Am I anxious because I want to break up with him, or do I want to break up with him because I’m anxious?

It can be really hard to work out if your mental health issues are due to your situation or if they were pre-existing and have made you perceive your situation in a more negative light. In an appointment with my psychologist, or perhaps it was on a therapy app, I learnt about considering my situation both with and without emotion. I’m still practising this skill.

Talking to friends or family is a great way to work out if I’m reacting reasonably. I’m so grateful to my friends for all the times they’ve let me whinge. Be careful with this strategy though! Sometimes friends aren’t reasonable or perhaps they may hold back because they think it would be more helpful than the truth. Another limitation of this strategy is that friends can’t make your decisions for you. The buck stops with you.

I spent much of the year trying to separate facts from emotion. After a lot of reflection, I decided that I was experiencing depression and that my objectively bad job was a big part of that. I realised that my dream job was not actually my dream job – and boy did that take some getting used to!

There’s a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over—and to let go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its value.”

Ellen Goodman

I updated my resume and submitted many applications. I got a new job in a new industry. I’m currently ‘funemployed’ and not due to start my new job for a few weeks. I’m honestly pretty terrified that I made the wrong decision and left my dream job due to mental illness, but the further I get from my old life, the more this fear fades.

If I had 20-20 vision[1], would I have still gone down this path? I don’t know. Maybe? I believe that you can learn so much from every experience – even the negative ones. I feel stronger for picking myself up, dusting myself off, and standing up for myself and my colleagues. I feel like I’m back to Quokka-level happiness. I feel like I’m myself again.


[1] Come on! I had to have at least one pun!

If you would like help raise awareness for mental health in Australia and help to break down the stigma of talking about these complex issues, you can share this blog or donate to Amy’s beyond blue fundraiser.

https://fundraise.beyondblue.org.au/lameystringerdonations

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