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Depression

31st Oct 2016
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There's a stigma to admitting things are getting to you....

Shame, failure, weakness are all words which jump out of me right now and even writing them down lowers the mood further.

I've been a contributor on accounting-web for a long time now but this is the first time I felt compelled to write something that I didn't want to put my normal name next to. Probably for all the reasons I just mentioned.

So how did this happen.... 

Pressure, working long hours, being successful and then the fear that it may slip away. Perhaps fear with no real basis and that I would tell someone else, or at least think, that they were being silly and "don't worry".

Maybe I am being silly and I shouldn't worry but that won't help. It's like walking through a fog that I know I shouldn't be in but cannot get out of.

If you knew my financial situation right now you'd be stunned. Business went from being on its knees 6 years ago when I took over from the former partner to the point where we were able to buy a new house and then, this year, put an extension on it. It's amazing and a reflection of how we've done but we have a large mortgage and I fear what tomorrow may bring.

With the house development though I've gone from having cash reserves that would have lasted for 18 months of living down to reserves of 6 months and yet, on current form, the business can earn our annual living costs plus 60% on top to build the business reserves back up.

I know - sounds a dream doesn't it and yet I'm feeling like this??? What's going on I should be flying....

But I'm feeling stressed and depressed under the pressure of the job and responsibility for my family. All the talk of change under Making Tax Digital doesn't help. Will business thrive because clients will need us more than ever so that we can develop the business further or will it sink because clients may be doing more themselves? What if what if what if what if........ What if I was someone with a "normal" job surviving month to month and then lost that job - if I'm feeling down today then surely they would be 100 times worse but even that rationale isn't shaking the feeling this morning.

A supportive wife and 3 kids and I should be on cloud nine but this weekend out of nowhere (well actually I finished our own accounts and tax returns!) I have suddenly crashed...... I think it's dawned on me that I'm not enjoying work and this is not what I "signed up for"

I'm sure I'm not alone but anyway it's 9am and I need to put on the strong face and lead the staff and clients forward to the breach once more (but inside I'm feeling really down.............)

Hence why I took 5 minutes to write this and share some thoughts (and then ten minutes to be brave enough to click submit)

UPDATE: 5 Days after "depression hitting home"

I've learnt a lot in the last few days and, in particular, that I am not alone. More than one person contacted me via accountingweb telling me their experiences plus I know of a client of mine who works in a very senior role as a management coach who regularly comes to see me simply because whilst she's brilliant at advising others, she is aware that she goes into meltdown every now and then out of a total fear that her business may collapse at any moment (her bank balance has never dropped below 6 figures for as long as I can remember). An irrational fear but which feels very very real and frightening.

Bizarrely (and much of how you react at times like this looks bizarre when you have a moment of clarity to reflect back on yourself), as part of my fear of the unknown I cancelled my unneccessary £8 pm subscription to Audible (a web service for audio books) and, before doing so downloaded books for my unused tokens. Most were management type books on focus, the need to avoid distractions in a modern world to achieve more in less time and then I stumbled across "Anxiety Rebalance" by Carl Vernon.

I started the last paragraph saying "Bizarrely" and I did so because this book, or audio book with the author himself reading (always very powerful) reflected how I was feeling and explained in crystal clear terms why. Without my "episode" and over the top reaction causing me to decide that £8pm for a membership needed to be stopped I would never have found this book.

What I felt was not so much depression as intense anxiety/panic attack and much of what Carl talks about in his book might as well have been directed straight at me. It's a very easy listen and, when suffering, is exactly what you need to hear.

Striving to be better, doubling turnover and wanting to do it again or particularly in my case, spending my entire career saving my father's practice from oblivion and only taking it clear and into firm positive territory after he passed away, sound like reasons to celebrate but the reality it seems is often the opposite.

You may have gathered that I have looked intensely inwards these past few days (whilst using work as the distraction I needed to break the circle) and can now see that 26 years of having to give it my all in emptying a pool of water with a bucket full of holes and only in the last 6 years of those years actually succeeding meant that I have never actually stopped to think where the point was when I could relax. The reality is that now, I can perhaps more sensibly declare "I've got there!" and aim to maintain and get a better quality of life free from worry.

However, 26 years of such a mindset will not be broken that quickly and I expect down moments to return, as they do for us all, but next time I will understand better what is happening and not allow myself to freefall with never ending "what if's" because all that represents normally is unrational fear. In my case there would surely have to be a disaster of huge proportions for my practice to suddenly halve and place me and all my staff in such peril.....

I hope that what I've written here might catch the eye of someone one day going through a similar set of feelings and make some sense to them. For it to have caught the eye of several people already in just a few days definitely underlines I'm not alone and the comfort of knowing that you're not alone in itself is a positive thing.

As others have said to me, I will say to everyone else - feel free to direct message me if you think it will help because, in our profession, we're great at advising others but perhaps at times struggle to step back and have faith in ourselves.

Replies (5)

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By Tom Herbert
31st Oct 2016 11:56

Hi feelingthestrain,

Thanks for sharing such a powerful blog. You mention that writing your thoughts down wasn't helping at the time, but hopefully the process of putting them together and sharing them has.

There's no shame or weakness in acknowledging that you're feeling low - in fact I'd say it was a sign of strength.

The world of modern working is a tough place. The only advice I'd have is to take a break (if you are able), step off the hamster wheel and focus on what's really important.

Thanks again for sharing,

Tom

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
31st Oct 2016 13:23

There are an awful lot of similarities between your personal position and mine. I am nearing the end of building works on our home which have cost close to 6 figures. I also paid for all of this out of savings/earnings.

Your earnings just need to be built up again, just carry on working the way you have been.

Not enjoying work? I think we all having those sort of feelings at times.

Security - the business you have built up will provide you with far more financial security than a '9-5 proper job' ever could.

Your team can look after the business for a day or so, why not take a break, turn the phone off and spend time with your family and do some non-work activities you enjoy.

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By hs23
31st Oct 2016 15:34

I really really recommend you go to see your GP or a counsellor. It helped me no end. You are most definitely not alone. Seek help and dont feel bad about not feeling the way you think you should be feeling! Let me know how you get on.

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By feelingthestrain
01st Nov 2016 10:14

Thank you all for your comments - whilst my mind still is weighing heavy today it was a positive to an otherwise pretty bleak feeling day to read your words. So rest assured those few minutes you spent reading and responding were worthwhile and appreciated.

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By jimeth
08th Nov 2016 10:16

You are definitely not alone. My situation is different. I am employed in a software company. But after problems with stress and depression I have had to learn to say no and mean it when people ask me to do more. Five years ago (in my early 50s) I cut down to working 4 days a week in order to help. I don't answer work emails or calls on non-working days. Looking forward to cutting down to 3 days working in a couple of years time. It means less money but definitely worth it.

Many people are coping less well with modern working life than it might appear from the outside.

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