Co-founder Mazuma
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My year with depression

It would be understandable if I said that the events of 2020 have made me depressed. Most of us in the accountancy profession have felt low at one point or another this year. But I wouldn’t be being 100% truthful if I said that.

29th Dec 2020
Co-founder Mazuma
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Lucy Cohen
LucyCohen

In all honesty, I think the thing I now call depression has always been a part of me. It’s ever-present lurk felt all too familiar. When it took hold, I distinctly remembered its grip - like a smell from your childhood that reminds you of a particular place or time. I knew this feeling. I have definitely had extended periods of time when I had felt this way in the past. 

It’s just that in 2020, with increased pressure and fewer travel plans and events to distract myself with, it has very much made me aware of its presence. No longer a ripple or a ghost that could be beaten off to the shadows with some R&R, depression was there in full HD.

And yet it took me months to fully accept it. For months I expected myself to just work harder. Do more. Be better. Cope. 

You know how you always catch a cold over the holidays? The moment you relax, your immune system gives up the fight and lets the sniffles in?

That’s what my depression did.

2020 overwhelmed me (and everyone else) with worry, uncertainty and decimated plans. Swimming against the current to stay in the same spot. At some point, exhaustion was bound to set in.

Depression snuck up on me. 

Like so many business owners this year, I leapt head first into fight mode when the pandemic hit. There was always something to do, always a problem to solve. And I am a problem solver -  it’s how I get my kicks. So even though our plans were shattered and our worlds shifted overnight, I felt OK. Good, even. I felt good. Hyper-productive, driven and jittering with endorphins; I was being The Best Me.

The thing is that adrenaline and caffeine will only get you so far before you crash. You can’t  operate at DEFCON 1 indefinitely.

Cracks started to appear.

My sleep suffered. And then when I woke in the morning, still tired from a restless night, I felt like I had a weighted vest on as I went about my day. I could still function, but everything was so much harder.

I was tearful; even for me who is known to be a crier. Previously a good cry would clear the mood and I’d hit a reset. But now when I started crying I couldn’t stop. Words stuck thickly in my throat and eyes stayed watery for hours.

I felt no joy. It was almost as if someone had disconnected the switch in my head that let me experience that particular emotion. All the things that used to spark joy just didn’t work any more. They had all become dull and grey.

Increasingly I felt disconnected from my own life. A bit like when you’ve driven somewhere on autopilot and can’t remember the journey - that’s what so many days felt like to me.

My short term memory became practically non-existent. I was struggling to remember conversations I’d had just hours ago. As a person who typically has an excellent memory, this was one of the scariest symptoms to experience. 

I’ve always suffered with anxiety, so spotting and treating that has become second nature to me. I’ve accepted the impact it has on my life, both good and bad, and I know how to deal with it.

Realising that I had depression was new. 

Realising that I had depression was a relief.

Despite this, it wasn’t until the antidepressants had started working that I fully comprehended how much I had been suffering. I was flooded with yet more relief as it dawned on me that what I was going through was distinctly chemical. My brain had just stopped making enough serotonin and it needed a boost.

In the same way that when you start wearing glasses you appreciate how bad your vision has gotten, I recognised what a long way from happy I had been.

Antidepressants aren’t a quick fix. They aren’t happy pills. You don’t suddenly start feeling euphoric or giddy. You just slowly start to notice a return to your baseline. And then one day you get to 9pm and realise that you haven’t felt depressed all day.

I’ll be on antidepressants for six months and then I’ll slowly come off them under the supervision of my GP. Depression can be a short or long term thing. My hope is that in six months time my brain will have recovered enough to cope without help. But if it hasn’t and I need help for a bit longer, that’s absolutely fine too. And if depression sneaks up on me again, I’ll know what to look out for and hopefully be able to act more quickly.

So why am I sharing this?

If my experience helps one other person reach out and ask for help, then it was worthwhile me writing this. I’m someone who is pretty dialled into my mental health - and it took me longer than it should have to realise that I had depression. 

The funny thing is that you can still feel happy and have depression. You can still laugh at a joke or enjoy walking the dog. It doesn’t necessarily render you incapable of working, or loving your partner or appreciating music. Like all things, there is a scale. I think that I hadn’t fully appreciated how wide that scale was until I was sitting further along it than I wanted to be.

Without wanting to sound like a broken record, this year has been monumentally tough. Everyone’s mental health has taken a battering. Check in on yourself and give yourself permission to seek help if you need it. I promise it’s worth it.

If you think you may be suffering with depression, speak to your GP. They can refer you on for talking therapy and/or look at a treatment plan for you. You may also find the following useful places to seek advice and support:

Lucy speaks more about the effect the pandemic has had on mental health in this review of the year podcast, where she is joined by Accounting Excellence award winner Ria-Jaine Lincoln.  

Replies (14)

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Anthony Constantinou
By anthonyconstantinou
31st Dec 2020 12:42

No doubt depression make our life hell

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By Calculatorboy
31st Dec 2020 14:09

Maybe depression comes when working life becomes complicated , other investors, capital reorganisations , it eats a lot of time and mental capacity and detracts from the core .

I now run my business like a "Noddy" book, because when things get complicated, its barely worth it .

So this is my day ...

Noddy gets up in the morning, goes downstairs , eats breakfast , brushes his teeth , goes to his garage and gets in his little yellow car and drives to Big Ears house , then they go to toy town .....etc etc .

There was very little stress once I realised I did not need the things that caused the stress. So I threw the stress toys away and I'm now happy in Toyland ..

Happy new year Lucy x

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By PPritchard
31st Dec 2020 17:24

Brilliantly well written Lucy!

Thank you for sharing your feelings. This has resonated with me and I’m sure it will help many other readers also.

I’m sorry you’ve suffered in the way you have and I hope you feel 100% again soon :)

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By WhichTyler
03rd Jan 2021 16:35

Thanks for sharing this, hope things turn better for you in the new year

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By killer33
04th Jan 2021 14:56

Well done for sharing this and having undergone a similar depressive episode about 10 years ago, I can vouch that it can take a while to fully recover. I was on anti depressants for 6 years and needed to make some adjustments to my working life.

I thoroughly recommend reading a book by Dr Phil Cantopher - Depressive illness: The curse of the strong.

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By fogden
04th Jan 2021 17:11

Thank you for shining a light into the hidden world of depression. Mental health has not been understood enough in the workplace. As a recurring sufferer of 20 years I can see improvements, and lockdown certainly bought it out into the open more.

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By p.rayney
05th Jan 2021 10:12

Very well written Lucy - I and many others know what you are going through. It seems that Depression is the mental equivalent of the 'common cold' for hard grafters who put their clients before themselves. It's the body's way of saying we can't cope anymore. Well done to you for putting this important message out there..take care Peter

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By p.rayney
05th Jan 2021 10:12

Very well written Lucy - I and many others know what you are going through. It seems that Depression is the mental equivalent of the 'common cold' for hard grafters who put their clients before themselves. It's the body's way of saying we can't cope anymore. Well done to you for putting this important message out there..take care Peter

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By Rgab1947
05th Jan 2021 10:16

Great you shared. It helps!

Unfortunately I have the same except I get the feeling of "why bother?" In the past I was on the "happy pills". Helped but its not a long term solution. A psychologist helps with coping mechanisms but in UK almost impossible to get on NHS and private is expensive, very expensive.

But I still have the coping mechanism from the psychologist and although not 100% effective helps me through bad days.

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By Mr J Andrews
05th Jan 2021 10:28

Yes; this past year has been monumentally tough. It goes without saying that we have all suffered degrees of depression.. Some less than this particular columnist and I'm certain a lot more who have lost their trades , jobs and worse, particularly those whose appalling living conditions mean the impossibility of owning a dog to take for walks. And those who find it so difficult to arrange a G.P. appointment for immediate therapy referral rather than a pill popping prescription.

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By AustinA
05th Jan 2021 11:13

Lucy - thank you so much for sharing this. Like you, I've always been an anxious individual although for a long time, I didn't even realise that wasn't how everyone felt! Imposter syndrome features heavily in my life. I have noticed that running music or a talking book in the background while I work, although it might seem distracting to some, makes me feel less anxious - I think because it lightens the mood and makes the work feel less all-encompassing. Silence seems so loud! I wish you well in the months ahead.

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By HeatherSimpson
05th Jan 2021 11:29

A great article. Thank you Lucy.

I particularly identify with realising that depression had been hovering since childhood and that it was chemical. One tip from years of experience - a good film can give your brain a welcome rest from its machinations.

Just an idea on the 'wellbeing' front for anyone interested - many of our chemicals come from our 'microbiome', something that I have been slightly interested in for years but ramped up massively due to trying to lose weight, the immune response threat from Covid 19 and Tim Spector from the Zoe App being an expert on it. https://covid.joinzoe.com/ So 2020 was an unexpectedly happy year, of buying a diversity of vegetables etc. some that I had never even heard of and trying to work out how to cook them so that I would eat them.

I do hope that the extra alcohol is not killing the bacteria though : )

11st 4 to microbiome bore!

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By 69walt
07th Jan 2021 08:58

I never comment on posts but this one I will. I have had a form of depression for over 13 years.

You have good days and bad days, it isn’t the job specifically, because I have changed jobs and it hasn’t gone.

It is you as a person and situations you find yourself in that triggers it. These situations come and go through life. It may be months and it may be weeks.

“The drugs don’t work” as The Verve say they numb you. Try hypnotherapy counselling to train the sub-conscious mind. You may need to go back for a top up occasionally but it is what has worked best for me. The £90 an hour is hard but it works.

Big hugs to you

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By yogibear47
07th Jan 2021 11:47

Thank you, it has been a most trying year, the many comments all have the right part, sadly we are expected to know a lot more than we do, sometimes difficult for clients to understand, and at "the wroing time" can have a negative effect.

Sole practitioners of which I am one of many have felt the strain, discussions, emails with others reveal just how real this is!

There is external help available and for the first time in many years returning to my hobby, which is not accountancy and the moble phone does not come with me.

With every good wish to all who have contributed and remember we are not alone and remember, "it is good to talk"

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