Would it surprise you to know your coach might suffer from depression?

Depression Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Depression Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

I’ve thought long and hard about making this post.

I fell down on the side of “ahhhhh sod it” and decided I would be open about an issue that still carries taboos, although it is now more open that ever, due to great organisations like MIND and social media campaigns to talk about depression.

This has also really been prompted by a recent testimonial from an amazing client, who also suffers from depression, and in her testimonial stated that she felt sure I’d understand. I think it’s possibly a touch of, “it takes one to know one.”

But yes, hi. *stands up* I’m Paula, and I have been clinically depressed. More than once. And I will be again, I imagine.

This doesn’t mean I’m not happy.

I have a great life, a husband who makes me laugh every day, and I’m easily pleased. But depression is like nothing else on earth, and we can’t snap out of it, or cheer-up-love-it-might-never-happen.

Depression is as much a part of me as having freckles, small feet, and snorting when I laugh. What are you gonna do.

You might wonder how I deal with this as a coach and a therapist.

By definition, I hear about people’s problems on a daily basis, and it can sometimes be a bit difficult if I were to see too many people a day. So, to make sure I am useful and productive and can listen to my clients and focus on them, I work with low numbers of people at any one time, and I have supervision. It’s all good. I retreat in my personal life a little; I have a few friends who see me as a bit of an agony aunt, but if I need to be off the clock, then that’s it.

So, professionally, it’s a bit of a blessing really, because I DO understand, I have been there, and it’s all good.

If I’m in the depths of a depressive episode then I take steps to look after myself a lot more.

I never wanted to be depressed. No one does, but I never wanted to even have that teenage pretence that everything was just too much, you know. I didn’t need the attention that badly. And it started way earlier, anyway. I remember watching a programme with my parents when I was very young, about six, seeing a woman sobbing and being comforted by people in a big group hug. I asked my mum why she was so sad. She told me, “She’s depressed. She has sadness about everything and doesn’t know why.” A big bell rang in my head as that explained how I always seemed to feel, probably from about the age of three. As I grew older, I realised I had inherited my Dad’s depression.

I had a major episode at 17, and I would sleep and sleep, sometimes for up to 20 hours at a time; I’d be woken by my mum, encouraged to eat with the promise that I could go back to bed. I don’t know how long I was like this, but I was bought a dog, a daft little black and tan King Charles Spaniel, and I utterly adored her, turned my focus onto her, and I got better.

When I was 32, I went through the blackest period of reactive depression when my father died, my marriage ended and I lost my job and my home, all in rapid succession. At this point I understood what it was like to not want to be alive any more; not to want to end it, but for it never to have begun. That feeling will never leave me, and is the only real burden that I carry from depression, that, in truth, I would rather not have been born, and am glad to have not had children and not run the risk of handing this to them. But, once again, to be clear, I live a happy and useful life, and I make the best of being here.

That black phase began to regain some colour eventually, and I came out of the other side, wiser and a lot stronger. My tunnel vision opened up, I began to interact with the world again, and it’s all good. I have, in the last year, been on the verge of an episode, but turned it around. There have been other occasions, some serious, some less so, all have had an impact, and left their mark. Some have involved what felt like a constant stream of tears and crying and agony for months, just wanting to not be alive; some have been about living life almost normally, but as though we’re on 33rpm instead of 45 (you might want to Google that if you’re under 30!). We don’t get through each one unscathed, but it’s ok.

So I guess that really, it’s important to know that depressed people are all around you. I’m hardly unique. I won’t be the only coach who has been through this. I would even dare to put it out there that it makes us stronger in our profession.

People who have depression are fully functioning and normal members of society. We just have problems that sometimes make us too sad for the world. If a person doesn’t exhibit symptoms it doesn’t always mean everything is hunky dory. We don’t need to hear, “it could be worse, you could have a real illness”. Or the evergreen “pull yourself together.”

If you know someone is struggling please, offer some help. Just a hand to hold works wonders. And a nest to retreat to for a little while.

See you next week.

Paula

Paula Jones

Paula Jones is one half of Me and Mrs Jones Hypnotherapy in Harrogate and also runs Success Story Confidence. She specialises in confidence and self-esteem, particularly for women in business who are worried about being found out...

http://www.sugarboxcoaching.com

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  1. says

    A very brave post Paula, thanks for sharing it. I’ve also suffered bad bouts of depression which people ignore because its not a real illness, so I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s great to read how you’ve worked hard to turn around the last year, and that you recognise that you could have become depressed again.

    Until you experience depression (and not just feeling blue) then you won’t fully understand what it’s like and how someone can function, but not function at the same time.
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  2. says

    Thanks for posting this, Paula – it’s a brave post. As you know, I tend to fall into the ‘aaah, sod it’ camp when it comes to speaking about depression these days. I think it’s so important to increase the understanding that depression can look like different things on different people. Even through my darkest days, I have managed to maintain a fully functioning life, despite my inner turmoil or (perhaps worse) my inner numbness. I have people in my life – my other half, my children, my friends, family and my cat – who make me very happy at the same time as I feel unbearably sad. It’s not a case of one feeling or the other. I find it reassuring to know other people have walked a similar path and I’m sure many others reading this article will feel the same way.

  3. says

    I applaud you Paula, its about time we opened up. I also suffer from depression and I used to think I couldn’t tell anyone because they may not take me seriously but i changed my opinion this year after a bout of deep anxiety which landed me in hospital.
    I now know that if people know the truth, most of them actually understand and those who don’t just aren’t connected to me anymore.
    With running a business alongside depression and bipolar, work is the only thing that has got me through. I think it makes you stronger and a fighter.
    Keep spreading the word, you have my appreciation.

  4. says

    I love this post, Paula. If I wanted or needed to hire a coach I know I would want someone who is a real person, not someone who would pretend to be ‘perfect’, or infallible, or to have all the answers – but someone who knows what it’s like to have something like depression and can empathise and really listen and understand. The combination of personal experience and solid professional skills and knowledge that you have puts you in a perfect position to help the people who come to you.
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