For a while, I've been thinking of writing about my experiences with depression. Recent intolerance in the blogosphere has spurred me on.
I actually don't have a burning desire to convey any profoundly important social messages about depression. I just find it therapeutic (sometimes, at least) to talk about it, and to hear the experiences of others. So I'm going to record my random thoughts, a few paragraphs at a time, until I've run out of them.
My first random thought is to do with combining work and depression. When I'm feeling good, I can talk very candidly about depression. When I'm not feeling so good, it seems insurmountably hard. Many times, I've had that mired feeling that I'm not coping - a leaden head, and an inability to think straight or remember what I'm doing or go through the social niceties that worklife entails.
And almost every time I've felt this way, I've been afraid to say anything to my boss or workmates. I feel terribly self-conscious and make up dumb excuses: I'm tired because I was up half the night with my son, I think I'm getting the flu, I've got a headache. I've just about run out of pretend ailments - I may be forced to try scurvy.
The heart of the matter is that I'm terrified of not seeming competent - of derailing my career before I've really established one. In the cold light of day, this is clearly dumb. But in the middle of a busy workplace, I'm afraid to admit what's wrong with me, and I'll often just put on a happy face. I appear to be coping, so I'm given more work - and thus I make a rod for my own misguided back.
The absurdity of it is that there are others - many others - in my workplace who also have depression, or whose partners have it. One is quite senior. She works like a madwoman, ploughing her way through massive work burdens, almost defying the rest of us to question whether she's coping. Ultimately, she doesn't cope. She damages her mental and physical health - the two often go hand in hand - then has to take long periods of sick leave to recuperate. I think she's even more afraid of appearing incompetent than I am.
One day, I'd pluck up the courage to talk about what's actually wrong. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to learn to fake the symptoms of scurvy.