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Life with my demons: what it’s like to have a mental breakdown

Some time ago now a friend asked me to try and explain what it feels like to suffer a mental breakdown. What do depression and anxiety feel like when they become too much to manage?

It was an interesting question.

When I began experiencing mental health problems two years ago, it was very unexpected. At the time I was a senior manager with over 20 years experience in the private and public sector; I was excelling in my career and always went above and beyond the call of duty. I was the least likely person to suffer from mental health problems, but it doesn’t discriminate and my body and mind shut down.

The truth is, it’s difficult to put into words what it feels like to suffer a breakdown. After doing research, talking to people, and reading different academic papers it became clear that you can’t ever accurately describe what it feels like to suffer from depression and anxiety because the feelings are different from person to person.

Every individual has their own version of their demons and everyone is affected in a different way.

So in this attempt I try and explain my own sickness, keep in mind it is different for everyone. I use this metaphor to try and explain how I felt and how my demons have taken over in the past (and still do on some occasions).

The first thing to remember is that my demons are targeting my pre-existing weaknesses, they don’t produce anything new. Simply put, they multiply and exaggerate what would be, for many, normal day-to-day worries, anxieties or stressful situations.

The second thing to remember is that although, deep down, I know these enhanced, exaggerated feelings are not real and they are not everlasting when they creep up they are very real, debilitating and crippling.

I searched for a long time for an image that would try and summarize the depression and anxiety that has become a part of my life.

Artwork: Otavio Augusto Severino

 

For those of you who have watched the Harry Potter films or read the books, you will be familiar with this image of the dark, cold, soul-destroying ‘dementors’. These creatures suck the life from the characters in the various Harry Potter stories. For me this image encapsulates the way depression and anxiety take over, it summarizes the grip it has on me.

Now, the difficult part is banishing these monsters.

Fact vs Fiction

In the film, Harry uses magic to create a powerful bright light that banishes the demons. The darkness and despair are replaced with light and hope.

In real life, the solution is something very similar. I mentioned previously that my demons feed on my pre-existing vulnerabilities and find a way to wreak havoc. My spell is to try (and I don’t always succeed) to fill these voids by creating a space where my vulnerabilities don’t get over-fed and they are kept at bay. The reality is that everyday life is much brighter and more powerful than the dark and dangerous thoughts created by my demons.

The reality is that everyday life is much brighter and more powerful than the dark and dangerous thoughts created by my demons.

To create the light and spell takes strength and time. It takes the support of loved ones, doctors, therapists and sometimes medication.

But, little by little, that light gets stronger and brighter and you can banish those demons away in the sure knowledge that if and when they’ll be back, you’ll be better prepared to battle with them!

Today I’m lucky enough to be able to help others with their personal and professional journey to mental well-being. I established my company Canna Consulting out of the need for greater awareness around mental health and wellbeing in the corporate world.

This allows me to educate people about the influence of leadership styles on the well-being of the workforce to try and prevent what happened to me from happening to other people. I am delighted to be able to support, develop and inspire my clients to achieve their personal and professional development and well-being goals with a variety of mentoring, coaching and training sessions. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and positive things can grow from the most negative situations.

 

Andrew Tamplin

Director of Canna Consulting, Andrew uses his experience of the corporate world and his personal journey with mental health to mentor, coach and train others.

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