One of my clients once said of me “If you’re worried about what the answer might be, perhaps it’s best not to ask Mike the question”. I took that as the complement that is was. In another instance, one of my staff once said that my strength as a manager, stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t afraid to admit my mistakes. It made the staff trust me and, in turn, be honest about their situation. From this, you will gather that I’m inclined to say what I think sooner than what the questioner might like to hear. After all, if people are asking for my advice, I like to think that they want me to give them just that. Why should it be otherwise?
I hope that openness permeates my personal life too. So that, when I’ve had bouts of depression, I’ve never seen any reason to keep that secret. After all, they weren’t self inflicted; in fact, quite the opposite. So, when people have asked me. I’ve told them. It’s something that I’ve never felt any shame or embarrassment about. After all, if I’d had a dose of flu, I wouldn’t have, why should depression be any different?
So, it’s good to see that, at the beginning of the 21st century, people are doing just that; talking about their mental health problems. In my view, this can be nothing other than beneficial; the realisation that others have experienced what you’re going through and that you aren’t the only one. Indeed, one of the most heart warming experiences for me was when a therapist told me that, with the benefit of the knowledge that we now have, many years ago I would have been diagnosed as a disturbed child. It made me feel that it wasn’t my fault and that others had had similar experiences. The definition was an important part of repairing the damage.
I now realise that my first bout of depression occurred when I was 19 and my new wife and I were separated when I was posted back to Germany. 16 years later, when my marriage broke up, it happened again. As it did a further 10 years later, when another relationship ended. This turned into a breakdown which lasted a month. The last one, apart from a very small blip last year, was when I got the sack just before Xmas at the turn of the millennium. In each case, I got over it and then got on with the rest of my life. It’s certainly not a pleasant experience, in fact, it’s a horrible one. However, you can get through it as I’ve done. The secret, if my experience is any guide, is to get to the root causes and deal with them. That, above all else, is a great healer.