…it’s been a while since I’ve seen and recognized him, he is a youthful (ish) looking character, brimming with confidence and purpose, behind those glasses (they were trendy at the time) his eyes are smiling and he seems full of hope. He’s me, he’s the profile picture I put of myself onto LinkedIn just a few years ago. I’m not deliberately trying to present a false character to the world, and I don’t imagine you want to see a picture of me depressed and in tears in the Doctors Surgery. Like everyone else on LinkedIn I’m just presenting the best me, the best Tom that I know, the one that people can more easily identify with, perhaps respect, possibly like, and even on occasion, disagree with.
But of course our public profiles don’t do justice to the depths of our character. If its true that one in four of us will suffer with depression in any given year then that means there are presently over 75 million people on LinkedIn who have recently visited their very own dark places. But you wouldn’t think that would you, looking at the constant exhortations to drive ourselves onto ever better and greater things and metaphorically kick ourselves up the arse…a physical impossibility for most of us, and yes I am speaking from experience.
This last year has been a dark time for me, I’ve had my faith in many things shaken, and if it hadn’t been for the support of some good people around me I’d have struggled to cope. Though some of what I have discovered should not have been any real surprise to me, the biggest revelation I have experienced has been discovering my own inability to deal resiliently with it all. It is ironic isn’t it, that even though my own sister committed suicide when we were in our twenties, I have still been clinging onto the mindset that so many of us, especially men, cling onto, which is that “depression won’t get me, it’s what happens to other people, I am resilient, I’ll just read the write books, listen to the right things, repeat the right mantras and all will be well”. Note to self, that doesn’t work.
Depression and the loss of my own self-belief and confidence has been one of the hardest things for me to get to grips with. The experience I’ve accumulated over the years, the things I’ve achieved, at times they all seem to have counted for nothing. And having hope for the future becomes a strange mysterious concept, the future and its meaning becomes ever more unclear. It’s not even that the future looks frightening or uncertain, it is quite simply that there are times when you just can’t envisage a future, any future of any type. And I have become familiar with the wee small hours, like noisy neighbors from hell, they have become an integral but unwelcome part of my life. Lying, wriggling, tossing, turning and knowing that you will see the alarm clock every half hour beaming the time at you with its annoyingly gleeful, incessantly glowing and mercilessly accurate, electrified orange digits.
But I spoke with someone recently and they said something really useful, they said, “sometimes its just right to feel pissed-off and fed up”. That was good advice I thought, especially as feeling that way was leading me to further feelings of guilt about feeling that way, which was leading me to further feelings of guilt for feeling that way, which was…you get the gist. And the advice was all the more refreshing because it was not the kind of advice I see flitting across my Twitter feed, this advice (?) tells me if I’m feeling down then it must be my outlook that’s wrong, its my fault, its my choice how I feel…oh, if only that were true.
But hey, believe it or not there is a positive side to this post, although I am now unashamedly pissed-off and fed up, like 75 million of you if the stats are correct, I often take comfort in the feeling of connectedness that LinkedIn provides. Networking, sharing ideas and knowledge has the ability to take my focus away from myself and make me feel part of something bigger, and for that I am grateful, or as Eeyore might say, things could be worse.