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Oversharing

Some of you might be aware of the story that Coronation Street are currently running about Aidan and male mental health, with a view to starting an important dialogue.

I’m going to overshare now, hence the title, in that same spirit. So trigger warning for anyone who may not be in the right place to deal with this – I’m not going to go into any details and I hope that it might be inspiring rather than making people miserable. I’m not doing this for sympathy or because I want comfort or pity, but rather because being ashamed and not able to talk about it is one of the most powerful weapons that mental illness has over people, and I’m taking that weapon away from mine.

I have had problems with depression for my entire adult life. Before I had depression, I thought about it the same as everyone else ‘cheer up, pull yourself together, what have you got to be miserable about’

Which, as it is due to chemical deficiencies, is about as realistic as saying to someone with diabetes ‘just digest sugar better’

I’ve learned to cope with depression, but usually in very unhelpful ways. I’ve learned how to hide it, how to mask it from people, how to keep going and have nobody around me have a clue that inside my head my own thoughts are attacking me relentlessly.

The best description I can give you of the sort of depression I have is that my mind employs the very best ad agencies to come up with and play constant adverts to me, knowing me better than Facebook data mining ever could, to sell me the message that I am an awful human being, worthless and hateful in every way and that the whole world would be remarkably better off without me in it.

Now, this is drivel. And some days, some hours, I’m well aware that it is drivel. I’m a human being who has like everyone else some good qualities and some faults. But when that’s the soundtrack to your life, it’s corrosive.

And a large part of what’s corrosive about it is ‘dont tell anyone, it will just make them hate you’

Well, everyone that I’ve ever been brave enough to talk to has not hated me, or run away. They haven’t always understood and sometimes they’ve been shocked or frightened, but all of them without fail have done their absolute best to help, and it has been a huge help.

The stupid adverts don’t stop, but the more honest I am, the quieter they are and the more loudly I can reply ‘this is just an illness and i don’t have to believe that message’

Sorry everyone, I know you come here for law and 80s pop culture, but telling everyone in one go is the scariest thing I can imagine but now it is out there. Don’t worry about me, the darkest days of it are well behind me. I hope that sharing this might empower someone else to speak out, or helps you to start a difficult but vital conversation with someone you love and care about.

Talking helps. Honesty helps. Friends really do care about you, and you are not alone. If you are able to talk, just to one person, it is one of the most powerful and significant moments in your life and it will help.

Take care

Andrew

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

65 responses

  1. Andrew Bailey

    Thank you for sharing this powerful and important message.

  2. Thank you, Andrew, for sharing. It is good to get a little evidence that speaking up helps. Would you be ok with my sharing your message (unedited, probably printed out) with the occasional client? I am a counsellor. Best wishes to you. Nicola

  3. Julie Wilkes

    Brilliant. Congratulations. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for your latest post Andrew. It’s so brave and I feel the same way- I was 15 years old when my started and my whole family lost patience with me constantly for “moping”. And it’s pretty awful dealing with it in school!
    To make matters worse I decided to be a barrister which never did anything but exacerbate my depression and anxiety. Like you, I am finally past my darkest days and deal with my anxiety with the hell of an incredible therapist and a very supportive partner. I also found solace in working as a government lawyer. If there was one place a lawyer prone to depression and anxiety could work and feel supported in every way, it’s there.
    My writing is nowhere near as eloquent as yours but who cares- as long as each and everyone of us starts taking a deep breath and sharing our experiences so that this stops becoming an “embarrassing” issue.
    Good luck to you, me and everyone else out there!

  5. Hi Andrew,
    Your post is brave and wonderful and I’m sure it’ll have the intended effect. However I’m not sure where you got the idea that depression is the result of ‘chemical deficiencies’. In psychology this isn’t widely accepted and it is considered that more likely, adverse
    events are responsible, hence the fact that there’s a massive placebo effect from so called anti-depressants, or they simply don’t work for many people. Psychological therapy is the way forward for many people, yet there’s a huge under-investment in this. Sadly
    for many, now, independently provided therapy is the only hope of accessing what’s needed, as you may have seen on your work.
    Best wishes

  6. Christine Johnson

    Short ,to the point ,effective , noted , inspiring and comforting , thank you

  7. Amy Wallhead

    Mr P, my world has certainly been enriched by having you in it. You were an inspiration to me in my professional life and a massive source of fun in my personal life. I frequently tell stories of our crazier clients (you know who I mean) and our many nights out. If those adverts ever get too loud then I am here for you and I promise I will shout so much louder than the adverts about what a wonderful, warm, funny and talented person you are xx

    • And likewise Tiny Dancing Amy. I wish I could have been more honest with you at times of crisis when I was avoiding the people who mattered most. Love you always

  8. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this. It’s critical people understand how debilitating depression can be. You are far from alone and I hope others continue to remove the silence that depression can foster.

  9. Helen Benson

    Mr Suesspicious, You are such a point of light and support to me in my professional life and to many other beleaguered local authority lawyers and social workers – do cherish that achievement at all times. Helen Benson

  10. Thank you

  11. Thank you for sharing. Keep strong!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  12. well done you

  13. Tuckyourshirtin

    Thanks for sharing Andrew, I’m sure it’s not easy to expose yourself, but you have done so eloquently and bravely! I love your analogies- they’re really helpful – I hope the days you fall for those adverts fade and are few, and that you continue winning this battle. With warmest wishes – Ruth

  14. ❤️❤️ You’re a wonderful person Andrew and I miss working with you sooo much!!! Keep fighting those dreaded ads!

  15. Daisy Veitch

    Thank you for sharing Andrew. I’m sorry you have been alone at some dark times but glad you have found a way to quiet them and share how you are feeling. It is not oversharing, just sharing. Very brave and I hope you get nothing but support in return. Lots of love x

  16. So brave of you to share this, which is far from drivel! Well done for speaking out to try to help others suffering from this horrible horrible illness, it’s a brilliant thing that you’ve done.

  17. COOPER, Anne

    Andrew

    Your post brought tears to my eyes – how brave of you to share so personally , when , as you say, people read your stuff for something so very different. I am sure many people feel just the same as me – that it is amazing that in the midst of all this you are able to write a blog/i nformation -share that is constantly funny , enlightening and incredibly informative. Thank you .

    Anne

  18. Amazing and very brave post. You are absolutely right in describing the stigma and silence as a weapon and I’m so glad for you that you are not capitulating to that power any longer. Also, I’m reading your book at the moment and it’s geniunely brilliant. Best wishes, Cija x

  19. You are a brave and lovely man and my life is better because of you. Just sayin’.

  20. I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your book. I couldn’t put it down.

    • Oh thank you Steph, that’s really kind. About it from rooftops! It is so weird that these people who only existed in my mind are now sharing their foibles and stories with strangers. I’m so proud of it

  21. I am an incurable optimist ;often therefore suffering disappointments but nevertheless I have never been depressed or even unhappy in my whole life except once ! A few years ago a dentist gave me an injection that reacted badly for me and I felt the most terrible depression! I had no reason to feel depressed as even my tooth was fine by then . I told myself it was ridiculous but I could not shake off that terrible feeling of doom………. …….
    2 or 3 hours later the injection wore off and I felt both my gums and my optimistic self again !
    I tell this story as for me personally that is absolute proof that depression can be a chemical inbalance as Andrew mentions . I no longer feel superior or scornful when I hear of people who apparently lead a good comfortable life but who nevertheless suffer from deep depression ;

  22. Andrew, how incredibly brave of you to share this. I too suffer with the internal soundtrack telling me that I am not good enough, worthless and that pretty soon, all the people around me who I am somehow conning into believing that I am actually a pretty special person, will realise how wrong they are. I sought help a couple of years ago – a combination of psychological therapy and medication to still the internal soundtrack sufficiently so that I was able to make the rational thoughts heard above it.
    As you say, sharing and talking about how we feel, is a massive step in tackling the stigma that still surrounds mental health and emotional well-being. Thank you so much for sharing.

  23. Blake, Donna

    Thanks for sharing.
    Very Powerful
    Donna

  24. Nicky Probert

    Thank you Andrew for your openness and honesty. I know it will help others enormously.
    Having had professional and personal experience of colleagues, family and friends struggling at times with their mental health, I know how difficult it can be to just put one foot in front of the other some days.
    Talking helps as does an understanding that very many of us will struggle at some point in our lives and opening the door and allowing others to share the pain really does help us all.
    Thank you

  25. well done you in sharing this. In my experience bold and couragous acts are contageous – this will help someone – have no doubt. sending gratitude and, because they do very often help because there are not always words, a hug. zoe

  26. Extremely humbled to know you. Forever my surrogate brother ❤

  27. Well done for speaking out can I just add that parents who face character bashing in the family court often losing their children through bad character hearsay from social workers in this adverse arena suffer ‘reactive depression’ some sadly taking their own lives as their children are the centre of their universe, they are left in the cold with a ‘failure label’ stuck firmly to them which is debilitating to say the least spare a thought for them please.

  28. Christopher Godfrey

    Dear Andrew
    Brave words, and your experience and advice chime exactly with the wise words of a friend who’s been through similar experiences.
    Well said. It’s so much better isn’t it to live in times of openness?
    Be well,
    Chris Godfrey
    Colleton Chambers, Exeter – regular reader, first time correspondent.

    • We are incredibly lucky to live in a time where we can say these things, as emotionally hard as it may be, and be met with compassion and warmth. Maybe these responses also help others see that people are generally kind and amazing

  29. Angela Turland

    What a brilliant way to use the analogy and describe the effects of ‘negative pop up advertising’ i will use this to help other young people, your posts are so informative and witty, i would never have guessed the challenges you face.Carry on talking, and being brave.
    Thank You
    Angela

  30. Ramsdale, Deborah (F&C)

    Thank you for being so brave.
    I always read all of your posts and legal updates which are very useful and a great source of information; so I didn’t expect this when you popped into my in box. There should be no shame in mental ill health and the bravery of intelligent, well respected people with public profiles sharing their own experiences is slowly fading the negative perceptions and shame some people experience.
    Very best wishes.
    Deborah

  31. You are brave to speak out and I commend you. What I also commend you for, is (probably inadvertently) proving to social workers that when parents have mental health issues, that does NOT automatically put their child at risk, that they ARE fully capable of putting on a brave face for their children and not letting their children be affected in a negative way by their inner experience.

    “I’ve learned how to hide it, how to mask it from people, how to keep going and have nobody around me have a clue that inside my head my own thoughts are attacking me relentlessly.”

    Is proof that someone experiencing anxiety or depression is not always falling apart, they are still able (as you have, to work) to function and perform all their usual daily duties. So I am really glad that you posted this, for all the parents out there who are being wrongly targeted by social services for imaginary child protection issues. Considering mental health is used by courts to remove peoples’ children, something you assist with, do you see the sheer tragic irony of what you have posted?

    • No, I absolutely agree with you. Plenty of people can and do manage mental health and function. Some people need lots of help to do so. And sadly some people can’t. Everyone is owed the opportunity to show that with support they can do it.

  32. You are testament to the fact that parents having mental health issues is not a barrier to good functioning, ergo adequate parenting. Therefore all the court appointed ‘experts’ writing reports ‘diagnosing’ parents with psychiatric disorders should be dismissed, unless the parents are provably failing in some way in their parenting due to a mental disorder and even then, they should be supported and not automatically lose their children, in all but the most extreme cases where recovery is not possible.

  33. I have always found this very helpful, maybe other people will too:
    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.
    Jalaluddin Rumi

  34. Clinton Lammas

    More power to your elbow! Thank you for your bravery in speaking out.

  35. ashamedtobebritish

    Such a wonderful and important message.
    I watched Corrie last night against my better judgement, having been in Eva’s shoes, it was a massive trigger for me.
    I think the worst thing about depression and in my case PTSD is not having anyone close to talk to, without having it used as a topic for ridicule and attack, which of course silences me further.

    Keep speaking out all … those who use it as a weapon of choice, are immature and ignorant, they also have no idea how easily it could be them, or anyone

    • I think it’s a huge shame if anyone would use someone’s honesty about mental health as a stick to beat them with, but Im sure it happens. It says far more about them than the person they are criticising.

      • ashamedtobebritish

        Indeed it does, if it was a friend I’d walk away, sadly it’s my daughter

  36. Julie Gilpin

    Found this so helpful, just talking to my son about depression and the importance of talking about how you feel, Regards Julie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  37. Thank you for sharing. I too get the ‘Black Dog’ which obscures my joy and causes my head to explode in negative thoughts. I go from happy hippy to a hiding hermit to control the amount of information i have to process and rest my head and then Bam, a week or two later i am back ‘in the room’ and happy again. My brain doesn’t produce enough of the happy chemical. If my leg was broken , nobody would expect me to run, but when your head needs a rest, people do not understand. I do and more people need to talk about it too : ) I love your humour , your clever wit and the way you make dull case law so digestible with the in bold sections where you point out the things we need to know. You are a star : )

  38. Elaine McCarthy

    Dear Andrew, What a brilliant and brave piece of writing. I am so grateful for your legal posts that help me keep in touch and on top of my work in the most easy to read and fun way possible, and am so in awe of you for your writing skills. So thank you for sharing this about you, that has so touched a fellow LA lawyer, who struggles in all sorts of ways with her own confidence and ‘stuff’. Thank you Elaine

    Sent from my hudl

  39. It’s a shame it’s still brave to ‘own’ a mental health problem thing but it is so thank you for sharing your experience. My brother committed suicide over 30 years ago when it was too hard to talk about mental health – particularly as a man – and it is still hard to admit to having mental health problems in the workplace.

    I’ve had cancer several times and overall in the workplace I received nothing but support – let’s try and achieve the same for mental health.

    Thank you.

  40. Ann Prescott

    What a surprise to read your personal account – thank you for sharing
    A fan !

  41. I’ve been subscribing to your informative, erudite and witty blog for some years now. I enjoy your writing and am looking forward to reading your book when I go on leave soon. I think this piece demonstrates real courage and openness – the tide is beginning to turn about mental health and the stigma it has had. You have helped this by telling us now of something no-one could have detected from your everyday writing and I’m guessing, how you present generally.

    • I’m hoping that part of what people might take from this is that mental health affects people you would never imagine. You can be successful and funny, yet still have thinga going on. And having depression doesn’t make people weak, ithey can be strong too. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, it means so much.

      • As you have stated your employment is in house LA department
        If this department employs an outside firm of solicitors to handle the court procedure I can only advise you to make a career change to this firm
        Throughout my experience of my many, many visits in these courts and witnessing the jolly, back slapping, hand shaking of these court advocates on winning cases is an experience you are missing out on

  42. Wow Andrew that is the most powerful thing i have ever read in relation to mental health…and i never reply to these kinds of posts! Well done. Love A total stranger!

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    ________________________________

  43. Great post, thank you Andrew. And great advice.

  44. Thank you for being honest and authentic

  45. Thanks for sharing. Very few creative people, or people who serve others escape a visit from the black dog. Those who dont self question or doubt are the dangerous ones. We need, as you do, to change the climate and your post does it’s bit

  46. I think you have done a very brave thing. In my daily life, I work with people with very significant mental health and personality difficulties. If we can all acknowledge our own difficulties that will help but I guess that most parents will (rightly) see that professionals have so many advantages, despite whatever problems we might acknowledge. It is really difficult for a parent in proceedings to volunteer any problem, not least because of the value judgements that are made about them
    Good wishes

  47. This perhaps explains how you’re are so able to do your job with such humility and respect for other people no matter what their circumstances. Andrew you are a lovely man and an incredible lawyer ( the two don’t always go hand in hand) x

  48. Interesting that the courageous way you have let us querulous strangers into your personal life has probably produced more comments (all sympathetic) than any of your learned dissertations on the law.An example perhaps of “play the man not the ball !”
    I think all your contributors who deservedly complmented you on revealing yourself so bravely
    have by doing so shown the best and most compassionate side to our human nature.

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