5. The pain begins

The crash started at the end of a week where every night I had some form of social engagement. By Friday night, I was not able to speak after I reached home from the last engagement for the week. This happens to me now and then, and my wife and I attribute it to my introverted nature, and the low level of energy that comes from too much social activity.

By Sunday though, things weren’t improving much. I decided to take the kids and have a walk around the reservoir near our home. This is a good 6 km, and usually does me a world of good. I know I felt proud of the boys for only starting to complain towards the end of the 6km. We met some otters on the way, swimming and feeding in the reservoir, and that was good fun. I don’t remember smiling much.

What wasn’t fun though, happened at dinner time. After we’d all showered, we were having dinner together at home, when suddenly I found myself breathing hard, and bracing myself for a sudden attack. I felt myself panicking a little, and glancing around to see where the threat was. It took me a short while to realise that I was having a panic attack out of the blue. I forced my muscles to relax, telling myself to take deep breaths, and un-hunched my whole body which had curled in on itself. The attack passed.

I told my wife. We were both worried, but didn’t know what to make of it. So I went to bed, preparing to go to work as usual the next day.

I don’t remember how I felt when I woke up. I do remember how it was when I reached the office. I walked very slowly. And I fought hard not to cry, for no reason at all. My senior had to advise me on my presentation for the next day, and he mistakenly took my expression as being really discouraged by his comments. I wasn’t. I was simply just struggling not to cry for the whole day at work.

That night, I went to see my family doctor, and after speaking for a while, we agreed that my old nemesis was back. Depression was knocking on my door again.

I think that suicidal thoughts were already creeping in at this point. The weekend had found me wondering how it’d feel to jump off a high floor, but I didn’t think it was anything serious. As the feeling of wanting to cry refused to abate, the urge to harm myself was greater, and my family doctor was concerned enough to keep me talking. I don’t like taking medication that changes the way I behave, and anti-depressants generally have that effect. He gently persuaded me to start medication, just in case, and helpfully wrote a memo for my bosses in case they needed it. I was honestly panicking at the thought of taking MC and resting when I was barely a month into a new job!

I called my senior, and my reporting officer, who were both very very kind. They told me to rest, and focus on my health. So I started a chain of medical leave, to try to get myself back into shape.

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