As someone who lives with depression, I am used to the feeling of dark clouds looming towards me from the horizon. That feeling – sometimes arriving as suddenly as a thunderbolt or as gradually as a slow dripping tap – of an episode of depression hitting me. Like someone has switched off the lights, slapped a pair a sunglasses on my face and made me swim The Channel fully clothed. The heaviness of a ten ton weight pushing down on all parts of my body, mind and soul. The loss of confidence and hope is like being hit by a bus.
I recognise these sensations and the abject awfulness of the experience and so I spend every day – in truth, every hour of every day – working hard to keep that particular wolf from my door.
- I run every day.
- I play golf at least twice a week (weather permitting – I am not a fair weather golfer but I am certainly not an any weather golfer!).
- I read for news (including the two best newspapers in the world: the FT and The New York Times) and for escapism.
- I try to write at least one meaningful and important thing a day – it can be as simple as a well-crafted, thoughtful email.
- I spend as much time as possible with my darling daughter and wonderful wife who fill my world with love, light and laughs.
- I listen to music and podcasts throughout the day – I am writing this with the help of the unplugged Tony Bennet.
- I don’t drink alcohol (26 months and counting).
- I drink good tea – the best that Yorkshire and Fortnum and Mason has to offer.
- I give a big piece of my heart every day to Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox.
- I believe in politics and political leaders (some of them) as a force for good and try to be positive about the ability of a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world – because it’s the only thing that ever has (thank you to Margaret Mead and Aaron Sorkin for the reminder).
- I watch the West Wing. A lot.
- I pray every night with my daughter at bedtime, including at the moment for an election of a president in the US who treats people as people.
- I bet on Irish horse racing and follow the Irish rugby team.
- I cook every day.
- I think about how I can play a small role in making the world around me a little bit better.
- I plan ahead.
- I try to keep learning.
- I make lists.
- I give myself things to look forward to.
- I try hard – although rarely succeeding – to live in the moment and not look too far ahead.
- I listen to the radio.
- I avoid people and situations that make me unhappy, doubt myself or love life a little less.
- I make time for breakfast during the week and for special breakfast with my girls at the weekends.
- I remember that work is nowhere near as important at being at home and not working.
- I try to be kind to myself.
These are some of the tools in my mental health and wellbeing toolkit – the stuff I rely on to try to make the good moments last longer and keep the bad moments from turning into catastrophic ones. I need a combination of some of these tools every day, even in the best times, but with new clouds racing across the sky at me, I need all of them even more than ever. The mental health weather forecast for the next few days looks pretty unsettled. So many things that I care about, worry about and think about are at stake………..
A new England-wide COVID lockdown is about to start with restrictions that will hit hard, including on my wellbeing-important golf. The lockdown was announced by a prime minister in whom I have zero faith and even less respect. The US election is two sleeps away with the prospect (receding but still real) of four more years of corruption, a total disregard for any human life that doesn’t come with the name Trump and a selfishness that makes 1980’s Britain look like Attlee’s new Jerusalem. Liverpool are playing away at Manchester City without the best player in the world. The Red Sox roster is in disarray. The dark nights are kicking in and the actual weather seemingly getting worse by the day. It’s no wonder my head is starting to feel cloudy and under siege.
But I know, from bitter experience, that there is no trick, silver bullet, magic spell or miracle cure (although I’ve tried taking tablets as well), that can make the bad weather disappear. There is just hard work, commitment, faith (that it will pass) and the love and hope that my various tools and interventions can give me.
The next few days and weeks may be tough but I know that I have the tools for the job. I just need to be prepared to use them all and do whatever it takes to get through it. As someone once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. It’s time for me to dress for the occasion.