Attacks of Mid Level Depression are usually triggered by some sort of external event, mostly to do with my work. For many years my job as a director and part-owner of several companies has completely taken over my life.
I think about work all the time - that's what I'm paid to do. Because I'm a thinker not a doer I've surrounded myself with people who are hands-on types. My job is to provide the platform to allow them to perform. Generally speaking I arrange the finance and provide the strategic input. I keep a loose hand on the tiller. They get out there and make the money. It's a good arrangement except that it leaves me with too much time to think.
Once a month - on or around the 15th - I suffer the agonies of a sort of management menstrual cycle. That the time when we get our management accounts, showing whether we have made a profit or loss. I usually have a pretty good idea in advance what the figures will show but it's still a time of extreme tension. Not just for me. In a small company everyone in management lives or dies by these figures.
If we make a loss - in any of the seven or eight companies I'm involved in - then I will be plunged into the deepest gloom and depression for at least a month. Feelings of dread, of hopelessness, the total destruction of my self-esteem will follow. I'll suffer sleepless nights, loss of appetite and sexual drive, my concentration will be shot. There'll be panic attacks, irregular heartbeats, headaches and sometimes dizziness. I'll drink more even though I know that alcohol is a major depressant for me. Everything tastes of dust.
But no-one will know what I'm suffering. I'll become someone else. It's an act I've perfected over the years.
I am the leader and one of my primary roles is to maintain morale. I always tell the guys that it doesn't matter if we make a loss - provided we know why it has happened. When we know why it has happened we can fix it. Generally, within a week or so I'll have analysed the figures, taken a closer look at the business and implemented the necessary corrective action. I'll feel a little better at this point but the tension will still be building while we wait for next month's figures. If they don't show an improvement the gloom will deepen. Three bad month's in a row and we're all suicidal. I'll have to work really hard to keep everyone motivated.
Actually, I think my reactions are entirely appropriate for someone running his own business. In some ways it is a matter of life and death. We are, after all, talking about peoples' livelihoods here. This isn't a game.
Whether anyone in their right mind would want to subject themselves to such a regime for so long is an entirely different matter. Maybe that's why I'm selling some of the businesses. I can't handle the stress of failure the way I once did. My nerves are increasingly ragged. I'm shell-shocked and war-weary.
Then there's the other problem, the one that exacerbates the situation. When I am that depressed and stressed out I simply can't concentrate long enough to write even one cogent sentence. I can't even face the challenge required to make a simple entry in my blog. I can't write at all. And that makes me more depressed. And so it goes.
Clearly the answer is to change my job. Maybe. When we're making profits (which with the price of oil is most of the time just now) I am euphoric. The figures validate my existence. I can walk on water. I can laugh and joke with the best of them. I can write all those witty entries in my blog that make me giggle out loud. I am the head of a happy team, a truly great bunch of people. I am loved and universally admired. I am as happy as anyone can be who suffers from persistent Low Level Depression.
Except that I am continually worrying that at any time something unforeseen could happen and at any moment it could all turn to ratshit.