You’re not supposed to talk about things that make you look less successful, or less happy in my industry: it’s all success, strategy, positivity and, frankly, a lot of rubbish.
So, today, I’m going to tell you – honestly – that I’ve felt my depression creeping up on me again for a while; trying to suppress it’s grip.
There will, I hope, by many reading this who because of their chosen profession, or through peer pressure, or through self-pressure, feel the need to put a mask on. When that mask begins to eat at your face it can be especially challenging because despite the general positively growing trend towards understanding and supporting mental health, the reality is that we’re still scared of it. We still don’t know what to say and we’re still running away from it.
We’re not supposed to pull away the iron curtain and expose that we’re human. The impact of centuries of locking people away, turning a blind eye and thinning out society of those who show signs of struggle still runs deep. We seem to like the idea of being mental health aware and sympathetic and conscious – we talk the talk – but it’s not supposed to happen to us. I’ve written about my depression in Flip the Switch but largely it’s a very private battle. Until now.
There’s a part of me that is concerned that I’m risking my career. Who knows, when my manager and media agent read this it might get taken down. Why would anyone want to hire the speaker who is “depressed”? Who wants to use the broadcaster with depression? The reality is that, I believe, you would never know how I feel. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to spend so much time with nature because it makes such a huge difference to how I feel. I’ve been really struggling this week to focus, to feel positive about much and to pull myself from the grips of the foggy yet perversely comfortable feeling of depression. Until yesterday when necessity forced me outside to sort some things in the vegetable garden. In just an hour or two I felt different: slightly happier, calmer; my mind was still.
I know what’s bought it on; buying the farm and setting up a business as honeybee farmers in addition to the other projects we’ve been developing this year has been insanely expensive. Correcting centuries of neglect on the house and grounds is phenomenally expensive. Buying this smallholding has been the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life but equally the most rewarding. This is why I decided to sit and type this post today – and whether you read it all or not, know that it has been so cathartic just to write. Maybe I should write a journal because locking all this thought up in my head probably hasn’t helped. Money matters concern us all – some have none; some have not enough; some have too much. Whatever our concerns, it’s odd to think that we’re not alone and that, with drive and determination we can alter the course our lives take. For a moment it’s okay to wallow; to let the feeling of helplessness, of being lost, sit with you for a while. In time though, ultimately, we must know deep within us that we have the choice as to how we feel; as to how we let ourselves feel and therefore, we have the choice to star to turn that feeling around and pull ourselves out. Sounds easy – it’s not. But it is possible.
It’s strange how little things can make you stronger though – a comment left on my blog for me to moderate by “Michelle” (clearly not their real name but their IP address is marked so they may as well have used their real name) reminded me of the strange fascination presumably lonely or frustrated humans have with policing the world on everyone’s behalf. “Michelle” told me that I don’t know anything about farming and didn’t grow up with it – which is an odd thing for someone not involved in my life to say. If “Michelle” is part of my life somehow (which would be weird, wouldn’t it, communicating via the comments section of my blog?!) then she’d know that I grew up right next to a farm, 18 months ago bought a smallholding and now earn part of my living as a honeybee farmer. I’ve written about being an “accidental gardener” and learning as we go along; a journey I’ve absolutely relished full of its mistakes and successes.She also wrote that my blog posts are getting mundane and that I used to be funny – well, that’s subjective really but certainly the audiences I speak to laugh in all the right places and some people (unfortunately not the likes of the “Michelle’s” of this world) develop and grow as people; our lives change as the great tapestry of life continues to develop and alter. Our tastes change; our friendship circles shift; our jobs change; we learn more (and forget more!) and live as humans. Some, however, are not as supportive as others and if you look at things I write 13 years ago when I was interested in customer service and then 8 years ago writing about animal behaviour and today, my thoughts, intellect and indeed opinions are going to be very different. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we stayed the same person all of our lives? If we didn’t allow life – people, moments, relationships, animals, sunsets – to change us? To improve us? Wouldn’t that be tragic?
“Michelle’s” call was for me to “clean my windows” (to be honest, they’ve needed a clean for a while but this summer has been incredibly busy) and be more transparent, which is a somewhat ironic statement to make for an internet troll. Everyday of our lives is a new period of time: an opportunity to do something different. I grieve for those who have done the same thing all of their lives, without realising the potential we have to try our hand at whatever we like in life. I’ve had myriad jobs and experiences in education and income, from the NHS, the ambulance service, teaching, studying Franklian psychotherapy, drama, dog training, magic and coaching to writing books and so much more besides. If you’ve never listed all the things you’ve done in your life, do it today – it’s a lovely trip down memory lane and at times hilarious just to see what you’ve done in your life: learnt to play the piano; bought a typewriter; studied a distance learning course; set up my own business; started to learn to speak Spanish; crashed an ambulance car (those are all on my list!). I really enjoy immersing myself in a new interest fully to discover if it’s for me and every single thing I’ve been involved in (there have been always a few core interests that have never changed and which have formed my main income for the past 13 years) I have intended to contribute to and have certainly learned a lot from. What a joyful moment I’ll have, I hope, when my time comes to leave the world, reflecting on a life well lived full of, as Dr. Viktor Frankl writes, meaning and purpose.
But in our lives we unintentionally upset others. I don’t think it’s our fault – in some cases it’s the other people. They take a dislike to you or perhaps are jealous of whatever it is that they don’t have: success, happiness, physical possession – whatever. And, in the case of people like “Michelle”, set in time their dislike for you. We don’t have to like everyone we meet in life but equally why waste the limited time you have in your life on those you don’t like? Why did “Michelle” take time out of their life to write to me to tell me that I’m not funny, that I was involved in a legal battle (I wasn’t – it’s a rumour which I’ve never bothered much to “clean the windows” of because I moved on, unlike “Michelle” who some 7 years later is still thinking about the rumours, and as the great saying goes, “haters are always gonna hate”) and questioning my sincerity? Our fascination with the lives of others can be unhealthy when it prevents us from living our own lives, from moving on and from focusing efforts on our own success, interests, happiness and life.
Depression takes on many forms; clinically diagnosed, self-diagnosed, a little “blue”, no “get up and go” and every other individual connotation possible. I’ve no idea the impact of being more vocal about having depression will have on my career. Perhaps it’s not a good idea but I do know that hiding from it isn’t a good idea and that trying to portray happiness and success and positivity all the time is not sincere; is not healthy and it’s not human.
Jez Rose is a speaker, broadcaster, honeybee farmer and tea drinker. He is the recipient of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award and author of Flip the Switch. In 2017 he launched a research program to evidence the impact of nature on health, wellbeing and behaviour and is invited to speak at conferences in the UK, Europe, Middle East and America on behaviour, leadership and thinking differently to achieve different results: www.JezRose.co.uk