621 Days and Counting

The man behind the frosted glass. The concept of male fears, depression, despair, hopelessness.
Image credit: Konstiantyn Zapylaie Adobe Image Stock

March 19th 2020, a Thursday – was the last time I worked at my office desk alongside other human beings. A few days after that the UK national lockdown kicked in and we were all instructed to “work from home where possible”.

That was 621 days ago and here I am, still ‘working from home’. Interacting with people through Teams calls and chat or on some days, not at all. On those days, it’s just me, the dog and my double screens.

There is a plan to get us all back into the office for one day a week on a hybrid basis in the New Year however, with the rise of the new variant Omicron starting to get a foothold, that date could be moved. It wouldn’t surprise me. We’ll see!

On the plus-side at least I’m double-jabbed and I have my booster booked in for early December.

Cabin Fever

So how am I doing? At the outset, like most people the novelty of the new working arrangement kept me going. Mrs J was at home with me and the forthcoming Spring weather all added to the ‘we’re all in this together’ atmosphere which kept me positive and afloat.

However, 621 days in, I fear the novelty of working-from-home, on a largely solitary basis I might add, has long worn off and the longevity of my situation is taking its toll. Over that time I’ve seen an erosion of enthusiasm for all of my previous interests: cycling, running and photography, which have now been exponentially reduced to dust. In their place, the void has been filled with food, resulting in a whacking rise in my girth, and the rekindling of an unhealthy appetite for the demon drink.

I fear I may have developed acute cabin fever.

I’ve been feeling pretty low for several weeks now with the void of loneliness and lack of social contact (I don’t have a support network of friends), being filled with bouts of binge drinking which not only causes friction on the homefront but results in massive emotional lows that last several days afterwards. Yet I struggle to keep a lid on it!

Things all came to head last week when I was sat watching a webinar on Men’s Health which was being delivered through Work’s occupational health department. They’re pretty good with stuff like that I must admit.

The usual subject matter was in there: feel your balls, watch your prostate, diet, diabetes and keep out of the sun etc. Towards the end was a section on mental health well being. As he spoke, the presenter delivered a slide which listed out a whole raft of symptoms that may indicate that one could have a mental health issue if one was able to identify with several of the symptoms listed. That being the case it’s worth talking to someone he advised.

I can’t remember all the symptoms listed on his slide and I don’t have it to hand, however the ones I do recall were:

  • Feelings of isolation, being detached
  • Being in a constant state of alert or anxiety
  • Feeling tearful for no reason
  • Worrying about death unnecessarily
  • Finding no pleasure in things you usually enjoy
  • Not sleeping well or disturbed sleep
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities

There was quite a few more – this page on the NHS website lists them out.

This is my first wave of my white flag
This is the sound of me hitting bottom
This my surrender, if that’s what you call it
In the anatomy of my crash

Song lyrics: Smiling, Alanis Morissette

The point being, that as I looked at the slide on the screen in front of me, I found myself being able to put a tick against every single point. As such, I decided to follow the advice given and speak to someone.

The next morning I was sat in front of my GP and it all came out, together with tears. Being a northern English man in his 50’s – I very rarely cry at anything. I think the last time was when one of our family dogs died some four years back. So things must be bad! It’s just not something we Gen X blokes do. Which is part of the problem I suppose!

I left the Docs with a diagnosis or ‘label’ as he liked to call it, of ‘Depression’. Wandering over to a local coffee shop I must admit I did feel a lot better having offloaded my feelings in his surgery but I also felt a bit numb, so I wanted to sit down and mull things over in my head before heading home and back into work-mode.

My doctor didn’t put me on any medication, he wants to try other techniques first and he referred me to an NHS counselling service. This is a strategy I do agree with, however we both agreed that it could be several weeks before an appointment comes through.

Instead I suggested that I take advantage of my Work’s OH dept, get myself referred and they should be able to allocate a counsellor fairly quickly. I’ve been there before so I know how it works, I told him.

So that’s what I did. As soon as I got back to work I arranged the referral and, voilà! I have my first introductory session, by telephone of course in the current climate, this coming Friday. That’s just a week after seeing my Doc.

So let’s see how I get on this Friday.