26 Jul My Experience | Depression and OCD
Living with Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
I’m Dave Vaughan.
I am many things. A dad, a son, a brother, a friend. I run a charity supporting people with addiction. I live with depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
I’ve experienced bouts of depression for about 27 years (I’m 43) which I managed, probably quite badly in retrospect, using medication and blindly trying to ignore the issue. Unsurprisingly, this proved ineffective, as I spent years, decades in fact, in various “depths” of depression. Sometimes this would manifest itself as an extreme sadness, hopelessness and lack of self-worth and they were the good days. At its worst it was a mental AND physical pain that I can only liken to a bout of flu, when every movement requires a force of will and the only aim each day was getting through it, so I could go back to bed.
All this time I worked, I trained, I put on a mask for the world. At times I’m not sure how I functioned, but I did. What surprises me now is that, when I mention this to people that I knew at the time they are, without exception, surprised to hear that this was happening to me. I became very accomplished at presenting a public face that seemed professional, happy and content, but keeping up this pretence was exhausting and why was I doing it? Why wasn’t I honest? If I had been then I could have gotten the support I so clearly needed far sooner.
Because things started to get better when I started to talk.
I spoke to a close friend, who listened. They didn’t do anything other than that, but now someone else knew what was going on in my head and they didn’t laugh, run away or try to solve my problems. So, I spoke to more people; my GP, my family. In fact, I haven’t stopped talking since.
Eight years ago, after particularly bad period of poor mental health, I was finally diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, something which helped to bring sense to many of the irrational thoughts that have plagued me for years. The more I investigated this condition, the more I read that being completely present in the moment and letting these anxiety-provoking thoughts drift from view, could ultimately help reduce my symptoms. I had been relatively active all my life, competing in trail runs, the odd Ultra Marathon here and there, but now I started to there could be benefits to my mental as well as physical health. Running (along with mindful meditation. Not something I ever thought you’d catch me doing) provided me with the opportunity to connect with my environment, look up at the world instead of down at my feet, listen to the sounds of nature happening all around me (haven’t run with headphones in since), fill my lungs with air and appreciate the life I’ve been blessed with. Sounds corny but it’s true.
Whilst I still run, injury (and old age 😊) has curbed the extent and intensity to which I can train. However, as an alternative, I joined the gym at Edge Hill Sport and nervously stepped into a new world for me. I’ve never been one for team sports, so thought that solo training was attractive (in hindsight I was probably still isolating myself a little), but the companionship and connectedness I have found from sharing experiences with good friends I’ve met there, who know me warts and all, is something I am forever grateful for. I may have found this through some other hobby or pursuit, but I found it training. Whether it be a circuit, spin or HIIT class, of lifting weights with a personal trainer who knows my limits better than I do, my mind is always clearer for having put in the effort. I don’t always want to go, and often the hardest part of any workout is lacing up my trainers, but I’ve yet to finish a session and regretted it; I doubt I ever will.
If you’ve taken the time to read all the way to the end of this piece – thank you. If you feel unwell yourself, tell someone. In general, people are kind and want to help. You’ll be surprised how much talking helps.
All the best, Dave.