Colin Grist (or ‘Col’, to those that have had the pleasure of meeting him) is a designer for a digital agency in the north of England. His eyes are kind and his smile is genuine.
Now in his twelfth year of sitting in front of a Mac, his craft has been mastered, and it isn’t uncommon to see him mentoring the juniors that work alongside him.
He is successful, talented and professional. He is also no stranger to depression.
Speaking about his condition, Colin reflects on the time he was first diagnosed in 2014. “I’d felt funny for a while. I’d been upset at home for no reason, telling my wife I was ‘tired’. I’d woken up in the night feeling breathless, I’d not been sleeping much, my body ached. But depression? That didn’t sound like me.”
During this time Colin had been working on a series of projects and, like so many who share his desire to deliver only the highest of standards, it didn’t take long for the balance to tip.
“It seemed that emotion was starting to rear its head in my day job. Design jobs seemed to be taking me an age to do. Client amends were becoming more than just that. I was getting stressed. Timings were getting tight on a few projects, and the pressure to deliver never seemed so great.
“I’d notice at home that my arm had been aching for a few days, and then it was my leg – why was I aching? I started getting headaches and then struggled to sleep. One evening I didn’t sleep at all, as I couldn’t get my breathing under control. I’d been worrying that my aching arm was linked to the chest pain I’d recently started getting, and I started to panic. Unable to breathe, I woke my wife up and she calmed me down.
I was told I was depressed. It was hard to listen to, but it was also nice to know what was wrong with me.
“I needed to see a doctor about my chest straight away. There was nothing wrong with my chest as the doctor found out, but other things we discussed read like a checklist of how I’d been feeling for the past 3 months.
“Sleeplessness, check. Aches and pains, check. Breathlessness, check. Emotional, check. I was told I was depressed. It was hard to listen to, but it was also nice to know what was wrong with me (and that I wasn’t having a heart attack).”
Following the diagnosis, Colin was immediately signed off work for two weeks. “I took time away from my day job and didn’t touch a keyboard the whole time” he explains. “I went to the park, ate out, went away for the weekend, and caught up on some of my favourite TV shows.
It might sound like a holiday, but it was probably the most important two weeks I’ve ever taken in my career.
“When I arrived back at work, I felt like a different person – that time off and the sessions I had with my counsellor made all the difference. I felt like the old me again.”
look after your team, take holidays when you should, and make sure your colleagues do the same. Your body is telling you to take a break probably more than you realise.
The ways in which we cope with mental illness differs from person to person, and yet so many of the symptoms arrive in a similar form. Coping can only happen once a problem has been identified, and shying away from mental illness is exactly what this site is designed to avoid.
So if ever you find yourself feeling confused, lost or down, be sure to listen to Col’s closing statement, and not to that voice inside that might be telling you to bottle things up:
“Look after yourself” he writes, “and look after your team, take holidays when you should, and make sure your colleagues do the same. Your body is telling you to take a break probably more than you realise.”