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Coronavirus, Depression, Mortality and Me…

This is difficult to write

I’ve had a tough few years…relationship break ups, international moves, disrupted business, the culmination of which landed me with depression for the second time in my life. A therapist once told me (in my first battle with this illness) that I was a high functioning depressive – because I could get up, get dressed, work, and appear to all intents and purposes like I was ‘normal’ (whatever that is). Certainly, I gave the impression of coping. Then, as now, though I have had an internal battle with why I should even bother to remain ‘here’ – on earth, alive…

The triggers were the same – an old childhood story, a fear of abandonment, and a helplessness to find the language needed to ask for help. Worry that if I placed my trust with others they may break it (and abandon me all over again). It has been a vicious circle.

The journey got tougher

Just when I thought it couldn’t get more difficult, despite experiencing a chink of light in the darkness, my world got more complicated.

Monday 16 March 2020, a dry cough began. And a giggle with colleagues, at the start of the Zoom craze, that I ‘had IT’ – the lurgy. Impossible, I thought, I rarely even get a cold…I was very wrong…

So began one of the most painful, frightening, humbling and salutary journeys of my life. Across the past, more than, 3 months I have come face to face with my own mortality as I have battled with Coronavirus and its hideous after-effects. My post-Covid complications were mostly vascular – pneumonia, pulmonary embolism (blood clot on my right lung), pleurisy, a lung infarction along with fatigue and traumatic stress. It is a brutal disease…

As doctors scratched their heads in disbelief – I’m young (in Covid terms), fit, healthy, no underlying conditions (and boy did they try to find them!) - ‘IT’ continued to ravage its way through my body, each time I thought I was getting better, another thing came along and kicked my feet out from beneath me.

I was scared and exhausted. And in and out of hospital like a yo-yo. (This is the point to give a shout out to the totally incredible staff at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Edinburgh – what a crew! I felt very looked after in their gentle and generous care).

There are always silver linings

And here I am, alive to tell the tale. There is much to be grateful for. Odd though, eh? Given what I’ve said above… 

I noticed, during one of my hospital stays how I felt light, happy (even through the fear and pain), like the black cloud had lifted! How could this be possible? 

It seems, for me – and to be clear, I am not recommending rushing out to get Covid if you have depression! - that the reality of facing death so close up and personal lifted my visceral, real, and yet more imagined, desire to take my life. How? Well, there are many things I could attribute this to – although I am inclined not to over-think it. Certainly, I was far from abandoned. Friends and family were just incredible – walking alongside me (metaphorically of course in lockdown), feeding me, caring for me, showing up at my window to wave – because I was alone and fearful, hardly able to breathe early on. If I ever had any doubts that I was loved – I know now for sure that I am, deeply.

Life can be an oddity … it seems. Presenting gifts from unexpected places.

As my dear friend, Amanda Ridings, said in a beautiful card sent to me after we had spoken about this lifting of depression: “… although the physical cost of the virus is very high, it has liberated you from something much more debilitating.” She couldn’t have captured the truth of this more perfectly.

Please take care of yourself

The purpose of me sharing this story, is to ask you to engage in whatever it takes to keep yourself safe – mentally and physically in these odd times. I know lockdown is easing and yet for me, now is the time to be extra vigilant of everything. How you spend your time, who you spend your time with, the balance of working from home versus having home time, how you shop, how you exercise, who you choose to speak to about things that might be worrying you and making certain that you tune into any thoughts you are having about what next or what might be looming and be right for you in your future. Certainly, I am expecting there to be more personal impact post lockdown as we all realise how stoic we have been through it. When we take stock, it’ll be hard to reconcile.

I hope sharing my personal story is helpful. Please feel free to ask me anything about my experiences – they perplex me a little and I’m sure clarity will come through dialogue with others!

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Posted on Fri, June 26, 2020 in Leadership Personal Development
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