Introduction

Thoughtful Man at sunset

Over the past 2 years I experienced two bouts of work related stress, the second of which was diagnosed as depression.   This first post sets the scene for my journey out of this dark cave and towards a bright beacon of success.

I’m not out of it as yet. What you see here today is a statement of direction rather than a finished product.   I’ll intersperse my blog with a series of updates on my journey

Background

Where to start this journey?  It’s quite difficult to pinpoint an actual time when this all started. I’ve been on a haphazard journey of self improvement for almost 10 years.   Those years have seen some significant successes but I couldn’t seem to reverse the descent.   I couldn’t find the solution despite making changes to my lifestyle.

Project Management Role Disengagement

Collaboration of Hands

For the purposes of this journey I’ll go back to a time when I started to realise that my chosen profession, IT Project Management, didn’t offer the fulfilment that I was seeking.   

I had been successful in a Technical Role and this translated into success as I moved into project management. My Team respected my leadership style and I did a good job of engaging with Technical people. My strengths lay in leading them through the difficult and challenging processes, obtaining the management buy-in that we all believed the organisation needed.  

Sometimes there were difficult conversations, upwards and downwards in the organisation structure.  My success lay in plotting a path and bringing the technical experts along, motivating them and delivering what senior stakeholders wanted.

The Initial Descent

All went well, until this stopped working for me. There were a couple of assignments where I couldn’t seem to reconcile the wildly disparate expectations between management and delivery teams.  

I lost confidence. It was clear that I wasn’t interested enough in the delivery to champion the projects I was being asked to lead.  

This opportunity to lead became constricted as new ways of working were introduced. As project managers we progressively became bogged down by the dull, uninteresting, paperwork stuff.   My delivery was reduced to a tick-box mentality and quality deliverables seemed no longer to be part of the job.  

I hereby acknowledge and own my part in this lack of opportunity. My overall motivation wasn’t sufficient to engage with processes and improvements.

I lost my sense of achievement. Whilst my project workloads were increasing, morale for the work hit rock bottom.   When this happens spinning plates slow down and begin to crash to the floor.   

My confidence fell even further.   I became even more disengaged and disenchantment set in.    

This represented the low point of my entire 35 year career.  

Something had to change.

Going to work on myself.

I started to look at my lifestyle.   Historically, work had been front and centre.   Income was easily six figures but it was becoming clear that money did not equate to more happiness. A lack of fulfilment impacted my health, my relationships and my overall wellbeing.

I thought the solution would be to get healthy and address the 12 hour days.

I decided to take a huge pay cut. If I could cover my household expenses and take a local job, maybe things would improve.   I could address my health and my time issues, some cutbacks would be needed but it was manageable.

Cycle Commute

Initially all seemed good, I could bear the 8 hour days as I was cycling to work and my 20 mile daily commute was a good workout. My health and wellbeing improved.  

The new role came with other benefits, including a good pension package and some paid holiday to compensate.

An even sharper descent

Over time, my lack of passion for the work and associated lethargy and lack of performance reared its head again.  

My delivery faltered and it started coming to the attention of my managers.

I managed the depression by convincing myself that, at some point in the future, retirement would be possible. If I could just maintain the status quo until then I could cope….

It hadn’t really occurred to me to try and understand what retirement actually meant. What would I do?

This holding pattern was only possible if nothing else bad in my life happened.

That was when my partner was diagnosed with primary liver cancer…

More in the next blog.   Chapter 2: Out of adversity.