As this year’s Self Care Week is focusing on being healthy and fit, today we’re talking with Mike Shevyn, a member of staff, about his personal experiences with depression, exercise and getting support.
Hi, Mike. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do in the University?
I work on the Exams Team within Registry and I am responsible for the Invigilators that we use for exams. My job involves interviewing, training, scheduling their work and paying all Invigilators. I also schedule the exams that are sat outside the main exam periods, help out with Graduation and update the Teams webpages.
When did you first realise you had depression?
I first realised that I had depression at the end of 2010. Looking back I had depression probably 15 or 16 years before that but didn’t recognise it or admit that I had it.
What are your experiences of this illness?
Depression can be a very debilitating illness. When I first realised and admitted I had depression I just didn’t want to do anything at all. I would stay in bed for days; I didn’t eat and had little sleep. I felt worthless and helpless and didn’t care about anything.
How has it affected your life, privately and in work?
You try not to let it affect your life but it does. Work wise I realise that I can’t do everything and I have to delegate some work however this can have an adverse effect at the same time as you think you aren’t coping. Privately it has made me think about who I am and what I stand for. It has made me question a lot of things that I do and say.
How do friends, family, and/or people you work with respond?
It took me a long time to tell my family and we still don’t talk about it. My friends were a lot more supportive and without their support it would have been much harder to cope. Work is a difficult one, the people who I work with didn’t really know how to respond but there was a little support. Depression is not an easy subject to talk about especially at work; it isn’t understood and can be difficult to explain.
Has exercise helped?
Yes exercise has helped. It gets you out of the house; you get some fresh air and gives you something to do. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do whether you go for a walk or go for a run. You feel like you have accomplished something and it just puts you in a much better mood.
You’ve used the University’s Staff Counselling Service – how has that been?
The University Staff Counselling Service has been a great help, all the staff are very supportive and you aren’t judged. The Counsellors I have seen have been very good; they listen and ask questions at the right time. They make you think about things and you do go away from there feeling a lot better about yourself but also with things to think about and even change. You do really need to go to counselling with an open mind to get the most benefit.
Have you had other support?
My doctor is very supportive from prescribing me medication to suggesting websites and other forms of self-help and just understanding what I was going through. My friends have also been a great support; they are just there for me when I need someone to talk to.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your experiences?
You learn a lot of things but for me I have learnt how to understand myself and cope with life better.
Do you have any advice for any members of staff who might be struggling to cope with depression?
You have to accept that you have depression; you may think this sounds silly but until you accept this fact you aren’t going to get better. Don’t think that depression will go away by itself: you need help. Try all the different treatments that you can until you find the one that helps. Learn about depression and read other peoples accounts, you won’t then feel like you are the only one that this is affected. I think that you also need to talk to other people, whether it is your family, friends or a professional. Tell them how you are feeling and how it is affecting you. Don’t bottle everything up inside; it doesn’t help.
Interview by Keith Lynch, Staff Counselling Administrator