We are Wendy and Alan Hayton from HM Land Registry's Durham Office, and this is our story. We wanted to share our experiences of depression and mental health issues to help other people who may have had similar challenges during their life.
There is often a trigger for periods of depression and for us it was our son's suicide. To begin with, we didn't communicate our feelings at all after this event, for fear of hurting each other. This put an immense strain on our marriage. Fortunately, through counselling we learned to open up and that it's not bad to cry. Life is a series of ups and downs but having each other for support is great as we each understand what is happening to the other and can help. Special mornings at Frankie & Benny's chatting did us a huge amount of good.
It often happens that we take it in turns and then the other can support you and give you the strength to keep going and see the end of the tunnel. But giving that support can sometimes take it out of you and then you can become low yourself.
Wendy: When something happens unexpectedly, like my Dad's death last year, it can knock you both at once. That's when life can be difficult. When you are both suffering and neither can see the way out. For the first time ever when we were at our lowest we contemplated ending it. It took a lot of effort and talking to find a light at the end of that really dark place. For the first time ever, I really understood where my son was in his very darkest place.
There is a lot of support out there and we take advantage of different routes.
I rely on medication and counselling to keep me on an even keel. I don't like to take it permanently because for me it means I lose my natural emotions - imagine life where you smile but don't laugh, or frown but don't cry.
Alan: I take medication every day. I learned many skills from my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course (CBT), a vital tool in managing my mental health. I did my CBT through the NHS, but it is also available through HM Land Registry's staff counselling and support service – the Employee Assistance Programme.
I didn't recognise or like the person I was before CBT and looking back feel shocked and surprised at some of my reactions. Mental Health is a hidden illness, but an illness just the same, and needs to be treated as such.
Wendy: On national 'Time to Talk Day' I stood up in my team and said "I have depression – I could do with your support" and you know what, I got it. That is the best feeling ever. People have much more understanding now and the stigma is finally starting to go. I'm a member of the HM Land Registry Disabled Employees Network which has provided me with support and confidence.
Alan: I went on the HM Land Registry Pathways workshop, which is all about equipping staff from diverse backgrounds with the skills to boost their potential. Standing up during the 'icebreaker' activity, among people I didn't know, sharing my mental health issues and how I was trying to deal with them was a confidence booster for me. The openness and honesty of the other participants really helped.
Mental health affects people, like us, all year round, not just during Mental Health Awareness week.
From our experience, facing it means you're on your way to victory. Don't try to do it alone. Look for help. There are many places to go, but the first is to actually open up to someone. Let someone know you have a problem.
We are challenging the traditional stigma related to the subject – one conversation at a time.
Hold out your hand and we are sure someone will grab it.