Last Monday in London I went to see Les Miserables.
On Friday in Oxfordshire I finally admitted I was officially miserable.
Or more accurately I finally went to see the doctor and get some help.
I've got help from the doctor many times before for physical ailments. Moaned about those ailments in the office. Not worried about hiding the tablets on my desk for a bad back, a toothache or similar. But this time was different. Really different.
It was a bloody big step and wasn't easy. The doctor was really nice and talked through the options. I didn't feel judged. I got asked about 6 questions but they weren't intimidating and I felt comfortable to answer. I think the doc was actually quite impressed how much I knew about it all but disappointingly had never read my published 'work'.
I only got given a months worth. I was told this isn't a 'you're on medication for ever' situation which I had worried about. I was also told not to expect instant results and it might take a month, which made me wonder why I only got a months worth. But I had to trust the doctor because they're a doctor.
We also had a good chat about all the other things that I need to do. All that list of things to improve wellbeing and resilience. You know the ones .....
I queued up in Boots (the chemists, not me, I had trainers on) and paid £17 for the potential promise of more happiness or at least a step on that journey.
I got a bit annoyed it costs me so much to help me get fixed but then I was ok because it's not really a lot.
I cried in the car on the way back to work (yep I went back and probably shouldn't have). Partly because I thought I had failed because I couldn't just 'sort myself out' without help, and partly because I'd finally taken that step and I felt relieved, then to top it off Tears for Fears came on the radio singing 'shout, shout let it all out' (they didn't really).
I spoke to my boss on the phone and told him. He was nice. He always is. But I didn't tell anyone sat round me in the office. The stigma is still there, real or perceived, but you can guarantee if I'd come back with a plaster cast on and a broken bone we'd be talking about it and comparing stories (I broke my nose on a bouncy castle once).
I read the leaflet to understand more about the medicine. It made me a bit more anxious if truth be told. I don't think I've ever read about so many side effects. But after some dithering I started taking them yesterday.
So, I've finally taken a big step. It was ok. Fairly easy. Nowhere near as scary as the fear of it. The fear is often more scary.
If you think you might need help or you have a friend or relative who does, go see the doctor. Offer to go with someone if it helps them. You'd go if you were suffering with a physical ailment, they won't make you feel embarrassed, and will recognise that whilst you might be dealing with a non physical condition that doesn't make it any less real.
And if you notice any difference in me in the next few weeks it might be the medicine. Just so you know the list includes purple spots on the skin, blood in the eye, a multitude of other more and less terrifying things including yawning, although if it's the last one I might just be bored.
But it's worth the risk. You've only got one life. You've only got one mind. It must be worth trying to make it a healthy one.
Hopefully this will help me get back to myself. I haven't been myself for some time, in fact more accurately I think I've probably not been well, and I'm sorry if I've said or done things to upset or hurt people I know during that time or been difficult to work with. Sorry. I'm trying to get better now.
So what do I need from you to help? Well if you know me please say hi next time our paths cross and give a knowing nod, maybe tell me (not in front of everyone) it was brave to share (but definitely don't tell me I was stupid to), and accept me for who I am. I'd like that.
Take care, break the stigma
p.s. if you do ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, or like a house of cards, one blow from caving in, put some Katy Perry on and sing it loud......
I try and think about the person reading, viewing or listening to the messages I am sharing. Thinking about what they know. What they might want to know. What I might want them to take away.
This is particularly important in exhibited material on display boards where someone might not always be on hand to explain it. There's one of those in my office at the moment. I stood and read it this week and wasn't clear what it was telling me. Why I should be interested. Even who to contact for more information as there was no name on it. I would feedback but I don't know who to ask.
The way we present ourselves and our messages is as important as the message. In many ways it can be more important.
We know that when we are speaking to someone that there are three elements of effective communication (well I know it because I went on a course, but maybe you don't).
We often spend hours and hours working on content (the words), but give no time to HOW to speak those words (the music) or HOW to animate ourselves visual (the dance).
Its easy to get it wrong verbally, its also easy to get it wrong visually.
We struggle where I work to justify spend on professional looking display material. I managed to get some professional banners made a few years ago but there were forms to fill in and very high level approvals.
So I work using PowerPoint and that's it. Is that the best we can do when the presentation of our messages is so important? If more people read a poster that cost £5000 than one I created on PowerPoint was it worth it?
Public finances continue to be tight which means we need to seek more partnerships.
We can do that in a number of ways, one of which is how we present ourselves, our messages and opportunities.
I'm not criticising my colleagues. We all have to work within the constraints. But how much can we push the boundaries? How can we try and make our messages land better? What can we trial to see if it works? Could we have one person in every office with some proper design software? And better plotters?
Go to an external privately run event and see the quality of the exhibition material they have available. We're a long way off that, but it wouldn't take a lot of effort or cost to get us a lot closer. Would it get us more opportunities by investing a bit more upfront?
Why do you think their material is so professional, I reckon it's because it's important to get their messages across....
So think about who you are targeting and what the take away messages are in all your communications. And please step back and view your material again. Or ask someone else too.
Mr Paul Wyse