Debbie Stokoe’s memoir Awakened is a frank and honest account of her battles with work-based stress and mental health issues.
She’s channelled those experiences into her writing and fantastic new website to help others stay sane at work. In this wonderful guest post, Debbie talks to Book and Brew about her journey. Prepare to be inspired.
I didn’t expect to write a book. Growing up, I didn’t ever believe that I would be a writer. But as my life took strange and unexpected turns, I started to realise that at one point I was going to have to share my story. After suffering bouts of severe depression caused by work-related issues and staying for too long in stressful professional careers, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about having to go back to some extremely dark places and describe what happened. But I knew that I had to do it to help others going through similar situations. And getting what happened to me down on paper (or in most cases on my laptop) meant that I could finally put these difficult times behind me. A win-win situation, surely?
My memoir, , addresses many issues that have affected me – childhood perfectionism, fear of failure and success, work-related mental health issues, struggling to find my passion and purpose. I discuss how my ambition and competitive nature took the joy out of my childhood and teenage years. I pushed myself really hard and was determined to get A grades for everything. A combination of low self-esteem and laser-like focus and determination caused me a lot of pain. I also reflect on the dangers of choosing a career too early and pigeonholing yourself into a life without trying other things. I don’t believe we should put that much pressure on ourselves so young. I firmly believe we need to experience life before making big decisions which affect our future. I was attracted to careers in the law and teaching, maybe for the money and status, but learned the hard way that these routes weren’t going to make me happy. It was like sticking a square peg in a round hole.
It was difficult for me to write about my depressive episodes, as part of me didn’t want to let myself go back to those times. Also my memory of what it felt like on a daily basis to be battling anxiety and depression was hazy (a recent mild bout of depression in April did its best to remind me of the despair, the inability to see the good things in life, and that apparently I’m worthless and not very good at anything). All lies, of course, but when you’re down you don’t have the strength to argue.
I’ve tried so many ways to get back in balance, and I discuss them in the book. Exercise works, but you have to fight through the lack of energy and negativity about moving for it to have any positive effect. Medication is necessary when you’re severely depressed, it’s a chemical imbalance after all. I take an anti-psychotic and have to live with the notion that I might have to take it for the rest of my life. After years of feeling terrible, it switched the light back on for me. When I was in hospital l also had Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) which was extremely effective for me. I became interested in holistic therapies and spirituality, which has given me hope and a belief in something bigger than myself. This has helped massively. Finding my passion (writing) and starting a blog five years ago has also played a crucial part in my ongoing recovery. I realised I could be paid to write for businesses and became a copywriter. Being self-employed helps me to some extent, but it can be a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes I question whether it’s the best way to stay in balance.
The final chapter of the book is where I share what I’ve learned walking this path, as well as the books, organisations and other things that have helped me to recover and live a ‘normal’ life again, whatever that means. Last year I founded Stay Sane At Work to help others that are suffering from work-related mental health issues.
is full of information and resources, and also has an inspirational blog featuring stories of people who have experienced difficulties at work and overcome them. The is a place where we can share information on work-related mental health and work/life balance tips, and support each other when things are tough.
is available on Kindle and is soon to be available in paperback on Amazon.