Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Gwen: Stage of happiness

That sense of elation… it’s the same when you see a really good Shakespeare production.


There’s just something very special about going to The Globe, it’s one of my happy places. I haven’t seen a rubbish production there and the crowd’s great, in the groundlings.  It’s very noticeable, when you watch a comedy, how much better it is to be a groundling because you’re closer to the actors. You are right in the thick of it. The atmosphere is… intimate. I always feel quite elated when I go there. It was a fiver the first time I went to about 12 years ago. That’s quite remarkable that the price has not altered in all that time. I think that’s brilliant, makes it so accessible to people.

To me it’s a bit magical, a bit Dr Who-ish, you are transported back in time by the environment.  You can see things as they probably were when Shakespeare was writing his plays and how they were performed. The building itself is just remarkable. The first time I went, I was in utter awe of the building and the performance. I still get that feeling when I go to The Globe, it’s my fifth or sixth visit, now. There’s no other place like it to see a Shakespeare play. The whole thing is just glorious really. Its a treat, it’s not as if I can go there every week- it’s too far away. So it’s something I really look forward to. I really get excited about going.


There is something really joyous about going to see a good theatre production, especially Shakespeare. I don’t go often enough, which irritates me. If somebody goes to see their football team, that sense of elation you get from seeing that, it’s the same when you see a really good Shakespeare production. Especially a comedy, it’s hard to see the humour unless you see it performed really well.

I was a bit nervous before I got this job because I wasn’t going back to the other place for all sorts of good reasons but then I hadn’t sorted out a job to go to either,which was scary.  I thought I might have to sell my house and all sorts of other, bigger, scarier decisions. I feel very lucky to have got this job, in a place where I feel comfortable and happy, where the staff are very pleasant. I’m at the blissful ignorant of the internal politics stage. I feel lighter. I’m a different person, more content.  When I get up to go to work I have to remind myself that it’s ‘work’ because it doesn’t feel as stressful as the last 12 years have been. I’ve recently left secondary (teaching) and defected to Further Education. It’s different in lots of good ways. Most people are part time, a lot of people have had difficulties, I suppose, in their lives so it’s the right place for them for that kind of reason as well, very similar mentality. The students are great, lovely kids.

I’ve been with my other half, A, six months now. He’s lovely, very kind and gentle and sweet. We like the same kind of stuff. Go to the same films and laugh at the same bits, which is good. Take the mickey out of each other, miss each other when we’re not together. Which is still very soppy. So [I’m] very content in that way as well. It’s really just lovely. I feel a bit more…supported in general because I’ve got somebody who really does care. Genuinely.


I feel like I’m a different person [compared to] the first time you interviewed me. I was just trying to contain these horrible, miserable emotions, and it takes a lot of effort. Not leaving you energy for much else really. I’m doing more social stuff. I go out most weekends with A, or meeting up with my friends. I still don’t really go out on a [work] night but I don’t feel exhausted. I suppose I have the energy to do my job properly, without being stressed at the same time. So decision making is very quick. My thoughts are not fogged by self defeat or stress or tiredness. I am awake enough to function well.

It’s taken me a while to get confidence. I probably hadn’t taught for 5 or 6 months before, probably a bit longer actually. I was off work for a very long time so the fact that I can credibly teach- I think I should be satisfied with that.I feel like I like teaching again and I don’t think I have felt like that. properly, for maybe 3 or 4 years. It was grinding me down. There were bits that I enjoyed but overall it was getting too much – it was crushing me.

I’m not noticing whatever pressures there might be, if there are some, or I’m not making a big deal out of it. I take a deep breath and remember that it’s different, it’s not the same people, it’s not the same place. No need to panic. I can be quite honest with my line manager which is really nice. She’s quite a straight-down-the-line person, which is brilliant. I think we are treated very reasonably and fairly, basically. I made a point of telling her how long I’d been off work, the medication that I was on and some of the stuff that had led to me being off work. Not all of it but you know, the key things. I wasn’t judged as a result of the things that I told her. Which was, I thought quite remarkable. I think lots of other members of staff have had difficult things to deal with so it wasn’t anything to bat an eyelid over. Relief. Just to be listened to, is the most important thing to your manager. So you don’t feel like a nothing.


Part of the thing with depression [is] the monotony of how you feel. It’s just a big, flat line, the’re no peaks, no troughs, nothing. So it’s very, very difficult to see that things might get better because all you’ve got is this horrible flat line of nothingness. It’s really simple. I tell myself ‘This too shall pass’- a Gandalfism- this will get better but you can’t see it when you are in are in the thick of it. You’re blind to even the notion that things will get better. You are convinced that things are always going to be this way. I’m sure it’s gonna come back but as long as I’m honest with myself and recognise those early symptoms, or the flatness, I can get something done about it and keep myself better. You have to have a bit of a leg up with medication,counselling or whatever. Recognise what you need and just do it quickly otherwise it’ll just last for way too long. It will pass and I suppose be honest with the people around you. You can tell them that you are having a dip or a depression spell. You might need to get help from friends and family that way as well and help is what you need. It’s not a weakness.




I feel lighter. I don’t feel weighed down by everything. If I wasn’t so cautious I might be bandying the word happy around. It’s probably a bit too… my cynicism won’t let me. I’ll go with content. [I feel] calm, quite content, got my sense of humour back. I enjoy getting up to go to work. Things are not grey or monotonous. I also feel sort of useful. That’s important, I guess, to have a purpose again.


Gwen: Stage of happiness