The theme of this year’s 19th Annual Bruce Woodcock Memorial Lecture is ‘Sharing stories, changing lives’. Each week, as we count down to the event in October, we’ll be featuring blogs from talented storytellers in our community. They’ll be sharing with you their moments of transformation—reflections about overcoming barriers and gaining strength, support and knowledge. The fifth in our series is ‘Silver Lining’ by Wellways Helpline volunteer David Corduff, who reflects on the mysterious way life can work sometimes.

It is said that the world works in strange ways.

Dealing with anxiety and depression can be particularly challenging for those of us who have lived the experience. However, there can be a ‘silver lining’ that accompanies these illnesses, as I discovered some years ago.

I had experienced two bouts of major depression a number of years apart. The statistics suggested that a third, or more, bouts were possible, which somewhat haunted me. I felt like an unseen ghost was hovering, just waiting to slip quietly into my head…I understood the weight of the ‘black dog’ and had no desire to allow its entrée again.

Fast forward to 2005. I was working (albeit poorly) in a role that I should have been more than able to cope with. The day-to-day activities were an unending set of challenges, as I had lost my confidence following my second bout of depression and the anxiety of dealing with customers/staff was huge.

I took a brief break and had a weekend in Tasmania. I returned with infected sinuses and went to see my GP. He confirmed the diagnosis and also checked my chest. That decision effectively saved my life. I had an undiagnosed failing mitral valve in my heart. What followed was open-heart surgery to replace the valve with a metal prosthetic device.

Prior to having the operation, I visited my psychologist, which I had been doing periodically for some time. She expressed great concern, noting that often people who experience major invasive surgery come out of the operation with depression. Despite the pervading doom and gloom, my sense of the ridiculous came to the fore. I asked her whether someone going into the operation with depression could come out without it? She didn’t really see the irony.

The silver lining turned out to be, that as I recuperated from the operation, I had a sense of needing to walk with my anxiety and depression, rather than trying to ‘beat it’. This was to prove a major turning point in my life. I became actively involved in sharing my story with audiences, as well as co-founding a support group for middle-aged men who found themselves on the work scrap-heap without any support.

The world does indeed work in strange ways…and there is always hope followed by resilience.

David Corduff