The HR Juggler

Day 14: Shoulders To Stand On

Posted on: December 14, 2013


Sometimes it’s easy to assume you know what someone’s story will be, particularly if there have been some high profile successes of things they have conceived, co-ordinated and championed. And sometimes, a powerful reminder comes along that such assumptions are completely baseless and we need to start from where we are and listen to the stories that peopleĀ have to share.

Today’s post is by David D’Souza, who can be found on Twitter @dds180 and over on his blog.

Artwork for today (and every day!) is by the brilliant Simon Heath.


“God knows what is hiding, in that world of little consequence

Behind the tears, inside the lies

A thousand slowly dying sunsets”

People help the people by Cherry Ghost


I think this is going to be a long one for a couple of reasons. The first of which is that I’ve got an occasionally rambling style which lends itself to long posts and the second of which is that I’ve got a lot to say. In my head this is an outpouring of a blog that I haven’t quite found a place or a tone for during the year. Somehow writing for someone else creates the small bit of distance I needed to share a bit more depth than normal.

Over an 8 week period in the autumn of 2012 my father in law passed away, my mother in law passed away, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and for the first time in my career I faced being out of work. Over the past year I’ve just about kept things together, at times I’ve only just kept things together and I’ve often faced the crushing feeling you get when you want to help people and can’t. I like to help people, I’m a smart kid and I can solve most things. But you can’t solve bereavement and you can’t solve terminal cancer. You can’t solve people’s pain – it just is there when you wake up – and you just hope it has lessened slightly by the time you go to sleep. I’m not sure how many people who I’ve met recently would know that this has been the background to my year. And I guess this blog is partly about sharing that but mainly about the fact we never know what is going on for other people and what they aren’t sharing. Which is why sharing is so important.

When I was 18 I had a similar period in which things fell apart. I fell apart. It seemed like everyone I cared about was suffering and I couldn’t help. If you saw me at 16. I was one of those kids who has most things going for them – good school, good results that came easy, decent at sports, well liked. I was ill equipped to cope with things not going right.

If you saw me at 21 I was a shambles. There is a growing openness about depression and it seems most fitting to share this at Christmas, because that is the time life can hit hardest. I went from a relatively happy kid with everything ahead of him to a university drop out with a stutter and the kind of crippling insomnia that people who don’t really understand think is just ‘not being able to get to sleep’.

To say my behaviour was erratic is an understatement – I’d submit an essay to University, get a high enough grade to pass the whole term and then attempt to drink enough to get to sleep. Sleep is the real problem. I’m talking about seeing the clock tick over to 6am each morning without having done anything except having stared at the ceiling with your brain racing so fast it feels like it will never stop. I was as alone as anyone could be and with such a sense of numbness that I never thought I’d care for anything again. Nobody ever knew how bad it was, over time I slowly began to function again. But just to function.

And then gradually the years passed. And I gained a wife. And I gained a career. And the bad things became memories and the good things became life. And then I gained a daughter – and for anyone who is a parent you’ll understand that not feeling anything is hardly a problem at that point.

And then it all went wrong again – only this time I was ok. I’ve not been great, but I’ve got by. I’ve probably coped better than most would. Partly that is because I have a family to look after, but mainly because I have more people to look after me. I share with people and they care and they let me vent and that is what gets you by. My mistake when I was younger was thinking that strength is carrying everything on your own, thinking that not being able to deal with things alone makes you a failure. Dealing with things alone just increases the chance of you falling over.

I’m not going to write about my year on Twitter or get into the whole social media debate in depth. What I will say, is that you can never have too many people you can trust, you can never have too many people to turn to and you can never have too many people to share with. If you are struggling in the run up to Christmas there are people there who are happy to help and care. Use them.

I’ve been amazed at the amount of people that I share my rubbish year with, who have been experiencing similar. And then we stop being two people with problems and start being two people wanting to help another. And that is where strength comes from. For the people who have helped me this year – thanks, I’d like to think I helped some of you too. I really hope the people that made a difference know who they are. If you think it may be you then it is.

For the people who need help next year – give me a call, give someone you trust a call, give someone a call. Sometimes it will crush you if you try and deal with it on your own. It may feel like you are trying to be strong, it just doesn’t work that way. For people who need help now – it’s Christmas, don’t stay in, don’t stare at the walls. There is joy and generosity out there and just take a gamble that you might be able to feel it for a bit.

I wish everyone a really great Christmas. I hope communities keep growing because that means support keeps growing – and that means fewer people fall and there are more shoulders to stand on. That can’t be a bad thing. If you do want to support other people this Christmas then charities including MIND and Cancer Research benefits from the profits of our book, Humane Resourced.

Merry Christmas

9 Responses to "Day 14: Shoulders To Stand On"

Dear David,

I write this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat; although we have met briefly in person, see, I didn’t know your story. I still don’t know enough but thank you so much for sharing.
You’re so right in saying about halving our troubles by sharing, only people fear rejection and weakness and as a consequence suffer in silence.
There are so many good people around us wanting to help, especially in the Twitter HR community. So, I echo your sentiments of sharing and caring, there are enough shoulders to stand on, if only we look around us and put trust in people who want to help us.

Here’s to a a 2014 of sharing and caring. My hand of friendship is there for you to take… X

I can only imagine some of the stuff that you have been through. I have my stuff to deal with in the last couple of years but nowhere near yours. Your writing has given me some perspective so I guess I have to thank you for writing what you have. That feels odd and wrong to say that but I hope you get my intent.
I guess what I have learnt that being “strong and stoic” does not help, and once I opened up to some of my issues then things became easier. Mine was admitting that I could not cope with all the extra stuff I had taken on in my life. When I said I can’t continue, people said my smile came back!!
Put me on that list, if ever anyone wants to call.
Have a great weekend David.

Really appreciate you taking time to comment. The one thing I’ve increasingly realised is that it is all relative. I was sitting with my mum whilst she had chemo earlier in the year, wondering how it could get worse, when a 12 year old child came in with her father and had to sit through his.

It’s only ever about perspective, but the best way to get that is through others.

Have a great weekend,


Such a beautiful, moving and honest post. You have helped me in more ways than even you probably know and it is an honour and pleasure to call you my friend. You are stunning: a brave, intelligent, caring, funny, insightful, compassionate and wonderful man. I hope, by speaking out, you that encourage others to add a link in the daisy chain of trust and support that makes life not just easier but richer and more bearable. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this and thank you for taking the time to help me with my job search issues early this year. You were there for me as a sounding board and were full of practical advice and support that really helped my mindset. I had no idea of the full picture you were facing at that time and can’t thank you enough for taking the time to help me

We all need somebody to lean on. A fantastic piece of prose David. It’s been a pleasure working with you this year and I hope that will bear fruit for you in 2014. Peter

Back stories seem to be part of the new era of how we operate these days. You’ve shared yours, I immediately feel not only that I know you better, but see the connection between us, comparing and contrasting our experiences. And yes, these things build trust. Honesty and openness build trust. And they show integrity – that fashionable quality we are all supposed to be bathed in professionally.

I’ve noticed people asking for my story frequently, it never used to happen. I’m happy to share, and have done in conversation many times (I had a like-never-before rollercoaster in 2011) but I’ve never considered putting the words on paper before. Maybe I should.

As for the helping thing – like you, I’ve been blown away be the help offered, and been able to give via contacts made online. Collaboration, synergy and mutual support is what is all about for me. Vive Le Revolution!

What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing. I wish you a happy 2014.

[…] is far too modest to give himself any plaudits for the amazing stuff he’s done and this post, number 14, is no […]

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