I was first diagnosed as having depression in 2004 following the death of my father, nothing overly surprising there. In time, my mental health improved.
I had some ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ over the next few years, but I was relatively stable. Until, that is, my second son was born. Looking back now, it’s quite easy to recognise that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression (PND), but at the time I never considered it could be a possibility. I felt a panic build inside me, and afterwards I just found it difficult to bond with him. My wife at the time was breastfeeding and so I was left out, and whenever I asked if I could do anything to help, I was usually met with sarcastic comments. Things got worse as time went on, and my inability to develop that bond, made it seem to her that I wasn’t trying to help out.
I failed to understand what was going on. I was struggling with low mood, short term memory loss, and general lethargy and lack of motivation – but she saw me as being lazy and awkward.
It built to a head. My wife found me in tears and when she asked me what was wrong, I told her that I had figured out that her and the boys would be better off without me. Her response… “Don’t be so stupid!”
It was at this time I went to our GP and was put back onto anti-depressants for the first time since my dad had died.
I told my boss what was going on at home, and he put me onto the company Employee Assistance Program, and I started receiving counselling. My wife took offense to this.
It would just have been nice to have a “How are you getting on?” or “Are you okay?” but I felt very isolated and alone, unable to talk to anyone for fear of getting the same reaction from others. I was definitely made to feel “less than a man” by her and it was most certainly a concern that I would be viewed as weak by others.
Ultimately, this led to our marriage breaking down and I had to move out.
I’ve spent the last 7 years essentially hiding from everyone – and most importantly, from myself – that I was still suffering from depression. This has affected my physical health too, and I now have IBS and migraines associated with anxiety and depression.
I’ve had a great deal of time off work sick, and nearly lost my job because of it. But it was the thing that gave me the kick I needed to admit what was going.
I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – admit I need help!
As it transpired, when I finally opened up, I was surprised by the number of people who then turned around and said “I know what you mean. I went through something, some years back…” That and finding out people I know quite well, who have also been diagnosed with depression, that I had no idea about either. I still feel a bit “odd” talking so openly about it now, but it is getting easier and less uncomfortable.
I’m now involved in a study of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and I’m starting to get the help I so badly needed. Unfortunately, having waited so long, I’ve got 10-years worth of depression and anxiety to overcome. It’s become part of my normal day-to-day routine to lie about how I’m feeling and hide it from everyone, a cycle I’m finding hard to break.
I wish I had asked for help much, much sooner. But that said, there was much more stigma around mental health 10 years ago and were I to have said something, would I have gotten the help I’m receiving now…? Who knows! But the fact that there are organisations like Time to Change around has made things easier for those of us who are suffering and need help, to step forward and ask.