My story? Well, I only realised that I had symptoms of clinical depression recently. And probably that I've had it a lot longer than I thought.
I was always of the belief that depression was a result of a traumatic event, a loss, stress, unhappiness at home, being bullied, those types of things. But it turns out you can just have bad brain chemistry. My brain just doesn't produce enough serotonin.
It dawned on me that I no longer enjoyed the things I used to love. I couldn't remember the last time I laughed. And I mean the belly-cramping, nose-snorting kind. Reading, drawing, playing games, and going for walks didn't make me feel the way they used to. It was starting to affect my work, and I showed little interest or put any effort into my relationship of 9 years.
This was the person that I had spent 3 and a half years travelling the world with. The person who I had bought my first home with. We were doggy parents to a beautiful German Pointer puppy now, and I showed no interest or enthusiasm for making lasting memories or a lovely home together. I just existed. Going through the motions day after day until oblivion. Even though I was always there, she must have felt so alone.
That's not living, that's wasting time.
All through my teenage years, my 20's and most of my 30's I've always been told that I'm so laid back, relaxed and nothing ever bothers me. I always believed that these were good personality traits. Ever agreeable, 'happy' to go with the flow and always aiming to please.
But there were other signs as well. I never had much drive or motivation to do well academically. I often felt worthless, tired, hopeless, and anxious.
I dismissed the notion of it being depression, as I had no reason to be sad.
I had a great childhood with loving parents. I'd found my soulmate and now owned a house in a beautiful part of the country. I had a good job with good people. And I was healthy, and so was everyone important to me.
So why was I feeling like this?
I decided to seek help about a year ago now. My depression had reached a point where I just wanted to vanish into a puff of smoke. Everything, every task, every email, every small job felt like an absolute chore.
So, as silly as I thought I was being, I went to see my doctor. And even before finishing my first sentence I completely broke down. It all came out and as bad as I felt, it was a relief to finally tell someone how I was feeling. That first conversation was a hugely important first step to a happier me.
It’s been a long road. I'm not going to lie and say that the medication (Sertraline aka Zoloft) cured me overnight. I still feel down, tired and some days are still a struggle. But I'm a lot better. My relationship is healthy again, I'm focused at work and enjoying life a little more each day. She’s been very supportive and now understands why there are some days when I don’t want to talk or do anything. Aspects of my behaviour that used to be annoying now have an explanation.
And this made a big difference to me too. Whereas previously I felt like I had to thrust “happy” me to the forefront every day, I no longer needed to. This only drains you further in the long term, and the cracks will start to show. For me, this mostly manifested itself as irritability. I had no patience for anyone or anything and I’d snap and backchat at even the most trivial things.
I’ve always had a very close relationship with my brother and sister. They’re two of my best friends. Furthermore, my older brother has suffered from depression for some years now. So talking to him about how he was feeling and what he did about it helped me take action.
If the coolest and toughest guy who I looked up to growing up was comfortable enough to talk about it and seek help, then so should I.
I’m also fortunate enough to have a good relationship with my manager at work. We’ve previously worked together and have always got on well, at work and as friends. So, telling her was another huge weight off my shoulders as well.
Just telling this handful of people – the people that I spent the most time with daily – let me finally be myself, warts and all, at home and work.
Only a few people know and I still don't talk about it a lot. I guess there's still that stigma around men's mental health which needs to change. So, if you think you might have something, then the best thing you can do is talk to someone.
If you’ve noticed a change in a friend or loved one, even just asking them if they’re ok, or how they’ve been feeling can help. They may not want to open up to you there and then, but at least they know you’re there and you care. And when they’re ready to talk about it, they know they can come to you.
There are so many organisations out there, with people who care and want to help. They offer support and advice to anyone who is experiencing mental health problems.
You don't have to suffer alone. Please, please take that first step to finally feeling better.