June 10, 2014

I am a husband, a Daddy to my three beautiful young children, a Mental Health Nurse,   with a good circle of friends, and a person who is confident in who they are and confident about what they want out of life. I was a contributor on the Channel 4 mental health stigma and discrimination documentary “World's Maddest Job Interview”. The documentary featured a panel of business experts and viewers tried to identify which out of the eight contributors had lived with significant mental illness in the past. Some of the contributors had not. I was one of those contributors who said, at the time, that they had not ever experienced any form of mental illness.

So why would I be writing this blog on bulimia and depression? Well, I said at the time of the documentary that I wanted break down the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness for those who had lost someone through suicide, like I had. But what I was terrified of admitting and coming forward to talk about at the time, was my very own battle with mental illness, and that I had also tried ending my own life.

My own family never knew of my pain 

From the age of eleven which is when I first started my “strange behaviour” (as I called it back then) to when I fell feet first into my very own black hole from the age of fourteen through to thirty. I had been living with bulimia and, by the time of my late teens had crept up on me, I was experiencing depression.

My reason for me talking about my mental illness now is simply because I now feel ready to encourage others, and to finally talk about the something that I have kept a secret from friends and work colleague since I tried to end my life and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for five weeks in 1999.

The pain and suffering that I had to injure, as a young man growing up, still lives with me, my own family never knew of my pain, it was all my very own kept secret. Bulimia took over my life, and depression nearly ended it.

Taking about eating disorders and depression in men need not be a taboo subject

To talk about it then was something that I dare not do; things are changing but it is still hard for men in particular to talk so open about bulimia, depression, and suicide. These are still seen as taboo subjects, with huge stigma attached. Talking about eating disorders and depression in men needs to be accepted. And no longer a taboo subject. And for someone who was suffering from an eating disorder, particularly as a young man, the silence that surrounds mental health adds fuel to the silence you suffer with an eating disorder.

I want to help change the perception of men who suffer from mental illness and challenge their stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes towards mental illness.

Men and mental health professionals experience mental health problems too

By speaking out I hope I can encourage other men to seek professional help, and as a mental health nurse with lived experience of mental illness it will enable other health professionals to have the confidence to speak out. Mental health professionals are deemed to be the last people you would expect to have mental health problems, but in my experience this is wrong. We are human after all, we are no different to those who suffer in silence.

There are those who work in mental health right now, too afraid to come forward because of the stigma that’s surrounds a mental health worker with mental illness.

Now as a mental health nurse I see all ranges of mental illness and myself do not judge those who have a mental illness as I know first-hand just how difficult and self-destructing living with a mental illness can be.

Being diagnosed with a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of

I’m a stronger person now and by highlighting my past illness it will help me gain positive attributes rather than being treated on the basis of having suffered mental illness. Having had an eating disorder and depression I will now be able to respond to those people and educate them on how difficult it is to live with. I am sure some people will see a different side of me now; the people who matter to me will take me as they know me now.

I am still the same person as before but a lot happier inside as well as out. I believe I am wiser as I have learnt to cope with my bulimia and depression, and can safely say for the first time in my life I am now happy with myself. What will make me even happier and my work even more worthwhile is by people recognising that being diagnosed with a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of.

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