I was 23 years old, I had found the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and I was feeling content…and then out of the blue, a bombshell came that was going to massively affect my life. My wife, being a caring and compassionate person, tried to help a family member financially, and was left with their crippling debts. We stuck together through the two years of fixing the damage, but it took so much out of me emotionally. Sadly our relationship has never been the same.
During that time, my mental health was affected badly and I found it difficult to cope at work. I wasn’t the best at what I do but even so, I started to behave uncharacteristically. My timekeeping started to deteriorate, and I came in 20 – 30 minutes late each day and didn’t seem to care. I was being aloof from others and disappearing for periods at a time. My concentration was affected, and it was hard to learn new things. My colleagues started to leapfrog me in the hierarchy, with people who started later than me getting promoted.
Unfortunately, no one seemed to realise I was struggling with my mental health. Instead, I was accused of not pulling my weight, doing the bare minimum or sitting on the fence when things were going wrong.
I felt as though I could do nothing right. Instead of being in their mate’s corner, it felt as though everyone was sticking their boot in.
I felt useless with no self-esteem, no confidence, not even the ability to retaliate; something seemed to be preventing me from doing anything. It was like my body was numb and I had just been tasered, unable to move and be active.
I wished they had responded with more sympathy. They could have asked "Is anything troubling you?" when they noticed my attitude had changed, and reassured me it was ok to ask for help.
Since then, my own attitude to supporting others struggling with their mental health has changed. Sadly, my uncle took his own life and initially I was dismissive that he could have had depression, due to my own ignorance. Someone from the company I work at also took their own life. After my own experience of depression, I feel I would take action if I noticed someone behaving differently to normal.
My advice for reaching out to someone who might be struggling is to:
- Look for somewhere quiet and ask the question - "Is everything ok?"
- Reassure them not to be ashamed to ask for help if they need it.
- Signpost them to services who can offer them support.