Even when those closest to me, people I trusted and loved, told me I needed to see a doctor I didn’t listen.
It was 2004, and through no fault of my own, the bottom had fallen out of my world; I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight, every single thought became a negative that grew and grew inside my head until only the worst conclusion was conceivable; but I refused to ask for help. I’d had similar thoughts and feelings since my teens, so I assumed I just had to try and get on with it - and anyway, I was nearly forty… a grown man with teenage children… and men are supposed to be strong aren’t they…?
My work colleagues knew something was wrong – every day the tears would come, and I’d have to leave the room and hide in the toilet until they stopped. I’d go back to my desk, and say nothing, but bloodshot eyes are a real giveaway….
Then one day, quite out of the blue, I knew I had to go to the doctor.
I sat down in front of a man I barely knew...and broke down
The problems hadn’t gone away, the downward spiral hadn’t slowed, and I don’t think there was an identifiable trigger or a reason for the change… somehow I just knew. I booked an appointment, went along to the surgery, waited for my name to be called, sat down in front of a man I barely knew… and broke down.
Eventually I was able to tell my story, and the doctor couldn’t quite believe I’d “coped” (and I use the term advisedly) for so long without coming for help. Depression was diagnosed; and that “help” came in the form of trips to a counsellor (which didn’t work… for me), and some prescribed medication (which did…).
For so long my mind had felt like it was engulfed by an immovable black shroud
After a couple of months I felt I was able to look at my situation, rather than being engulfed by it. The issues don’t magically disappear, but the new-found objectivity did allow me to start to rationalise things – and it also made me realise just how low I had become. For so long my mind had felt like it was engulfed by an immovable black shroud, and was being squeezed until all the happiness had gone…
I fought it so hard… but in the end it needed those little capsules to give me the clarity and renewed energy not just to fight, but to fight back.
I was able to rebuild my life
Within two years, with the support of those who mean the most to me, I was able to rebuild my life. It wasn’t that I actually said all that much about how I was, or had been feeling; more the knowledge and comfort that someone (be it a relative or a close friend) was willing to listen if I needed to talk.
I didn’t want sympathy… I’m not even sure it mattered whether or not I was fully understood… simply being accepted (and loved) for just being “me” meant everything. A few months later, I met the wonderful woman who would eventually become my wife and, although there have been some difficult days along the way, the emotional scales are now weighted very much in favour of “happy” and “content”.
Don't ever be afraid to ask for help
Recognising something is wrong is difficult; acceptance is even harder, and that first step to ask for help is the toughest one of all…. but tough and impossible are two very different things, and however much courage it takes, don’t ever be afraid to ask.
Mental illness can affect your life, but trust me it doesn’t have to control it.