June 15, 2016

blogger AndrewMy story began eight years ago but only really became clear to me three years ago, after I had a heart attack.

Eight years ago, I lost my mum to cancer and my nephew to meningitis within two weeks of each other. I was grieving, but there was more going on that that. I wouldn't speak to anyone about how I was feeling and I became more and more isolated. I was scared that if I told people what I was feeling or what I was going through, they wouldn't understand. I was trying to earn a wage to pay the bills and had I young children, I didn't want them worrying about their dad.

Being a male, I decided to bury my head in the sand and carry on regardless. Spending a lot of time on my own, working more hours to keep myself busy and out of the house. My family thought I was grumpy and moody as I was always snapping at people. In reality I was slipping into depression and couldn't speak to anyone. I didn't want my bosses thinking I couldn't do my job, I was a manager running a busy sales office. I needed my job. 

Work was becoming more and more stressful as targets where getting harder to achieve. I didn't pass on the stress to my staff and soaked up more and more, becoming anxious on a regular basis. I was worrying about debts, so everything was getting on top of me. I still didn't speak to anyone. I didn't really understand stigma but in my mind I was scared of admitting that I had a problem. I was definitely self stigmatising.

Eventually everything came to a head and I had a heart attack. The doctors can't say for sure that stress and anxiety caused it but that it was a definite factor as I had no other risk factors. My blood pressure and cholesterol were both normal. My poor mental health eventually affected my physical health.

At first I again tried to deal with this on my own but soon realised I needed help. I visited my doctor who suggested medication, but I didn't want tablets! We discussed counseling and decided CBT was the way forward. I had six sessions which helped massively. I left my job and spoke to my family and friends about how I was feeling and what had been going on. Talking about it and facing my problems definitely helped me to come to terms with everything.

Now I speak to groups of people with Time to Change about my story in the hope I can help other people. I've realised sharing my story is the most powerful tool I have. It helps other people, but it is self-help for me too, as I never hide away or get myself isolated, and never forget what stigmatising myself caused.

The best piece of advice I can give is to speak out. Especially men. Don't hide away, because you may not be as lucky as me. I came out the other side, but I may have not!

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.