I have always wanted to share my experience with mental health problems but never really known where to start, so I'm starting here. I have always been an unconfident, anxious and fearful individual for no apparent reason, but never really knowingly understood that I suffer with depression. When I was a teen I suffered with what I now know was depression and had a breakdown when I was nineteen. I suffered and struggled for sometime as to what was happening to me and to try to make some sense of it all. I slowly got better and have had bouts ever since but never too severely. I am 39 now and married to an amazing wife, have a lovely son and acquired a wonderful step daughter.
Things got bad in December 2014, I remember starting to feel low and going to bed one night and thinking to myself, "I'm going to have this brain forever and I don't really like it". That one thought started it all, I slowly went downhill, started not sleeping, being constantly anxious and not eating. I lasted about 2 months with barely any sleep and lost over a stone before I cracked, couldn't hide it anymore. I was laying in bed, been awake the whole night in complete panic and I called to my wife, "I think I'm suicidal". I felt so guilty and ashamed to say those words, it was also my son's birthday, some how we managed to get through the day.
I broke down at work the next day, couldn't concentrate, couldn't rest, I was living in a nightmare, a vicious circle of not being able to sleep but also not being able to wake up. If I'm honest, (and I know that sadly some people will understand this), that if there is a heaven and hell then I have certainly been prepared for the latter because I was in hell. At the end of that week I had had enough, I phoned a crisis number that I had been given from the doctor after an unsuccessful visit, I just couldn't cope. I had reached the lowest of lows and literally just didn't want to live anymore. I felt totally helpless, couldn't understand what was happening to me and wanted someone to just take care of me. There was fortunately for me a centre in the town where I live and they arranged for me to go into see them. I thought that I was going to lose everthing, my family, home, job and couldn't see a way back. I was experiencing suicidal thoughts, paranoia, psychosis and high levels of anxiety - I actually went blind one morning with sheer panic!
Although no one single thing cured me, (and I tried a lot, Reiki, NLP, CBT, meditation, anti anxiety drugs, herbal drugs, changing diet, exercise, I even stopped myself from chasing a vicar down the hight street to see if he could help). I took from them all and found what did help me and learnt to be patient with myself and to like myself again. I know now that I am prone to depression and anxiety and still do have bad days and moments and just like having a physical illness there is an underlying fear of a relapse. However I have learnt a lot about my emotions and how to recognise signs and also what works for me on bad days.
I feel it is important for me and others to tell our stories of mental illness. I want to help change the minds of people that don't realise the seriousness of mental health problems. I have been quite lucky regarding stigma and most people that I have told have been positive. However I play football and the changing room can be a tough place sometimes and I wouldn't feel particularly happy to share my problems there. From my experience I believe sadly that some people are still of the opinion that depression is just people moaning and a weakness and that they should just get on with it. I stopped playing for quite a while due to anxiety and didn't explain to anyone why as I was unsure as to what reaction I would have got. If I had had a physical illness I think it would have been a different story altogether. I've been told that I come across as a big, competetive, competent bloke, (which is most certainly not always how I feel), so I am proof that it can happen to anyone.
I also had to have some time off work last year and although most people were supportive I did feel, and still do to a degree, that people treat you with kid gloves. I understand that this is sometimes a caring reaction but can also be a bit patronising at times. A very good friend of mine once said he didn’t know if to shake me or cuddle me when I was trying to explain to him the way I felt. I can totally understand how he felt as there are no real physical signs, but that’s why it’s important to write, share and educate people that have a lack of understanding and a certain view to help to end the negative stigma of mental health.