April 21, 2016

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.

What did you think of the issues in James' blog? Tell us in the comments:

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.