May 2, 2017

For as long as I can remember I have been a thinker, a worrier. The most menial of tasks can strike me down in a stomach churning pit of nerves. That has been a constant throughout my entire life.

Depression to me was for weird people. Sad people. Lonely people. How could I ever be depressed? I am not any of those. I have a very supportive and loving family, and for as long as I can remember I have found getting along with people effortlessly easy.

Anxiety? Who on earth knows what that is. It is something that weak people suffer from. I might be a worrier and a thinker, but my resilience and will to continue mark me out from others. Anxiety is for the weak. I am strong.

I'll openly admit that was my attitude to mental health as a teenager. Growing up in the era that I did, with mental health still very much a stigma, and education on the subject none existent - I can hardly be blamed, or be alone in my thinking.

The first time I ever seriously thought that I might be suffering from depression was in late 2011. I had just gone through a break up, and studied for only 2 days a week on a foundation degree whilst all of my friends were off 'making something' of themselves at university. The spare time, lack of purpose and feeling of loneliness consumed my every waking moment.

I put my misery down to the recent break up and ignored my own internal cries for help. "You can't go to a doctor. They will laugh at you." I thought. "You're just upset because you've gone through a break up. Time will heal all."

In this case, it did. Eventually.

When I look back at that period of my life, I see a boy that had only ever known success in his life that had to come to terms with a couple a couple of giant failures. Although painfully shy as a teenager, I had a razor sharp wit and was aware that I possessed a charm that people found attractive and comforting. I had never expected rejection and hardly had the tools to deal with it when it arrived.

Self-doubt, hurt and extreme anxiety manifested into anger and spitefulness.

Eventually, I got myself a part-time job, and managed to get a place at a University for the final year of my degree. My life had purpose again, and I would place the period between September 2012 and January 2015 as one of the happiest of my life. Although not without the odd emergence of the old black dog.

The second serious period of depression began in March 2016. The job I had worked in, with genuine success, for two years was suddenly changed forever when a larger company acquired us, and the changes this brought about became overwhelming.

Once again, irrational spite, bitterness and anger acted as a mask for my deep hurt and sorrow. I became desperately unhappy. Everything about the job riled me. I could not stand the people, the culture or the new pressures.

At the end of 2016, as is often the case at the end of a year, I reflected on the events of the previous 12 months. I realised that I had done many fun things, and had not felt one bit of emotion. The deep feeling of dread had loomed over me at every waking moment. I had essentially lived a year of my life on autopilot. Even if I had not realised it at the time. The anxiety paralysed me on several occasions. Caused me to say and do things that were completely out of touch with my character.

Anybody who worked with me in these times would've seen this, and suspected something was wrong. Or thought I was an arse (which was almost certainly the case with many of my new colleagues!)

Yet to the outside world, I was fine. I laughed, smiled and continued to joke around just as I always had done. It was all a front. Being honest, I even managed to fool myself into thinking I was fine. So it hardly comes as a surprise that others didn't notice.

In early 2017, I read a book by a cricketer named Marcus Trescothick, whose international career was famously cut short by extreme cases of depression. The book inspired me to go and seek help. It was the best decision I've ever made.

I now understand my condition more than ever before. I am learning to challenge my anxiety, and have rediscovered the drive to beat it. I am allowing myself to feel positive. To smile and actually feel it. I still have tough days, and imagine I always will. But the coping mechanisms I have discovered in this short period of time are making life so much easier.

The reason I share my story is not for pity or attention. It is because the stigmas attached to mental health, especially in young men, are still so real. I am a normal person. A strong person. A reasonably intelligent person. This illness can strike anybody down, at any time. It doesn't target weak people, or weird people or a particular gender. And yet, one still feels the need to justify that.

I accept that some people will never understand and I am on terms with that, but I hope that my insight into the mind of a manic depressant helps understand the world we live in!

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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.

Comments

Cracking stuff this. Couldn't

Cracking stuff this. Couldn't have put it any better myself. Since admitting to my depression and 'coming out' about it I am on a mission to get more people to understand. Everybody is a possible victim no matter of your walk of life.

Mental Health & Men

Hello Steve, thank you for sharing your experience with mental health issues. A lot of men feel that is somewhat 'weak' to share their struggles but I believe personally its the complete opposite! Its true that mental health issues can affect rich and poor alike, male and female alike. I too can relate to you: Im an overthinker and worrier. Everyday is a challenge but i have a few coping metohds that help me when my mind becomes cloudy like: talking out loud to myself, listening to jazz/classial music and thinking positvely about myself. But i urge you to stay strong. Dont give up. Dont give in. I hope many more men are inspired to share their experiences with the MH.

Currently in similar situation

Very strange read. Was as if I was reading about myself in some ways. I myself suffer anxiety, OCD, unsure on depression as can only remember the odd dark period. As a teen the stigma around it to me was the same. Anxiety means your weak, depression means your a loser. Suck it up & crack on. I still feel this way now to be honest at 38. Only now am I beginning to seek help for it. Even now I'm struggling to do that, currently in the putting it off period, "iit'll all blow over". My anxiety manifests itself in very odd ways, it clings to something, makes me fearful of it & its outcome & will not let go. For about 12 yrs now it's been about a certain material & its dust & the effects it may have on my family, mainly my children. It drives me completely insane. It's currently lost me my job & possibly worse. But on the plus side my current situation has forced me to begin to 'attempt' to seek help. My fear of the material is out of hand, I have made my family move house twice because of it. I have pots of filler, paint, pva glue all over the house ready to cover up this material if found. Once used once in my mind the paint, filler is contaminated & has to go in the bin & a new one bought which is very costly. My former workplace in my mind was covered with it. This meant I needed new clothing on a monthly sometimes fortnightly basis so as not to bring any 'dust' home also very costly. The clothing I did have had to be washed at a launderette so as not to 'contaminate' our washing machine & then family clothing/bedding. Also all very costly when washing at launderettes twice a week. I have strict rules to follow to keep my mind in check, to many to mention. I do things around the home so much now that to me they seem normal. My partner of 17 yrs is amazing tbh & has stood by & helped as much as possible. Throwing away children's new clothing that was made in countries that still use this material tho, nearly pushed her away. So here I am now at the beginning of the beginning, I feel better then I have in a long time feeling that I am taking control, it's just that first step (which I've currently put off until next week). I have seen my doctor before but his attitude to it all put me off, basically told mentor "laugh it off". Hopefully a different doctor will help me.

Thank you

Hi after reading this I honestly feel so much better about my current situation which is scarily similar to yours, I've been relying on alcohol and bottling things up to the extent I've distanced people through my need for space and disconnection and come way too close to doing things really selfish and stupid. I just want to thank you for sharing your story it's give me a different view of things and I'm going to get help and try improve

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