People often told me how I always seemed to have such a positive attitude even in the face of adversity. But this persona was a facade masking my true feelings and hiding the truth not just from others but myself as well. In a way I liken it to the image of a swan - calm and peaceful on the surface but underneath frantically paddling away trying to stay afloat.
Myself and my family had been though a series of personal tragic and traumatic events. My wife had lost one of our unborn twins and the surviving twin was delivered early to save both my son and wife. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was surrounded by people who loved him but we watched on as my dad fought, struggled and died a painful death in front of us. This had a profound effect on me. But also as the eldest son I felt that I had to be the strong one and perhaps around this time was the start of my putting on a front.
Over the coming years things did not improve. My marriage broke down, I was made redundant and also diagnosed with a heart condition that took a number of years and many trials in medication to control.
It now felt that there was a cloud hanging over me. I called it impending feeling of doom syndrome. I was now at a point where externally people thought I was doing ok: I was employed, my heart condition was under control and I was in a happy relationship. But I could not relax because in my mind it was only temporary until the next disaster come up. I tried to keep the happy go lucky facade up but it just became harder and harder to do this.
I found myself making excuses not to speak to people. If I was walking down the street and I saw someone in the distance I'd not seen in a while I'd avoid them rather than speak to them. I found it harder and harder to face going outside. When on a bus I'd have panic attacks and just need to get away.
I just kept these feelings bottled up inside. Part of me wrongly thought that it would be a sign of weakness to admit to these feelings. Some kind of macho pride was getting in the way. Another issue was who to speak to: I felt my family had enough of their own problems and I did not want to burden them with my problems. How could I discuss this with my friends? People who had already commented to me how impressed they were that I could keep positive and smile in the face of adversity. How could I admit that I was not dealing with my problems and living a lie?
This all came to a head when one day it all got too much for me. I had a particularly bad episode and whilst on the way to work I just broke down on the side of the road and started crying. I just could not face going on like this my mind was all over the place. It felt like I had too many thoughts. I was obsessive about things I could not control and I did not know how I could move forward. I knew I could not carry on like this and if I'm honest I did consider another way out I thought about just ending it all. I thought that this way my son would not have to face the disappointment of seeing what a failure his father was.
I needed help. This was now clear to me. I went to my GP. I was nervous about telling him what I'd been thinking. Part of me felt ashamed and I still had this thought that somehow I'd failed by not being able to deal with this. My doctor was very understanding and he knew my family well. We spoke about the reason why I had not discussed this with my family. Just speaking to him did not magically make everything better but I knew this was a start and for the first time in ages I started to see a way forward.
After being diagnosed with depression I started counselling sessions. It helped to be able to sit and discuss my issues. It made me realise that I was not the first person to feel this way I felt I was in a safe environment and that I could speak freely and not be judged. The sessions helped me understand so much more about myself, my problems and how I'd been dealing with them or not as the case had been. Speaking to my family was also a great help. At first my mother was upset that I had not spoken to her about what I was going though but she soon understood my reason and was just glad I was now getting help.
The guidance from my counselling sessions gave me the confidence to speak more openly with my family about my issues. I was finally facing up to the fact that I was ill. Just as with my heart condition needed treatment to improve and get better so did my depression.
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