I am the funny one, the happy one, always got a smile, will help you with anything, I can tell stories to make you laugh and make you feel at ease within minutes of knowing me….But I have a dark secret….I do not recognise who is looking back at me in the mirror, When you walk away from me my smile slips, I feel like a failure and worst of all I started to give up on myself….I have a Mental Health Illness, I suffer with Depression.
In February 2015, I was diagnosed with Severe Depression and later diagnosed with Anxiety. I have been going to Counselling for several months now, watching videos on You Tube, completing exercises, reading books and what spoke to me the most was reading other people’s experiences.
This has inspired me to tell my story and it starts with the fact that I wasn’t the first person to realise I had depression, a close & dear friend spotted that I had been slowly changing. They mentioned it to me a few times and I laughed it off, till one day they showed me around my own flat and my heart sank. The food in my fridge was mouldy, my clothes were everywhere and the washing up was piling fast. I kept thinking how did I let this happen and when did I let things get so bad. That’s was the moment I realised I had a problem and needed help.
The next day I booked myself into the local GP’s office and spoke with my Doctor. I discussed my symptoms, talked about what I had done in my flat and filled in the questionnaire, by the time I had left the office I was signed off work and was heading home to call the NHS service “Time to Talk”. I could say my life changed forever at that point, but the truth is my life changed years ago without telling me! (I know rude of it right?!)
After a few initial conversations and discussing what kind of therapy would be best for me I attended CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help me cope with work and with skills to reclaim my flat. I was shocked at the age range of the group and how there was a lot of men, with similar symptoms that were caused by different life trauma. After this course I learnt a few things that when people question my motives in doing something kind or helpful can act like a trigger. That I go to bed as my comfort zone and do not move. And that my legs shake when I feel anxious….that’s right this was the moment I realised I had an anxiety issue, but it is common that these two would go hand in hand with each other. I had slowly pushed myself away from social environments, making excuses to see friends or visit the ones that live in other towns. I realised It was also affecting my work, I was struggling to answer e-mails putting them off and when I was being chased up for information; I got angry that they were chasing me. I mean how dare them! E-mailing me about deadlines that I missed! Do they not trust me to do my job after 12 years!
Truth be told the organised, keeping the customer informed at all times to keep them at ease me was gone, he had been eaten away and I was just a hollow shell making the motions as if I was alive & happy and was in denial.
I was then referred to counselling I had dealt with how to maintain myself keep my head above water but I had only dealt with the tip of the iceberg, what had caused me to succumb to this was deep below the surface.
I never had therapy before and was a bit sceptical about it at first, but I was determined at this point despite how I felt, I was brought up a fighter and now I knew there was something slowly taking my life away from me I wanted to take it back with every inch of my being.
After a few sessions I was shocked at how much I was beating myself up, the self-loathing, the way I hated how ugly I was on the outside and in. How could anyone love this person sitting in the chair talking about all the problems they had! Surely even the kind person listening to me must be thinking what a poor excuse of a person to let all this get them down day in day out, surely there are people out there far worse than I am!
Surely there are people out there far worse than me? It is true there are people far worse than I was, but I used this sentence, this phrase to not deal with any of my past traumas. After I realised this was the denial talking, it all came out and I finally realised how much I had been through. At 22 I started to have seizures that no one could tell me why, it eventually lead me to have a heart attack at 23. After this things were looking up I met a woman, moved in and despite my illness stayed with me till we got engaged in February 2008 with a date to marry in July 2009. By June we were expecting to become parents but in October 2008 we lost the child and it tore us apart, but we stayed strong together until further bad news was to come knocking at our door.
After many years of hospital trips a doctor finally diagnosed me and after another trip to hospital I was then sat down after waiting 16 hours to talk to about the Major Brain Surgery I required. He calmly explained that I had a problem at the top of my spine. I was deteriorating fast and that I could wake up blind, paralysed or not at all and offered me surgery that gave me a 50% chance everything will be fine or I will wake up blind, paralysed or die. As you can imagine I wanted to do it on my own terms, but my poor fiancée who just lost a child was told that I too could be gone.
I put some things in order and realised that for me it was actually easy to get ready for this and two great men who I worked with for years (Mark Johnson & Dickie Martin) gave me some words of wisdom, “It is the people you leave behind that suffer the most, for your part it is small you either wake up or don’t you will know no difference and be at peace with no more suffering” And because of this I was able to get myself ready for the operation. Luckily the operation was a huge success, with only a few minor problems that mean I had to take beta blockers for the rest of my life, I have tinnitus and have cold hands that can make any grown person scream with shock! Compared to the alternative I was lucky 🙂
Then came my wedding in July 2009, this was one of my happiest days of my life and no one warned me how much my jaw would hurt from smiling for so many hours of photos. The friends and Family who joined us made the occasion even better, particularly with my 4 best friends Dan, Peter, DP and my closest friend Steve.
Unfortunately Steve who I grew up with and did everything together passed away a few months later in April 2010 at the age of 25. His heart gave out and when I received the call my world started to crumble around me again. Steve who was my go to person to talk about my problems for so many years had sadly passed away during the night. I went to make sure my family, his family and friends were all ok and you guessed it I stopped talking about what I was going through or what was upsetting me in life. I switched off and helped friends deal with their loss instead of my own.
I think this is when the Depression started to spear ahead and take over my thinking and festered. By December 2010 my dad had a heart attack and shortly after a mini stroke. And finally the bright hard working optimistic me was gone. And shortly after, Depression would claim one more foothold in my life….My marriage fell apart that lead me to live on my own for the last 3 years.
And still going through this I did not talk about anything I slowly kept thinking I am failure, I am useless, I am fat & ugly I had it all and thrown it all away. 12 years in a career and I was jeopardising it all because I could not take it anymore and all this was happening inside of me without me knowing because I was busy telling myself “there are people out there far worse than I am”
Now I have been going to therapy for the last 3 months and it has been the best thing I have ever done. It is hard it takes me every effort to get of bed, it is hard for me not to lash out if someone cancels on me, to go out if invited to see people and take every long gap in messages from friends as if they don’t care. I am dealing with each of my issues one at a time and because of this I now have some positives in my life not just from what I have been doing but from each of the experiences I have had.
During my therapy I decided to call my ex-wife and talk about what happened, she is now one of my closest friends to talk to. I respect her for what she herself went through in life the loss of a child, watching her husband survive major surgery and then slowly start to fade from life becoming the shadow of the man she loved. Susie is now dating, it did hurt at first, but it gave me the push to actually try dating myself (yes I know what that sounds like, but I meant meeting with women haha :D).
I am now dealing with the next point in my life, how to open up to people, what do I want in life and to finally acknowledge who that person is staring at me in the mirror every morning and embracing him not being scared of not recognising him and so after reading everyone else’s stories I decided to do my own.
This is my story so far and I will have good days & bad days, I will be pushing myself every day and some days I will not be able to fight back but that does not make it a failure, it means I am dealing with something difficult and need to try and remember to nurture myself not be so critical. Life is a journey on the open road, your batteries will run low if you keep driving and not stop for a moment to maintain the car. It can be a bumpy road, it could be the brightest day or the darkest day, but with depression chasing & harassing, you are more likely to keep your foot down and burnout always worried what is behind you and not looking forward till you crash.
But remember you are on life’s road and everyone else is on this journey too, you just need to turn on the headlights and you will see the other cars in the same state as you. They may join you and drive alongside you with more and more lights shining on the road or turn off to reach their final destination or start a new journey, but for that part of the journey you will always remember you turned on the lights, you changed your own journey.
I am 31 now and have a long way to go in life, but thanks to the NHS Time to Talk Team, my GP, MITIE HR, Family and close friends, I have some new tricks to help me and always time to learn more skills when the journey becomes too tough again. I now accept there are people still worse off than me, but what good will I be to them if I crash, all it would do is hurt everyone around me and how can I be at peace with that. So now I have a new motivation.
“I never want to think that everyone else’s life would be better if I was not around ever again!”
Thank you for reading this small chapter of my life story I just hope this may help others someday and so I am looking to continue this Blog for the foreseeable future.