My depression story has many heads, some that I didn’t know about until I started a counselling programme. There were many straws on my back and a breakup was the finally straw that broke me. I suffered from what my counsellor believed was PTSD and childhood blockages.
Hitting rock bottom, struggling to sleep, struggling to be motivated to do things I enjoy. I turned to Alcohol which spiralled me out of control. Regularly drinking over 10 pints or 3+ bottles of wine.
I was gently directed by some amazing people to start seeing a life coach who started my counselling process. She then encouraged me to speak to the Doctor who was amazing, explained what anti depressants do, quelling that stigma quickly- anti depressants are a drug to rebalance your brains natural chemicals that become unbalanced. After 12 months course of several different medications and 6 months coaching I started to turn the corner.
I added several things into my daily or weekly routines- long hot baths to be alone with myself to process myself and become happy within myself. Music allowing myself to escape negative feelings- I added yoga at classes in Rochdale and meditation via apps on my phone. All these allowing myself to relax and steady my mind.
I then started reading books, Chimp Paradox to understand the mind, autobiographies of people with mental battles Joe Thompson, Danny Scunthorpe, Tyson Fury and Ant Middleton.
A major lesson that I learned from my counsellor was the below:
Hiding emotions only lets the fester the more they fester the more they grow the more they grow the more they damage the more they damage the more they affect you life and so on...
Accepting those emotions, giving them time of days allows healing also always dealing with those emotions making them small bits which are bite size and manageable
Lads please don’t be afraid to discuss anything you may think is small, pointless or meaningless! Don’t let it fester be at peace with yourself and your mind.
Find your true support network, people who are solid as a rock and will support you no matter this situation. I am forever grateful to my Mum and Dad for their unconditional love and support. My none judgemental friends and greater network. You’ll be surprised who stands up and counted when the times are rough but please remember people are there to listen people want to listen and people want to help.
One love and much love
I used to appear to everyone else as an optimistic, happy-go-lucky type of person. However, on the inside, I was a lifelong worry warrior crippled with self-doubt. The climax of this came on Tuesday 4th June 2019, the worst day of my life. This was the day I was supposed to be managing a large event at work but couldn’t physically get out of bed. Yes, the black dog had well and truly entered my life and was taking me for an exhaustive walk.
It all started when I didn’t sleep at all for 3 weeks due to relentless to-do lists filling my anxious brain. This culminated as 14 weeks off work, no routine and constant darkness and discomfort for most of them. By discomfort, I mean chronic fatigue, restlessness and a stabbing pain in my stomach caused by the stress hormone cortisol operating in overdrive. With this brought shame and a sense of mourning for my own ‘normal’ life. Because funnily enough when you get so stressed that you burn out at work it’s usually because work makes up too much of your identity and how you see yourself. Now, I can’t confess to planning my escape route from life but if someone had offered me a fatal accident, at that moment in time I would have snapped their hand off. Although deep down I did want to live, I didn’t want to live this particular version of life.
But, thankfully, with the incredible non-judgmental support from a close network of family, friends, work colleagues and a fantastic new loving relationship combined with some professional therapy from a cricket fan in a shed (yes, really!) and a small dose of Sertraline I began to see some light.
One of the most notable examples was when I travelled home after walking in the Lakes with two of my biggest supporters, my dad and brother who insisted on ‘Test Match Special’ being the background accompaniment for our commute. At first, I was less than impressed by their selection bearing in mind I’d first fallen in love with the game of Cricket back in 2005 with the Ashes winning summer that year and nothing had quite compared. Since then, I’d probably unconsciously fell out of love with cricket. Anyway, I soon decided that I had no other choice than to relax into the drive gazing at the passing mountain tops, with the World Cup commentary blaring out of the stereo. All of a sudden, I found myself giggling in the back seat and felt alive again for the first time in months. Who’d have thought the dulcet tones of Aggers & Vaughan could be so therapeutic?
That wasn’t the only time Cricket gave me joy this summer. Not only did I obviously enjoy our Super Over World Cup win, but I also played the beautiful game myself. My first family holiday in ten years meant a throwback to our youth and a makeshift cricket wicket using a child’s Tennis racquet for a bat. I’ve honestly never felt so content than scoring my maiden century in the Spanish sun and stopping between overs to sip on our San Miguel’s! This was all a sign that I was coming back to life with the vigor I had before.
Shortly after returning from Spain I was offered a new challenge at work which has allowed me to fully feel like myself again. Now I’m focused on living life experience by experience as opposed to chasing a never-ending goal of finding my perfect ‘happy’ life. I’ve become passionate about supporting others who may currently be at rock bottom and play a small part in preventing this. So, if you’re currently feeling a little (or a lot) out of sorts, here’s the advice I wish I’d been given:
Try to remember that you are not the sum total of your darkest thoughts. For example, just because you might be struggling to get out of bed and hate yourself right now, it doesn’t mean you will never be a confident morning person again. It just means YOU ARE ILL. Try not to judge yourself as it will only hold you back. Your previous successful days might have included scoring 100 runs or bowling the whole opposition out, now it might simply be getting dressed. Celebrate those little victories.
Even at your lowest, remain hopeful and constantly challenge yourself to believe you will enjoy life again. Look back and remind yourself of the moments you felt joy and love for others. But most importantly, if there are days you literally can’t lift your head off the pillow and just feel like eating ice cream whilst watching re-runs of past Ashes series, then do it. Then whenever you feel you can, be brave and embrace the world. Write that stuff down, each day list your achievements however small. Reflect and keep writing until you no longer need the list.
I know the proudest moment of my life will never be a job promotion, getting married or buying a house. It will always be the day I got showered and left my house before anyone else for the first time in three months. Once you experience happiness again, after you have felt rock bottom, I promise that every experience you enjoy will now feel like a legal high. Be proud of your journey, no longer fear the judgement of others and see expressing your vulnerabilities as a strength.
The brain is also part of your body, so it needs to be given attention and daily dedication in terms of training. We are all different, what works to keep one person well won’t resonate with the next. Work hard to find what works for you and you will reap the rewards. Here’s some ideas that work for me:
“THE COMEBACK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE SETBACK”
It’s not weak to speak.
Mental health is the most important thing in the world, that effects us all in different ways.
I was first hit with depression when our good friend and team mate Alex took his own life. Back then I took it really badly resulting in going out drinking lots to try and numb the pain. I was young and naïve ( it doesn’t work like that) Fast forwards a few years, I had an accident which has resulted me in being in chronic pain 24/7. They had me on morphine, tramadol, pregabalin, anti-depressants, liquid morphine and more. I was having to take over thirty tablets a day.
This was very, very bad for my mental health, not only had I just gone from being the most active person but now I could barely walk for nearly two years. This had a huge impact on my life, I felt that life wasn’t worth living anymore and over those two years I toyed with ending it all.
My parents would have to hide my meds. After feeling the outcomes of suicide first hand I just couldn’t do it. The lads from the cricket club would come round with take away curry and come around to watch Monty Panesar's DVD to try cheer me up. In all honesty if it wasn’t for my incredible family friends and support network I genuinely wouldn’t be here. I still have rough days were I don’t want to carry on but they are nowhere near as frequent as what I used to go through.
Mental health is the most important thing on the planet, having this accident/injury has taught me that sometimes its okay not to be okay and to always reach out for help, even if its just a cup of tea with a friend or the lads coming round to cheer you up when you feel you can’t go on anymore. There is always someone on the end of the phone who you can talk to. They don’t even have to talk back, just listen. I would like to thank Sefton and the lads for always having my back.
I first spoke to Mark a few months ago about writing this piece, and it’s not so much about putting it off, but about not knowing how to start it.
As I write this I’m on the train back from a great day at Lords watching Jimmy bowl out the Indians and a sort of flashback came to me from three years ago, when I went down for an Ashes test and couldn’t get out of the hotel due to panic attacks and anxiety. Things do get better- I am living proof as are many others.
That said…whenever I heard people say “things get better” it did nothing for me at the time. I struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety and battled addiction and when I was in that dark place, no matter how many times people said it…I didn’t for one minute believe things would get better. When you’re in that place, no matter how hard you look for it you can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the most lonely place in the world.
I think the stigma amongst mental illness is slowly starting to turn and is becoming more spoken about, but when personally in that position I found it impossible to talk about for a long time. I honestly don’t know why…I think it’s a multitude of reasons. Pride and shame all at the time, denial, fear…however I think, for me, at least if you can’t make sense of your thoughts how can you expect other people to? That was how I felt anyway, but now I realise that’s not true, there is help out there and help from people who’ve been through it and seen the other side, because no matter how you get there and how lonely that place feels, we are never alone.
Finally “opening up” and getting help was the most terrifying thing for me, but I can honestly say I know what the phrase “a weight off the shoulders means.” When it was out there I could stop hiding, I realised very very quickly I wasn’t alone. For such a long time that’s how I’d felt, I was the only person in the world feeling this way but it truly is overwhelming quite how many people feel the same way. I had been self medicating with alcohol for a long time and that made me feel ashamed, I was stuck in such a dark hole it felt my only release was to repeat the process.
Once I had accepted help, it didn’t all change in a day, I wasn’t “cured.” But I woke up the next morning and I didn’t feel alone any longer, I didn’t have dark thoughts about what I perceived as my only way out, because they were becoming more and more regular.
In terms of the alcoholism I will never be “cured” I have come to terms with that, when people ask me “will you ever be able to drink a bit again?” I answer no. I tried that, I think when I first accepted I had a problem I never quite accepted that was it. Now, I have and I’m approaching 18 months sober, and it does get a lot lot easier. I used to wake up and think about a drink, now I don’t. I just don’t drink. I still go to meetings and I will continue to. If I wanted a drink, I can have one there’s nothing at all stopping me, but I have completely accepted I am incapable of just having one drink and the consequences for me are not worth thinking about, but that’s OK now….it wasn’t at first, I couldn’t accept that but as time goes on I can.
I have learnt it’s not about just not drinking…going to meetings and getting honest with myself has affected my life in so many other ways than just being sober, I used to lie to everyone…to hide, I wore a mask that said everything was ok, but now things really are OK…I can look at myself in the mirror and know I am an honest person. I don’t always get things right…nobody does, but that’s OK as well, that’s life. I don’t have to beat myself up about that.
I would be lying if I said I don’t still get anxiety. I do. The difference now being I can take steps to deal with it. It’s not always easy, but I can turn to friends now and say “I’m not feeling right.” I can tell my family. And I can’t tell you how much that helps. The minute I say it out loud, it feels better.
I have coping mechanisms, for me there’s two big ones that work for me. Meditation…10 minutes to relax my mind, and simply writing everything down because whenever I am anxious it’s because there’s a million and one things swimming around in my mind. Even just knowing that now is a huge step for me, knowing what makes me anxious. Those two techniques for me help me realise that the things that make me anxious are manageable, and to be quite honest…they’re rarely a big deal.
Last year, I wrote a piece for Opening Up on what it was like for me, I was overwhelmed with the response I got…it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most freeing in a way. I remember hearing an early talk from Mark and he said to me “if it’s got through to one person in the room, that’s great.” After writing that piece I had people open up to me. I don’t say that to blow my own trumpet, far from it…I say it because it really couldn’t be more true that by opening up yourself and accepting help, and getting honest I found I could help others. Being able to help others is not something I could ever do before, and it is also the 12th step of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It does get better.
* Read Matty's original piece on life with addiction here*
Growing up I had a privileged upbringing, parents/ grandparents that would do anything to help me achieve what I wanted and for this I can’t thank them enough.
I was lucky I was a natural at most things, picked up new skills/traits easily and managed to breeze through a lot without trying.
Sport was always the forefront, football in the early years quickly moving onto cricket. I was always a high achiever within this playing football for Huddersfield, cricket for Huddersfield & Yorkshire, Broad Oak senior team at 12. I achieved a lot within this and I’m forever grateful.
I never really saw myself as a superstar or someone who was good at it to say the least. That came naturally through the rise I had. Granted I always wanted to be the best I could be, but most of all through the ages I wanted to score goals/ runs/ take wickets.
Once you rise the environment you’re in becomes aware of who you are. This changed my views of myself. It created a mind set in which every time I do something I have to be almost perfect, whether in sport or later in life work.
Once the pressure is rising the thought process of myself changed, I would constantly question every decision every mistake every good time. I stopped seeing the good and only focused on the negatives.
As many are aware I had a lot of great times in cricket achieved more than I hoped and dreamed of. But to me this was never enough! I under achieved. I viewed myself as a failure. Not done enough, not where I am, failed myself, family, friends everyone!!
I threw myself into uni, achieved a degree in Sport.
But upon finishing I had nothing in my eyes. I was at home, no job, Fucked the cricket up, nowhere to go dreams shattered. A failure as such!!!
This is when the depressive thoughts kicked in. it overcame me like a thunder storm. I was trapped, fighting myself every day. Tired, angry, hurt I was lost.
All I could think of was the negatives, the failed life plan, letting everyone down. What was I supposed to do? I fucked up right? The superstar everyone thought would be doing this, is now what? A nobody! A failed person.
I hated myself for it. How could I live with the guilt of letting these people down? What can I do?
The worst was the mental pain. I was crying, breaking down in shops, walking, anywhere I was so messed up.
This is when I tried it. Physical pain. I couldn’t bare it anymore in my mind I thought a physical pain would take it away. I punched a wall breaking my hand, what did this do made it all worse! I’m now mentally and physically struggling.
I got to the point of suicide, why should I be here? What’s the point anymore! I would get in my car and just think of driving through walls, off roads.
If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be here.
Since the major start. I have had periods of relapse. I’ve self-harmed profoundly, contemplated suicide on a number of occasions. My arms have scars surrounding them and shows the physical pain I induct to try contradict the mental.
Over a few year period it was on and off. I thought I’d had control but then it would spark up.
The PCA have been instrumental in helping me and I can’t thank them enough.
As well as a local GP who helped me through the toughest times.
I still have down times. If things seem wrong or make mistakes I find it extremely hard. I just want to be perfect, yes this is impossible! But to me it sometimes feels it isn’t. this has been taken into everything I do. The smallest mistake or annoying thing increases and I can’t stop it! Work especially I just want to do it right! Make an impression show people I can.
It’s an ongoing battle and I still have bad times but I am finding ways!
Admitting was always the hardest thing. I went to the doctors and said I’m struggling, they diagnosed me and sent me away with Tablets. I took them thought right I’m fine now sweet.
I never really admitted that I was bad until a few years later.
I ripped my arms apart with a knife and my mum/dad found me. The pain on their faces and how scared they were hit a nerve, the kick up the arse I needed. It made me realise that I am loved and I have to find a way.
I went back to the doctors and also for the first time spoke with the pca.
I was assigned a councillor which I say monthly and medication from the doctor which over a year has been adapted to what I need.
The best thing I could say was speaking. I was ashamed a 20 odd year old bloke who’s lived a life of luxury, playing pro sport having it all in people’s eyes, has depression? Why would I admit that?
I contemplated for months and months until finally I sat down and wrote a facebook/twitter post.
I was scared, what reception I would get? I had already pushed myself away from everyone what now!!
But honestly without doing that I don’t know how I’d have got through. The reception and support I received I am eternally grateful. My cricket club friends, people I grew up with, members of the public rallied round and gave me a lift to push me on the journey. It is true when they say talking is the best way!!! I can’t deny it. It bloody works!!!!
Seeing a counsellor has showed me that I can talk. He provides a safe place to let it all out whatever the case without being judged.
The way he helps to view things is something I’m talking into my life and trying the techniques within everything.
Running/ walking the dog. It allows me to switch of and just let it out.
My ways are different to others I still struggle but I now have things in place to help.
This is a little snippet of my struggles and how I can improve my mental health. I would love the opportunity to share further and help others through these times.
If anyone ever needs any help please get in touch
At first, I felt like I was just in some sort of rut, university was at a stage where the workload was steady but not overwhelming exactly, so my nights out were quite regular (minimum 3 times per week) plus afternoon drinks and trips to the Student Union bar for food or to watch sports. As well as the Ashes being on too which meant more drinking and less sleep and mixing it with junk food as well wasn’t a good mix.
Soon the drinking increased and my mood worsened. I was skipping lectures and seminars despite being awake and dressed for them. The thought of leaving my bedroom was hard enough for me, let alone my flat. Soon enough my attendance slipped to a level where I was having meetings with lecturers to discuss what was going on. The happy go lucky attitude I had on nights out where I could talk to anyone and everyone had disappeared to where I just drank to excess and to blank out the thoughts going around in my head.
The thoughts I was having were constant self-doubt, on everything from my course work and practical’s, to even just being able to socialize and be around my flat mates for any length of time. Not in a paranoid sense but more like I would begin to panic and feel uncomfortable through nobody’s fault and just need to take myself away and be on my own.
I have always enjoyed time to myself and being on my own so it wasn’t something that my flat mates noticed for quite a while. They only really started to notice when my drinking on nights started to get regularly out of hand or if I would walk back in the next morning having just been wondering about on my own. Don’t get me wrong, Lincoln is a beautiful city and it is an amazing sight to sit by the castle and cathedral to watch the sun come up but before the shops open at 8/9 in the morning there isn’t that much to keep you out so I was just lost in my own head.
The next big give away to my flat mates was me now becoming more and more cut off from everyone, going from having a vibrant social life with housemates, friends from my course and team mates from the University cricket team to myself unless others came to me and even then I wasn’t always the most welcoming person to them and this was because in my own mind I was thinking all the time; “why are they here?”, “I don’t want to spend time with myself, why would they?” and “I want to get out of here, but it is my flat”.
Thoughts like that clouded me a lot of the time over the next few years until I truly hit rock bottom and along with my housemates there was now a lot of intervention from my family and from my tutors on my course as it was now becoming visible to all that despite of how much I tried to hide it, my issues were beginning to now show themselves to everyone. This is part of what really shook me and made getting help at this point difficult. I felt like now people could see me struggling and knew it wasn’t just with the course work load or anything like that, that the paranoia grew in my mind of “what must they be thinking about me?”
The self-doubt and issues are still there in my head even to this day despite being in a better place and now I am T Total as well the issues with drink, thankfully, are no longer there now, despite the other issues with anxiety and depression, my coping methods are staying strong so the low moments and now outweighed by the high ones.
The worst feelings I had though through all of this was like I was being sucked further and further down, which consequently was more into myself and why I became more isolated and withdrawn from everyone I was so close with before I hit my lowest.
A lot of my coping at the start was assisted by medication prescribed to me by the doctor and psychiatrist at the University. It took a while for me to really feel the benefit of these as I was still in a bad place with everything. Once I started to believe what I was being told by doctors and listen to the advice I was getting from the psychiatrist and my tutor, I started to feel a real belief in myself start to grow. It took a while though, well over a year, by which point I had graduated from University and started in my first job outside of the academic world.
I have started using a lot of positive thinking techniques and lots of reinforcements to help, reminding myself of successes, either in the past or recently (in work, sport and day to day life). Reminding myself of these does help to keep my spirits up when I am feeling low but also give me that boost to my motivation I need to kick on with work/sport.
I have also found speaking with those close to me has helped. My closest friends have possibly been the biggest helpers to me in my fight against this illness. Knowing they are there to talk to but knowing as well they aren’t there all the time does help. I worried at first about who to talk to and how much to divulge as I was constantly thinking that I didn’t want to burden people with my troubles and make them worry about me if I really told them everything that was going on with me.
The best way I have found to help get through my issues have been has been to try to pick out any positive from a situation no matter how small it may seem to be. This is something I would do before but only look at it negatively, almost like thinking “wow, that’s not much to be happy about is it when I’ve failed so badly at the rest”.
Cricket has been a big help in this, being an all-rounder as well which means I get three chances in a game to make a positive impact. But in the same breath with that I have always found that if one part of my game is on song that day then the other day get raised to it as well, this may be purely psychological and be a boost to my mood and ego while playing.
Knowing where and when to stop, you don’t have to keep going until your body gives in. I used to constantly be running myself into the ground. Be it sport, university, work, my private life or just by trying to not give myself chance to think.
This was an area I knew straight away needed to change. Having nights where I would some times have 2 hours sleep because of staying out late, staying up all night to do work/watch movies/play video games, waking up earlier to go the gym before lectures/work. Was good in the short term as it meant I got stuff done or didn’t allow myself time to think but long term it did damage as I was eating junk food more as I was too tired to cook for myself and have a healthy diet and I was just becoming more generally lazy and closed off from everyone as my attention span had basically disappeared.
Setting myself a limit, I.E. 1 more game of fifa then turn the xbox off, is something I have found to help as it means I now go to sleep at a decent hour and with having a new born baby it also helps as it means I have a good amount of sleep before getting up with him in the mornings.
WHAT I WISH I HAD BEEN ABLE TO SAY TO MYSELF WHILE SUFFERING
· Do NOT close yourself, your friends are your friends for a reason. They will back you up and are there for you.
· Look for the positives, no matter how small they seem to be, they are always something to build on.
· Team mates and friends are always there and will want to be with you for a positive reason. The whole world is NOT against you.
· Look at what you are doing to your body. Lack of sleep, alcohol abuse and take away after take away are not the way to get the best out of your life, body and yourself. It also damages your brain beyond recognition at times.
· Take inspiration from role models and idols you have. They may have been through similar, see how they dealt with these issues.
· Read and listen to others who have been through what you are. They could help you deal with what you are going through.
· Set realistic targets and limits for yourself.
I first became aware I was suffering with depression in 2014. After several flare ups of my ulcerative colitis (with complications such as shingles and sepsis), each time after it looked like I was finally improving I got ill again, and began to get more anxious about my health leading to depression. In the words of my doctor “if someone throws enough snowballs at you, eventually they start hitting you”. After a colectomy in 2015, which led to me contacting sepsis and nearly dying, followed by my father passing away whilst I was still in hospital, I began to suffer quite badly at times.
With hindsight, I think I’d always had a degree of anxiety – always wanting to do well at school, home, work and in my sporting activities, to gain praise and acceptance and to progress at work. After several setbacks in all areas of my life, I think the fear of failure gripped me on a number of occasions which in turn led to anxiety.
What was it like suffering? I felt largely helpless and drained. I needed to keep myself occupied with all manner of jobs to stop my mind racing, yet felt like I had no energy or inclination to do anything. It seemed that I had no future prospects or any chance to progress – be that in my home, work or sporting life, let alone with my health. I didn’t want to leave any of my family members in case I didn’t see them again – probably subconsciously from having seen my Dad on my last day on the ICU ward, which I didn’t realise at the time would be the last time I would ever see him again. I worried about my own mortality, and leaving those who I love the most without me. Sudden changes of routine or plans, loud noises and untidiness in the house really got me up tight, resulting in mood swings and feeling absolutely worthless. On some occasions I would be shaking and crying in my car on the way to work, or in the car park outside as I didn’t think I could face the day ahead.
My recovery was slow – and realistically is still going on. Amongst the things that helped me were exercise and fresh air. Initially as I continued my recovery from surgery this took the form of walking, gardening or taking the dog out for a walk. As I progressed, I worked on the exercise bike and started cricket nets with the (some said ridiculous) aim of being fit for the first game of the season – nine months after major surgery, eight months after getting out of ICU and seven months after leaving hospital. I initially found that setting small, achievable goals (things so straightforward as making my own lunch or going for a walk each day) helped, as did talking to people to express how I felt. I was fortunate enough to have some incredibly supportive family and friends, in particular my fiancée Abby and brother Rob who helped immensely. Two counselling sessions with the ICU team made me realise that what I was feeling wasn’t to be unexpected, and helped me deal with things when I have a bad day, by finding ways to help me calm down.
Finally, my recovery was helped by having a big target. I’d promised myself that I would be able to play in the first game of the cricket season. I even went to the lengths of having a “countdown” on the back of one of the cupboard doors at home of the number of days left until the season started. I made the first game of the season (in our fourth team having been a regular first teamer for a number of years), and although playing largely from memory I was fortunate enough to make an unbeaten half century as we won the game comfortably, which provided me with a great sense of achievement.
My message to anyone suffering would be to not give up. Talk to people – professionals, family, friends – there is always someone willing to listen. There will be bad days and weeks, but they pass. Have a goal, take small steps, and find something that you enjoy doing that helps you relax – for me things like exercise, reading, gardening, cooking, writing, walking and playing sport have all helped. I’ve made new friends as a result of everything I’ve been through, and it’s actually created opportunities for me that wouldn’t have been possible before.
Never give up!
Depression is a ruthless disease, which if allowed to, can have far-reaching and lasting consequences for any of us. From a personal ten year battle against the disease, I can attest to it being able to remove the ability to go to work, massively strain relationships with loved ones, and on two occasions make me believe that taking my own life was a better option than continuing to fight. The last decade has been a learning experience and an education on how to try and cope with depression, and lead to staying permanently healthy. Below are 5 points that have truly helped in this struggle, and can hopefully resonate with others in similar situations.
Talk. There is absolutely no shame in being unwell. Nobody with a broken arm would hide it away, so why should this continue to be the case simply because the illness affects your mind instead. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is a cliché that persists because of the truth it holds. We can lessen the stigma still surrounding mental health by talking about it. Openness allows us to identify and recognise illness in ourselves and those around us, and to get help if ourselves or somebody else needs it.
Develop your personal support network. Mental illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety are not situations it is always possible to overcome by ourselves. By talking to friends and family about illness, including how to recognise oncoming episodes, what changes in behaviour warrant concern, and the ways in which to cope with and treat illness, we give them the opportunity to help. The Catch 22 of mental illness is that the times you need to be pro-active in addressing what’s wrong are the times that we can feel least able to do so by ourselves. So let those you love help. Try to ask for help when well, so you can accept that help when unwell.
Recognise your triggers. If certain life events or situations have led to or contributed to previous episodes of mental illness, it’s vital to be vigilant about health when these things happen again. For some this may be an increase in stress related to home or work life, excess alcohol or drug use, or simply down to the time of year and changes in seasons. Whatever your triggers for feeling unwell are, acknowledging them and getting help when they occur is vital. Talk to those around you about what can set off an episode too, so the are aware that you may need help at these points in life.
Prevention is better than cure. If you or somebody else recognises a change in your mental well-being, get the help you need, and get that help as soon as possible. There is a huge correlation between how early an episode of Depression or General Anxiety Order is treated, and how positive the outcome is. Whatever method of treatment you choose, it’s important to access that care early. It gives you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
Love Yourself. The silver lining to mental health problems is that they can truly make you appreciate how fantastic life can be with positive mental health. The ability to experience the things you love with the people you love is too important to lose due to poor mental health. Try to make sure it’s a battle you win.