Just a note to say that I wrote this blog a few weeks ago but have really been struggling and wrestling with if I should publish it. There are a lot of posts this week on Facebook etc. encouraging people who are struggling with depression and mental health to speak up and to get help. I would ask you to take the team to read and I would love you to share my story as it may help one person that they are not alone.
Time to Talk – Is it safe to speak up?
I have a confession to make.
The confession is I am suffering with depression. This is something that it took me a long time to come to terms with. Over a number of months I had been feeling ‘low’; however it got worse. I started contemplating suicide. I was struggling to cope with things. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t, then every few weeks I would crash and sleep for up to 16 hours. I lost interest in many of the things that I used to enjoy. My mind was like a fog. Sure I managed to function and do my job but it left me feeling exhausted. Then during August myself and Mrs B had a couple days away… just the two of us. I opened up about how I felt and didn’t hide anything. We chatted and cried. I knew I couldn’t go on like this, when we got back I made an appointment with my GP.
I went to the appointment and as I was speaking I broke down, I felt embarrassed that I was crying in front of a stranger. Me, who people turn to for help and support. Me, the big strong lad who was always the joker. We talked through the option of anti depressants and agreed which I would be on. We agreed I would make another appointment for the start of September to see how things were going.
Then came the battle in my mind alongside the confusion of what to do next and should I tell anyone. I was still working at this point. I decided to send my mum and brother a text. It was short and to the point. 3 words “I have depression”. I was trying to figure out who to tell and how to tell them. Sure I had told my wife who had explained to my son in a child friendly way what was going on. I decided that I needed to speak to a colleague and friend who knew some of the things that had been going on. There was a sense of relief as I spoke to them. I didn’t tell them about the suicidal thoughts at that time. I then let a few other colleagues know what was going on. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised about how supportive they were but I was.
Over the years I have encouraged friends and colleagues to try and be open about their mental health issues also to be honest and affirming there is nothing to be ashamed about. However, ashamed is exactly what I felt about my depression. So I mulled it over for most of the day then I decided that as I am a keen user of social media I could use that, it just so happened that my wife had written a blog when she suffered from depression a few years ago but never published it ;so she updated it and put a bit in about me (www. hopebubbles.wordpress.com). I simply shared it on my Facebook accounts and Twitter with a simple comment “please read to find out what’s going on with me just now.”
Over the next couple of weeks my meds were increased (I later discovered when they were increased again that that is what I should have been on since the start). I had no thought of being off work. I still managed to do my job and have a social life. I didn’t know what was going to happen but felt comfortable that I would be fine.
Sunday 18th September was a normal day ;with church in the morning an afternoon at home then chilling before the week began. Mrs B was away that weekend and due back at any time that evening so I was getting the house tidied and getting sorted for the week ahead. I wasn’t feeling brilliant but shrugged it off.
Then ‘it’ happened, it is difficult to explain exactly what ‘it’ was but I found myself in the middle of a panic attack breakdown; crying uncontrollably, repeating over and over “I can’t cope anymore”. I have to say Junior was great he put his calming music on got me tissues and said “You will be okay dad”. I text Mrs B to let her know what had happened. I then sent a message to my boss that I wouldn’t be at the meeting first thing as I had broken down and that I was going to see the Dr in the morning. I finally crawled into bed past midnight, exhausted and drained, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
After visiting the GP I was signed off for 2 weeks. I said to myself that I would be fine to go back really soon “I could deal with this”.
How wrong was I.
In total I was off for 6 weeks. I came of social media (it’s not actually that important!). Some days I slept all day, others I felt fantastic but was afraid of the drop that was about to come. A bit like a rollercoaster you can’t always see the drop coming up but you know there is one. Some simple tasks were beyond me as well some days, but honestly for the first few weeks I couldn’t see an end.
I did a lot of reflection, a lot of crying out to God “why me? why me?”. What have I done to deserve this? It was when I was speaking with a wise man, a friend of the family and something he said struck a chord with me, “you haven’t done anything to cause it, you are not to blame”. I was on my own for 24 hours that weekend so I put on some worship music when I got back and poured out my tears and frustrations, I even shouted out. The week before this, during a pastoral cuppa with Jim my vicar I had been challenged “as to how my spiritual life was?”. He is a straight talking Yorkshire man so I knew he didn’t worry about big words; so I said there isn’t one!! There was no condemnation that day from him (or since) but that Saturday I picked up my Bible and flicked it open at a random page. I read and don’t ask me to remember now what it was but it struck a chord with me and helped to put some things into perspective, which has helped greatly as has the counselling I have received.
I have been back at work 8 days now and slowly getting back into it. Someone asked if I was “all okay now?” I said “no this is an ongoing battle, but a battle that I am going to win.”
If you read this and you are struggling then please speak to someone, your partner, your best friend, your GP or even the Samaritans. Remember it is not your fault and you are not alone. It is ok to not be ok. Be brave, dig deep, speak up and get the help you need and deserve.