I am writing this as a confession, not only to myself but to those around me and to those that decide to take the time to read this.
If you decide to read this, that ultimately means that you care in some way or another in order to click the link in the first place, so thank you for that.
I have always been fond of writing, whether or not I have been very good at it or not is a different story, but nonetheless it is something that is incredibly important to me. As you are reading this you are surely wondering what this is all about and why you have read utter nothingness up to this point, so I will get on with what I want to write.
For those of you who know me, you will probably have met me at school, through sport or just through social media. Chances are you will know me as a relatively energetic person with what I'd like to think is a decent sense of humour with a passion for a football and music. However, those of you closer to me will know that I am a very sensitive person with a lot of pride. We may be close friends, you may be my mother, my younger sister, my best friend. Alternatively you might not know me, or may know of me, or we just know each other through some other means. Essentially what I want to admit and confess to you is that I am, and have been for some time now, suffering with clinical depression.
This is something I never thought I would say to people, neither is it something I have ever wanted to say to people. With a person filled up with as much masculine pride as you can fit into a males' 5″7 frame, It embarrasses me to admit it. I also understand that what I have just said doesn't bother many of you very much, and might actually make you say, "yeah so what, we all have problems" and will not hit you emotionally in anyway whatsoever. But I want to change that.
Why am I admitting this in a blog for anyone to read?
Within my experience of depression up to now, I understand that that there is stigma attached to it that doesn't alert people like other illnesses would. If I wrote that I thought about suicide at least once a day. If I told you that I hated the person I am, how I look, the way I speak. If I wrote that I genuinely believe at times that my life is worthless, then you might take that more seriously. Depression involves all of these things and more, Depression is an illness just like Drug addiction, alcoholism, excessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anorexia, bulimia and all other mental health issues you can think of. It is not just an adjective to use when you feel sad because your phone screen has broken, or because you have ran out of green top milk.
That is just part of the stigma which I have found so far. Telling people is one thing, but them understanding what you have told them is completely another thing.
The other part of the stigma is after considering that perhaps you have a mental health issue, accepting it, is actually finding the heart to go and tell somebody, and is trying to get over the embarrassment and shame that comes with admitting that you are being affected by a mental health issue.
The stigma really does exist; admitting that I am depressed is like admitting that I am weak, that I am not the macho alpha male I am supposed to be(And subconsciously trying to be). The embarrassment is something that I can't shake, however what I can do is to try and raise awareness so actually it might help others feel that they can speak up, and to also give people who have friends in need the insight and courage to not shy away from the situations they are faced with, to stand up and be counted for, like friends and family should do.
The reason I am writing this is because, despite the embarrassment, it is necessary for me to admit and confess this. So people know they are not responsible for my misfortune, but also so I can try and begin to make a difference for others and for myself again, and look forwards and up instead of backwards and down.
I am fed up of sleeping in the day, and lying awake all night. I can't tolerate feeling like I am constantly alone even when I am surrounded by people. I don't want to feel that my life is worthless, and I do not want to tell people that sometimes I wish I did not exist. But this is the harsh reality.
The truth of my experience is that since I have moved to university, I have become almost a recluse. Within a month of me arriving here, the only thing I looked forward to was going to Football games and playing FIFA. I slept all day, and lay awake all night thinking in sadness. I generally found it hard to mix with other students, I lost all motivation to do anything with my time and I was mostly working at minus zero productivity a day. I then would spend around two or three days at a time in my room, in the dark without eating much, or washing at all. I spent more and more time in bed, so much so it then actually became physically draining to leave my room for any real period of time. There have been times where daylight has hurt my eyes too much to be outside. Of course, going to the Football, or spending prolonged periods of time in positive environments was not an issue as long it did not require any major effort on my part. This includes my relationships with my girlfriend, friends and family where I found putting my side of the effort in very difficult, even answering the phone, replying to texts or having to travel alone on trains or driving. This then led to me finding friendships difficult to keep up, as I could not spend too long with someone before I became difficult company, and actually craved being alone in darkness. Being out filled me with a guilt for being happy. In amongst all this, the hours upon hours spent glued to my bed have been filled with emotions and thoughts of regret, sadness, guilt, hatred, and remorse that are overwhelming and unbearable. I became so trapped in this cycle, that I did not attend or sit one single University exam, I stopped attending university completely because I could not motivate myself mentally or physically to do so. I am not proud of this, but this is the truth I have to face. This carried on and on and on until I eventually decided that I could not take it any more. I felt that I needed to do something, but I didn't know what to do at all. So as we all do, we go to everyone's trusted confident, Google. He obviously came up with all of the worst case scenarios for me to mull over, which actually scared me more which lead to me continuing to rot for another month or so. As time went by, I thought over what I had read on the internet about how much my poor excuse of "lifestyle" was similar to those with mental health issues. At first, I denied that I could be mentally ill because that isn't possible as I have everything anyone could ever want, a loving family, a loving girlfriend that understands me and cares for me, a reliable car, FIFA, food in the fridge, a warm quilt and of course, a season ticket at Celtic Park, the most prestigious asset to any man on earth. How on earth could I be unhappy?
The reason became clearer, I am unhappy because I had become stale, and stopped moving forwards, I had stopped achieving things. Overall, I had finally been alone for long enough for all of my problems and ghosts in life to catch up with me. The emotions I felt when my parents split up five or six years ago that I expertly threw to the side whilst being a teenager, the regret I felt from quitting a promising potential career in professional football, the hatred I felt towards my family for letting my fall from those heights. The sadness and regret I felt for losing relationships and friends around me, the disappointment in myself for letting people down, the disappointment of knowing that I had so many opportunities that I gave up to go to university. The hatred of mistakes. The hatred of the careless. The hatred of anything that is not perfect. The fear of being less than what I felt I was. The regret of not standing up when I needed to be counted. The unrelenting loss of a home of which I have never recovered.
These ghosts all teamed up and grabbed my the bollocks and pinned my down to my bed, I am still not free of them at all. The material aspects are all relative, they are achievements or what I have, they do not necessarily decide my future and certainly don't stand as anything credible to build upon for the future. They hold no plans.
It was all of this that made me realise that I needed help, but who do I tell? My girlfriend will feel that she isn't good enough or capable of providing me with enough happiness. My parents will panic and drag me home away from the problem. My friends? I have one friend of whom I haven't been able to speak to enough because I've been trapped in my room the whole time, how is he going to understand?
So I was left with the inevitable last resort of going to see the doctor. Which I did, we spoke and the conclusion was that I was depressed, and that perhaps I had been for years but never letting myself be alone for long enough had allowed me to hide it and just blame others instead of realising it was me all along. (So I apologise if I ever told you it was you that was the problem, because it was me too) So sixty pills, seven weeks, and two appointments later, I am here. I haven't recovered, I have a counselling appointment in June. I still have days where I am at the bottom of it all, I have days where I am climbing slightly and then I have days where I am at the top, but mostly I just want to jump back down. The obviously solution people might say is "just move home". To me, that is running away from the problem, and running away from problems is what has led to me ending up like this anyway. Going home is going backwards. I will not go home because I am "too depressed to cope in at University". That is not solving the issue; I need to and needed to be progressive and proactive in the here and now. I got a job, and told people around me what was going on. This helped a lot, however at this point I realised the huge difficulty that came from that point onwards.
I have been and am experiencing these things every single day, and whilst all of these emotions and thoughts are taking place, I have to try and wake up each day, go to work, speak to friends, speak to family and find the courage to admit to them that 'I hate my life and myself and that their contribution isn't enough for me, and that they can't do anything to help me, because I am too far gone and I have nothing left to give. Regardless of the materialistic things I own, and the achievements I have behind me, my life up to this point is not what I wanted, and I will never be the person I want to be'. (which I cover up with, "yeah I'm fine, I'm sound, nae bor big man".)
I don't want to tell that to people, like most other people when they are not happy, admitting it is a sign of weakness that we just cannot show, especially I feel as a bloke. I have realised that admitting this to people is necessary to make them understand why I am not as energetic as I once was, and in admitting this to people I have realised that people mostly have no idea what to say or what to do. So like in some cases around me, friends have decided to back away from me, give me space and let me be. Whilst others have decided to try and speak to me more, to check on me, so they know I'm doing okay.
It is nobodies fault that I feel this way, and I don't believe that it can just be fixed, but what I have learned to believe is that by confessing to yourself and to those around you, you are making the first step forward. My aim is to reach out to people who have been effected first hand to encourage them to break the stigma, and to move forwards. And my aim to those who haven't been affected by mental health issues is to make you/them realise that it doesn't matter which side of the fence you are on, you need to try to stand up and be counted for, as happiness doesn't always come from inside a person, it might take your help to spark the motivation within someone else to allow them to run independently again.
The point of this blog is for me to confess and briefly express what I have been going through, to try and raise awareness that depression is not a "mood" that you can just switch off. I want to try and detach the stigma away from depression, because feeling embarrassed about being depressed is something which makes it worse.
I would be really grateful if you could please share this to raise some awareness about the importance of friendship and confession in mental health issues, not just in young people but in everybody. Because I have been unfortunate enough to be effected on both sides of the fence, I didn't know enough about mental health issues until I got into this battle with them personally and although I am still not finished with them, I don't want others to have to feel like I have done in order to keep moving forwards, whether it be for themselves or for their friends. It matters.