We all have moments in our lives that help define us. Personal milestones, significant dates and experiences we always carry with us.
For me, one of those moments came on November 8th 2017. Having been stuck in a deep depression for several months I decided that I was going to end my life.
Being forty and having suffered from depression since my early teens, suicide is a concept I’ve become very familiar with. But it was always something of an abstract idea I never believed I’d ever act on.
November 8th was different. I was in a state of such overwhelming despair and hopelessness that I would do anything to end the pain.
I’ll always remember lying in bed with my laptop researching how to kill myself. An hour was all it took to plan my own death. Meticulously, down to the last detail. The where, the when and the how.
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At the time I couldn’t comprehend just how morbid this whole process was. All I cared about was ending my suffering.
I was just about to put my plan into action, but something stopped me. It was fear, plain and simple. I was terrified to die. I was stuck. I was in such emotional pain that I didn’t want to go on living but at the same time I was afraid to die.
In that moment I did the only thing I could do: I sent my wife a message telling her I was scared I was about to do something insane. Thankfully, she came home and took charge of the situation.
The next 48 hours were a blur. I saw my psychiatrist who recommended I be admitted to a hospital for my own safety. I was reluctant to take that step. At the mere mention of a psychiatric hospital, I instantly began conjuring up memories of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. A bunch of broken people in white pyjamas shuffling aimlessly around a broken down ward.
It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but one look at my wife with tears streaming down her face was enough to convince me.
That choice saved my life.
People have asked me what it was like to be an inpatient. Honestly, I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Some of my friends even thought that there would be straightjackets and padded rooms.
I was expecting an overcrowded, sterile and cheerless environment. Instead it was more like a Travelodge with nursing staff.
After settling in I was given a timetable of classes and therapy that I could attend. It was all voluntary but the staff did a great job of gently encouraging participation.
Having that structure and support in place was vital. Rather than spend all my time brooding, I interacted with therapists and patients.
The hospital provided me with a safe and secure space. I also received a good education in the fundamentals of mental health and how to focus that towards understanding and dealing with my problems.
The lessons on the various therapies (CBT and DBT) were fascinating. I also learned about the importance of simple things like sleep and nutrition and how they can affect your mood.
After two months I was discharged and I continue to make progress, even if sometimes I struggle to see it. Depression can affect your perceptions in a negative way. I still have bad days, and to me these bad days make it hard for me to remember all the good days that came before. But I’m so much better at recognising that now, and in recognising it I can deal with it.
I still suffer from depression and I most likely always will, but now I have the tools and the knowledge to lessen its impact on my life.
Through it all I’ve learned the most important lesson of all: You should never be afraid to ask for help. Suffering alone can only ever lead to more suffering. Whether it’s seeking professional help, going to see your GP or even just talking to your friends and family, it can make such a big difference.
Overall my time as a psychiatric patient was life changing.
And through it all my amazing wife has been the lifeline I so desperately needed in the darkest days. One of my strongest fears was that my illness might destroy our marriage. But I believe that going to hell and back has only made us stronger. She continues to inspire me every day.
And that brings me to another significant moment in my life - 29 May 2018.
I’ve always wanted to be a comedian but fear of failure and ridicule had always stopped me. So, after being through a breakdown I wanted to prove to myself that maybe I could make people laugh. I signed up for a stand up slot at an open mic night and performed in front of 50 people. It was a success! I actually got people laughing.
It’s given me so much hope for the future. And the fact that I can actually imagine a future at all is proof that depression doesn’t have to win. Life really is a fight worth winning.
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