The 8th November 2017 was the day I decided to kill myself.
Being 40 and having suffered from depression and anxiety since I was about 10, it was a decision that certainly wasn’t made in haste. I’d had 30 years of periodic, often debilitating bouts of dark days and crippling panic attacks.
When it first started I had no idea what depression was, I just suddenly felt sad all the time for no reason. In the beginning these sad spells didn’t last very long, so I didn’t really consider them a problem. But over the years, I found these periods of sadness happened more frequently and with increased intensity. I’d often find myself crying for no reason and trying to find ways of getting out of going to school or being involved with social occasions - I don’t think I made a single school disco in all my formative years.
When I was 14, and with the dreaded GCSE’s looming, I finally decided to reach out for help. I had no idea where to start; I was worried my parents would think I was crazy and I honestly didn’t think my older brother would go out of his way to do me any favours. We were never what you might call a “touchy feely” kind of family.
So, I finally plucked up enough courage to approach one of my teachers. He was fantastic about the whole thing. He supported me at a time when I really needed it, and I’ll never forget his kindness. I still wonder where I’d be today if I hadn’t been brave enough to go to him in the first place.
With his help, I was referred to a child psychologist. That was the scariest appointment I’d ever had in my life! My 14-year-old mind was convinced that the doctor, along with my parents, would think I was crazy and lock me up in some kind of asylum.
This was the point in my life that I was first introduced to depressions best friend: anxiety.
In the end it was all quite boring. I was asked a few basic questions, and it was decided that I was simply going through a “phase” that all teenagers went through so I was sent on my merry way.
I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t true, deep down I knew there was more going on, but fearing that my parents would judge me or be disappointed in me, I just accepted it and tried to get on with my life.
I believe it was at this point that the depression finally sunk it’s hooks into me, deep. It had won a vital battle in the war that I continue to fight to this day.
I suffered in silence for many years. Back then people just didn’t talk about depression or mental illness. It was a huge taboo with a big fat stigma attached to it.
After that I started living what I can only describe as half a life. After a bout of depression or anxiety, I’d do things to try and find meaning in my life and to try and shut up the horrible deprecating voice in the back of my head.
I tried university, twice. Job after job after job, and when none of that worked I thought travelling would be the answer - Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, America. I thought if I went somewhere that nobody knew me, I could reinvent myself. But wherever I went, I was still me and that voice was still whispering in my ear: “You’re not good enough. You’re worthless. You’re always going to be a failure”.
I’m sure most people who suffer from depression will be all too familiar with that voice and the poison it peddles.
It’s had me in its grip for 30 years and it has basically defined my entire life.
Months can go by where I feel like I can’t face the world to the point that I can’t even function. I’ve taken loads of time off work, constantly cancelled plans with friends and family and even struggled just to get out of bed.
Yes it’s been tough, but it actually hasn’t been all bad.
If not for the depression I never would of developed my amazing sense of humour (it makes an awesome defence mechanism FYI). And somehow, I still can’t quite figure out how, I’ve managed to make a pretty great life for myself. I have awesome friends, a decent job and a woman who is so amazing and awesome that I married her twice! (In Vegas with Elvis and in the UK with all our friends and family).
The only problem is now that I’ve built the perfect life for myself, I’m not actually able to enjoy it because my old friends depression and anxiety are determined to ruin it all for me.
Their most recent visit came in July 2017. Normally they only hang around for a few months to try and ruin my life but this time it was different.
Like the uninvited guest that never wants to leave, they tenaciously hung around and gave me the hardest pounding I’ve ever had.
And that brings me right back to the 8th November 2017.
After being signed off work for four weeks by this point I’d finally reached breaking point. I just felt so hopeless. A burden to everyone around me, I came to the conclusion that the world would be truly better off without “yours truly” in it.
I think suicide had always been on my mind, or at least for a very long time. I think anyone suffering from extreme depression will always have at least considered it as an option at some point in their lives.
And that was me on that fateful day. The darkest thought I’d ever had finally became what seemed to be my only viable option.
I managed to get out of bed to get my laptop, ironically it turns out suicide is a great motivator, and within half an hour of searching, I’d discovered several websites where not only could you find out methods of killing yourself, but also receive active encouragement and tips about how to do it from random members of the public.
It would probably horrify a normal person but I found these “how to” guides fascinating.
After two hours of immersing myself in the darker corners of the World Wide Web I’d come up with what was effectively a pretty in-depth suicide plan.
From the method, to the hotel I was going to book, to the message I was going to send the hotel before I did it (so I wouldn’t inconvenience any poor housekeepers), right down to the suicide note I was going to leave behind, which I thought would offer a certain comfort and closure to those I left behind.
I was minutes away from preparing what I needed, when a fleeting thought crossed my mind.
It took me a while to pin down, a certain voice in my head was telling me to just ignore it and get back to business, but I couldn’t let it go.
Finally I realised what it was.
I was terrified of what I was about to do. Something I was so certain of just moments before now seemed wrong. And in that moment I did the only thing I could do; I sent my wife a message telling her I was scared that I was about to do something insane.
And she did the only thing she could do; she came straight home and saved my life.
And now the really hard work begins.
This blog is part of Fran and Gary’s series in which they will be telling both sides of the journey through depression - Gary as the ‘sufferer’ and Fran as the ‘supporter’. This is Gary’s side - visit Fran’s author profile to read hers.
Useful websites and helplines: