The final interview in support of #maternalMHmatters week 2017 comes from a dad who wishes to remain anonymous. He describes himself as follows ‘I’m a 30-something year old Dad of 2 boys, living near the Welsh border. When I aren’t playing Dad, I’m designing web sites or playing football.’
This person has found that the support of MIND has been particularly helpful so I would suggest you check out their resources.
What is your experience of mental health?
I am a survivor of depression, having been diagnosed with it around 15 years ago. I was also a sufferer of severe anxiety, and struggled to leave the house for several months. Professionally, I’ve had dealings with counsellors, befrienders, psychiatrists, GP’s and psycho-therapists over the past decade-and-a-bit.
Now, I try to raise the profile of mental health and the importance of self-awareness of your mental health, through social media and a number of forums and websites.
When did you know something wasn’t right?
I knew something wasn’t right when I was 17 years old. I’d just been through a couple of fairly traumatic events, been thrown out of sixth form college, had big family upheaval and then contracted bacterial meningitis – it was a rough couple of years.
Something in me just changed; I wasn’t sleeping properly, my thoughts were cloudy, my decision making process was non-existent and I frequently had no idea what was going on with life. I would travel on a bus and get off – but not know where I was going or how I got there. Every day life was auto-pilot, and that infamous “big black cloud” shrouded every aspect of my day.
Did you seek professional help/support?
Ultimately, I had to. I finally confessed, late one night to a friend on instant messaging, that I had been contemplating suicide for a number of days. She made me promise not to do anything – and to speak to my college tutor the next day. I broke down at the end of a class with him, told him that I needed help – he frogmarched me to the college counsellor, who spoke with me straight away and got a meeting and referral setup with my local MIND office. She also organised a doctor’s appointment and drove me to it, making sure I got there – all of this within an hour of me opening up to that tutor. I doubt the college staff will ever know how grateful I am for doing what they did.
After that day, I saw a MIND counsellor and befriender for over 12-months; I was prescribed anti-depressants by my GP (although it took a while to find the right sort for me), and saw a psychiatrist on a couple of occasions. I also saw the community CRISIS team on one occasion, due to a relapse around six months after starting treatment.
What informal support did you seek?
Like a lot of people, I tried to deal with things myself. I’d look for answers to how I felt online, reach out to forums or message boards discussing topics around how I felt. I attempted to speak with a couple of friends, but it was always difficult due to the stigma around mental health and the stereotypes around men having to be ‘strong’. For the first few years, I didn’t deal at all well with it. Ultimately, the support and courage I gained during the counselling sessions at MIND and through the befriender gave me the strength and coping strategies to deal with the low moods, desperation and loneliness.
How did you find asking for help?
Asking for help from people I knew was difficult – and I had no idea how to ask for help from the medical profession. I realise now how bizarre that sounds, but I’ve always found that until I find someone I feel I can relate to and – importantly – open up to, I’ve found asking for any sort of help almost impossible and embarrassing (this, I must stress, I’m quickly learning to get over right now!)
How are things different now?
I still suffer from episodes of low mood, there have been times recently when I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on. However, the majority of my family are now aware of what I went through over a decade ago. Some of them don’t accept depression as an illness – and that’s fine, I appreciate that. Most of them though are aware and understand and, importantly, make sure I’m looking after myself physically and mentally. They’ll check on how I’m feeling, if something has gone ‘wrong’ in life they’ll make sure to ask how I’m coping with it – rather than just assuming everything is OK.
I haven’t taken anti-depressants in a decade, and with the coping mechanisms I learnt I’m hoping not to have to again. But I know now there’s less stigma around asking for help, it’s OK to talk about mental health and – importantly – support is around even if you don’t believe it is. Now, I also find myself asking my friends and strangers how they feel. If I see someone post something on social media that worries me, I’ll reach out to them, letting them know that they aren’t alone – fully aware that sometimes, talking to a stranger who doesn’t know you and who won’t judge you, is the kind of help you need right in that moment.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to comment or share
If you’re struggling and in need of support I have begun to compile a list of supportive links via my SUPPORT page but you will find a larger more comprehensive list over at PNDandME‘s page. Below is also a map of support services in Scotland provided by Maternal Mental Health Scotland