This week is mental health awareness week. After some deliberation, I’ve decided to stand up and be counted as someone who has suffered, and no doubt will suffer again, from mental illness.
In 1996 I found myself disappearing down the darkest of holes. I was 21, recently graduated, recently bereaved, unemployed and clinically depressed. For six months I felt like my world had ended, and for most of that time I wished it would. Every day I slept until lunchtime and then stayed up into the small hours of the morning, staring into blackness and wondering how I’d ever find a way out. It took six months but find a way out I did.
Eleven years later, I found myself back in the same dark place. My marriage had failed, I had crippling debts, my house was in negative equity and I’d just been made redundant. The ultimate quadruple whammy. This time I was convinced that there was no way out. Again I was wrong.
I don’t often think about those times now. I’m re-married to a really special woman who makes me smile every day. My kids are amazing, and my business is going well. I’ve been lucky enough to do some pretty cool things – from cycling the length of the UK to climbing Kilimanjaro (twice), and generally my life is a good place to be. But since the Covid-19 crisis started, every now and then I still feel that pull. A little voice at the back of my head, summoning me toward the darkness. The difference now is that I recognise it for what it is – illness. Just as I can prevent infection by washing my hands, so I try to prevent the darkness by maintaining good mental hygiene. Enough sleep, regular exercise and most of all talking. When the clouds gather, I talk to my wife. I tell her how I feel and most often a little glimmer of light makes its way in.
I really hope you’re in a good place right now, but if you aren’t, please do talk to someone. Whether a friend or a stranger, it helps. The Samaritans can be reached at any time on 116 123. Don’t suffer in silence and know that all things can change, the sun can come back.