Depression: A Personal Confession
*Warning: This story is a personal account of mental illness. It may be a trigger source for some people. Reader discretion is advised*
Most of you would have heard by now about the tragic and sudden death of the Wales national team manager Gary Speed.
He died from an apparent suicide at the age of just 42. I’m not particularly fond of football; I have a passing interest in it, but what the news did for me, was serve as an uncomfortable and sad reminder of my own attempt at suicide.
Yes, you read that correctly, I tried to end it all. Shocked? Surprised? Stunned? Those of you who know me would probably have never even considered the fact that I may have thought about dying, let alone trying to actually commit suicide. But, it’s true and I shall tell you my story, if you’ll listen.
Suicide is one of society’s taboos. We can talk about anything but ‘that’. If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist; it sits nervously at the back of the cupboard of life, one part hoping we’ll never reach for it and one part hoping we do. However it’s always there, lurking in the darkness.
I have suffered from depression, and more recently Bipolar Disorder, for as long as I can remember. The Bipolar Disorder is, as I say, a relatively recent diagnosis, but the Chronic Depression has been with me since my teenage years.
So much has been written about mental illness, both good and bad, that in some respects I feel we have become almost desensitized to its meaning and its impact on people.
My own personal story is one of immense struggle and personal sacrifice. A story that is still being written, and will continue to be written until the day I die. Some people get brief bouts of depression that occur during stressful or emotional episodes in their lives and after a short space of time, recover to lead a healthy life. Others, like me, carry the weight of what Horace termed ‘the black dog’ on our shoulders on a daily basis.
To try and write about how it feels when you’re really depressed is one of the hardest things a person can do. The thoughts, feelings and emotions are all in my head, but to physically write down how it feels is a tremendous test of self. To say that at your lowest point it’s like being suffocated by darkness; all consuming, intense, darkness, only really begins to scratch the surface of the unbearable and distressing state of mind you are in.
At one of my lowest points six years ago I wanted to die. I really wanted to die. My mind was so worn down, my body so tattered and torn from life that at that time, all I wanted to do was to go to sleep and never wake up. The thought of suicide wasn’t a scary one. In fact, there was a tangible sense of liberation and freedom. An odd thought, but one I was prepared to accept. My whole being was so broken that any attempt to fix me seemed foolish. There was no light, no darkness, no day or night. No love, no laughter, no life. There was nothing. Not a damn thing.
When it hurts to open your eyes but when it hurts even more to keep them closed, you know you’re not in a good place. I couldn’t get out of bed; I just couldn’t move. Even thinking took superhuman feats of strength. I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I didn’t wash. If the pits of hell were real, I was living there. Nothing could drag me out. That’s when I decided to end it all.
I can’t really explain the thought processes that occur when wanting to die and attempting to go through with it. It’s almost as if you’re on autopilot with tunnel vision; all logic has left you and your thoughts are literally on finding some sort of peace. Any kind of peace. Any kind of rest. Any kind of escape. The years have fogged my memories of that particular day, but I know it involved tears and a heart so heavy I thought it would just drop out of me and die before I did.
There were hospitals, and doctors, and psychiatrists, and medication, and one day, somehow, I put the tattered and torn pieces of myself back together and lived to tell the tale. There are still psychiatrists and medication, good days, bad days and days where, yet again, I end up taking a trip to the pits of hell. I still get suicidal thoughts sometimes, but now I have a support system in place to stop it reaching a critical point. Whether this will continue throughout my life, I don’t know. All I know now is that taking it each day at a time, literally, is sometimes the only way to make it through.
Young people are as prone to mental health problems as adults, and with pressures of school, family, relationships and more it can be a tough time being a teenager or young adult. If I can give one piece of advice it would be this; if you feel depressed, upset, or suicidal, please, please speak to someone. Anyone you trust. This can be a family member, friend, teacher, youth worker, anyone. Don’t bottle it up. If you feel you can’t speak to someone, write it down.
Use any way you feel comfortable to let out your feelings. There is no weakness in asking for help. If you looked at me in the street, would you know how I was really feeling? People walk around all day fighting their own battles in private. Day in, day out, and we never know.
One in four people will, at some point in their lives, experience some form of mental illness. Telling people to ‘get over it’, ‘pull your socks up’ or ‘it can’t be that bad’ is no way to help fight the stigma of mental illness and suicide. What helps are peoples stories. Real life stories like mine. I’m not ashamed of my past and I’m not ashamed of my mental illness.
It does not define me, nor should it define you or anyone else. If we don’t talk about our experiences we will never be able to end the constant struggle and battle to treat people with mental illnesses with the respect and dignity they deserve.
This is only the beginning of my story, but if you have a story like mine, I hope it will encourage you to speak out.