Monthly Archives: May 2012

A General Post

Mental Health is something we all have, but 1 in 4 of us will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives. I myself have suffered from depression from the age of 15, and now at 19 following counselling and medication I am almost at a place where I can say I am no longer depressed. Approximately for every 100 teenagers, as many as 8 may be suffering from a mental health issue, and a recent study published in The Lancet reveals that 1 in 12 teenagers self harm, whilst Universities have reported a massive 93% rise in students seeking help for mental health issues.

Teenagers are very vulnerable to depression or other mental health issues, and it is important that we encourage them not to keep these feelings to themselves, but to share them. Of course, people of any age can help them to do so, either by directly encouraging them, or by talking about their own mental health problems. If we can break down that stigma that surrounds talking out about mental health issues, then that is the first step towards improving the lives of millions of people and reducing the number of people who suffer from mental health problems.

Certainly something which helped me when I was first beginning to notice my suicidal thoughts and my low mood was to talk to others about it; they were people I didn’t even know very well. Eventually I was persuaded to speak to a doctor, who was rather unhelpful, so I didn’t go back for 6 months. After finding a further two doctors to be rather unhelpful, instead of giving up I tried once more, and I found a doctor who listened to me, and gave me the name and address of a counselling service, but also told me to come back if I continued to feel the way I did. One negative experience does not mean that all the others will be like that; my advice is not to give up but to try again.

A question I have raised a number of times is: could we put counsellors in all schools? Whilst this would be expensive, if it is a scheme supported by an increase in information about mental health and how important it can be to see a professional then this could prove to be an important step forward in supporting young people with mental health issues.

Essentially, what we need to get out there is that it is ok to talk about our feelings and our mental health issues. The more we talk about it, the less stigma there will be, the more likely people are to talk to their friends/family/doctor about it and arguably it might even prevent people from suffering more severely in the future. This would be because more information about looking after our mental health would be more widely available and talked about. We need to get to a point where we treat our mental health as we treat our physical health; we don’t discriminate with sexuality or race and rightly so, so why do we with our health? Let’s break down the stigma and get talking about it.

Consciousness

Consciousness. It means you’re alive. If you can write down or speak a stream of consciousness despite feeling suicidal or low, then you are alive. That is a great thing, regardless of whether you see it now or not, it is a great thing. You have worth, simply by existing you create worth to this world, and you are simply amazing because of that.

A few months back, I was feeling suicidal and I wrote about those feelings. I won’t share what I wrote because it could be highly triggering for someone. However, I did then write a much more positive outlook on how I felt. It still described my feelings but in a constructive, positive way.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and I’ve not done anything to mark it. Obviously I still try and raise awareness with my twitter, but I mean nothing special. But then, why does it need something special? It doesn’t, it just needs me to reaffirm my belief that I’m doing the right thing, and I will continue to help people by spreading positive messages, by offering support when I am able to, but most of all by encouraging people to talk out about their feelings, about their mental health.

So I say to you, turn a negative into a positive, look up to the sky and say you will get through this. If I can, then so can you.

It will not defeat me, pain will not overwhelm me, I will always be stronger. It shall not strike fear into my heart, for I am stronger than it, I have the power and the control. Regardless of the problem, it will always have a resolution. The soul which protects against evil will divulge its secret to the mind, and the mind shall be powerful again, powerful enough to fight against the pain that so desperately, constantly attacks, in an attempt to overpower. Power is in the hands of the mind, the mind is able to be trained to repel the constant barrage of pain which appears ceaseless. It will not defeat me. Defeat is not an option, defeat never came, it was on the verge of being victorious, but it failed, the mind combats the strength that pain has, it succeeds in its battle, taking a prisoner, a very important prisoner with it. For the power is from experience, experience of that which attempts to destroy all that is good within the mind. Channelling from the root of evil to use for good. It will be the mind which succeeds, never let that light flicker away. As life slowly ebbs away, a glimmer of hope that seemed before to merely prolong the pain, is able to manifest itself within the mind and expand outwards, putting up an impenetrable barrier which will always remain, regardless of the times it appears to be broken, there will always be a barrier there. It may retreat in order to protect, but the barrier will be there, stubbornly refusing to break, preventing the pain from reaching. The positive, the good, is better than the evil, and always will be whilst there is some hope, and there is always hope.

I Wanna Talk Tonight, Until The Morning Light, About How You Saved My Life

So I guess I should document my life from depression to this here now. Whatever that may be. This may end up as a stream of consciousness and all over the place, simply because that’s how my mind works, at 400mph, thinking of ten things at once. There’s going to be some things that I hold back, but this is all true, the bare bones of me.

I am a 19 year old undergraduate studying Politics with International Relations. I suffer from depression (although only by definition that I am still on meds, I will soon be ‘recovered’), and was diagnosed at the age of 16 although I believe it eminated prior to this and was evident in my childhood/pre-teen years, roughly from the age of 12. Having suffered from bullying and loneliness throughout my time at secondary school I was finally “accepted” by my peers towards the end of my school years, and did well at GCSE but I feel that my unhappiness held me back from getting better grades than I did. Then I moved onto a sixth form college to do my A Levels, where I was able to make friends more easily, but my depression was still affecting me greatly. At this time I had joined an online site which had modules based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a forum with other people who had similar issues to myself, and I had also begun counselling through a service which was recommended to me by my doctor. My depression was still troubling me and the doctor agreed to put me on medication alongside my counselling. After about 8 weeks of counselling I had made significant progress, in particular changing my thought processes and felt much better within myself. I opened up to my new found friends who were very understanding and helped me through that period. It was around this time that I decided to tell my parents that I had depression. I didn’t feel comfortable telling them, but they needed to know, and they respected my hesitancy to open up to them about it, whilst still trying to support me. I then returned to counselling at my college as I was troubled again, and this helped, but not as much as the previous counselling, and after a while I stopped going. I spoke to my tutor and teachers about how I had been feeling and they were very understanding and also supported me greatly. Towards the end of the academic year I visited the counsellor again because I was in a bad place. I achieved good results at A Level despite my depression, and that was thanks to the friends I made who understood and supported me whilst I helped myself improve my mood.

With regards to the support that was available to me, that was interesting. I first went to my doctor after I found myself posting about my feelings on a football forum that I was a member of, as I felt like that was the most comfortable place for me, and several people offered to talk to me, which I took them up on. Eventually it was suggested I see my doctor, which I did. Firstly it was just basically given a leaflet for counselling and told to ring the number. I wasn’t in the right mindset to do this, and later went back to another doctor who wasn’t particularly helpful. Eventually I found a doctor who understood and have seen him ever since, he introduced me to the counselling service and put me on medication. I found there was not any sort of help available at my secondary school, but was lucky enough to have trust with a very kind teacher who knew my family, and was able to talk to him. At college there was a counselling service and my teachers were all supportive, but certainly there was no real attempt to concentrate on the issue of mental health. At university I have contacted a seminar tutor with regards to how I could get the uni to sign the time to change pledge, and she forwarded it on, but since then nothing has happened. They have disability support and the person in charge of it was very helpful. I still feel more could be done however.

Where to start? During primary school is when everything was set in motion, my mum worked in my class and as such I was always scared to be “naughty”. Not because I was afraid of the punishment from the teacher but because I didn’t want my mum to find out. This prevented me from realising my own sense of what was right and wrong, and whether I wanted to be “naughty” or good. As a result this would affect me later on in life. I started to get bullied in year 5 and year 6, by a small group of girls mainly. Then as I moved up into secondary school I was bullied viciously, and no-one stood up for me. I used to hang around with my brother and his friends because I was seeking comfort, reassurance, and as such I didn’t mingle with those from my own year. One day I tried to join in football and was told to go away (in slightly ruder terms) and play football with my brother. Really, the bullying never ceased from year 5 until even year 11. I slowly began to integrate myself within my year and make my own friends, but still the bullying was there. It was only words now, but it was still as difficult to take as if I was being beaten up each day. I came home and sobbed for a good few hours one day, I was so upset by it all. As I grew older, I became more resistant to it, but then everyone joined in, even my so called friends. They would call me “old man” and none of them knew why, but I did and it made me self conscious, I still bear the effects of that to this day. It was about my hair. Really. My hair. Supposedly I had a receding hairline, well that’s bollocks I tell you now! I just have a high forehead. However, I still make a massive effort to make my hair look good, and it’s not due to vanity, it’s because of that bullying. Eventually it began to settle down when they all realised I was half decent at cricket, but even then, I accidentally broke someone’s finger just by bowling a cricket ball during a nets session, and they started to make out as if it was deliberate. It was a bit of a lose lose situation.

I was probably 12 or 13 when “depression” manifested itself in a different form inside me. That was aggression and anger. A quiet, shy little boy who was suffocated at school would come home and explode in fits of rage at his brother. My brother, 2 and a half years my senior, bore the brunt of my aggression. You might say “well that’s just your normal sibling rivalry”. You would be wrong. I spent hours and hours on end fighting him, he barricaded his door with a bookcase and yet I would spend hours screaming and shouting and slamming against his door just to get at him. I even hit him with a miniature cricket bat I bought from the Oval when I captained the school team there. That wasn’t right, and it’s evident that something was wrong looking back.

Then, college arrived. I was leaving school and those friends I spent so long trying to find were all heading off elsewhere. Like I said earlier, I managed to make new friends, but it took a little while. These friends are probably the best ones I’ve ever made but it sucks that they’ve all gone to uni elsewhere. Two in particular saved me from myself during my time at college. H & S were just brilliant, so understanding when I opened up to them about my issues and just really great friends. ‘I’ was also a great help, she was just one of those people who you could talk to about anything. Also, in my business class, there was a girl called Sam. She was quiet, but seemed pretty good at business. I didn’t like where I was sitting because of a guy called Jordan who was loud and kept trying to get me to give him my work! Eventually I asked my teacher if I could move and she said it was fine. Then the next lesson I was put into a pair with Sam, I was a bit scared because my confidence was pretty low, but we got on well. I then decided to move and sit next to her as she was awesome at business, that took a lot from me because I was a bit worried for some reason. Yet, she’s a really good friend now. So it goes to show that sometimes good things happen when you fight back against your fears.

Moving on to what is probably the most interesting thing for me. People. People are my life and soul. My t-shirt says it’s music but really it’s people. I love interacting with people, talking to them, helping them, whatever. I mentioned that I joined a forum, well I befriended a girl a couple of years younger than me ‘K’ and we got to know each other really well over the course of about a year. We both had major issues at the time, but we helped each other through them. You know people talk about love, and they misunderstand it, but this, this was love. Not romantic love, but sort of like sibling love. I would spend hours on the phone trying to calm her down, trying to help her, we would text all the time. Why am I telling you this? Unfortunately one day, her family forced her to hand over all her passwords, they looked at her messages and her sister came onto msn, had a massive go at me for talking to K about my feelings (I wasn’t very subtle) gave me the most severe panic attack I’ve ever had to this day. I was physically sick because of it.  I regret the way I talked to her throughout that year because it probably made her worse, and in the end it contributed to losing her. From that day onwards, the only contact I’ve had from her was an e-mail to say goodbye. No-one will ever begin to comprehend how that felt. I still dream about her to this day, I still wonder what she is doing, how she is, if I’ll ever get to see her. It was like someone had taken my insides, twisted them around and ripped them out, performing surgery on me without anaesthetic. That’s how painful it was. I miss her, I loved her, and she loved me. Since then, no-one has ever loved me, not anywhere near to the way she loved me, and I’ve never loved anyone the way I loved her. The closest I’ve come is probably Ch, who I love and who cares about me as well. A girl who has lots of troubles in her life, but gets on with it, is still here and comes to me when she needs support. I hope she knows that I’ll never give up on her, I’ll always be there to help her and that I’ll try my best whatever it is she needs support with.

People really have come and gone from my life. Too many people just as I got close to them, they would go, for whatever reason they left. That includes my uncle. This is a guy who was more like a dad/best mate to me. I would confide in him about anything and everything, we would laugh and joke, he was a bit of a comedian, but then my nan died, and well family stuff happened and he fucked off, punishing me and my brother, but mainly me, for something that we had no control over.

To lose people, that is my greatest fear in life. If I get close to someone, I have a fear that I will lose them. It takes over and it begins to affect the relationship and thus I have to be careful to notice this and act on it.

There’s one person who I attribute the title of this blog to. ‘V’ . This girl, or young woman now, she saved my life. I don’t mean that literally, but I might as well mean it literally because she was there for me when I needed someone the most. We got to know each other because we support the same football team, and we became friends. V was the friend I was crying out for, and if I hadn’t had her with me then I don’t know where I would be. I love her, she’s amazing and I’m so pleased I know her.

If this was an essay, I would be losing marks left right and centre for digressing. It’s not an essay though so it’s alright. However, here is where I explain what this all means and how I battled through all of the above to be where I am now. Where I am now is a content place, a place rid of depression and largely anxiety, but a place with underlying problems still very much there. The difference between today and last year is that I know how to deal with them. If you asked me “how do you deal with it?” then I wouldn’t be able to answer, because it’s sort of become innate now. Counselling changed my life. I love self actualising. Learning about the human mind, in particular my own is beautiful for me, and it helped me to recover. I identified the problems that I had and I realised when I was being irrational, when I was allowing my logic to be overridden by emotion. Talking to people, a counsellor and people in general, it allowed me to explore myself and discover ways to cope with my emotions. Gradually I moved out of the dark and into the light.

I implore you not to give up on yourself. You have so much to give to the world, you cannot see it right now, but you do. “Oh darling, I know you can’t see a light, but darling, don’t you see, you have one inside!” You’re scared, you’re tired and you don’t want to fight anymore. You constantly tell yourself you’re going to end it but you’re still here. That’s because you have hope, you think that surely nothing can be any worse than this, you’re still here, you want to live and you will live so long as you believe. I’m not preaching to you, I’m not going to tell you everything will be rosy tomorrow just because you believe it will, but that belief inside is key to giving you the strength to find ways through this.

Look at me, I’ve come from suicidal tendencies, an overdose and self harm to being content with myself despite my life being far from perfect. I’m 18 months free of self harm. Me, I’m nothing special, yet I am. I am special because I am unique, just as you are. You are unique and that is beautiful, if you give up on yourself then the world will lose something, the world will weep at your loss because it’s brilliance, it’s beauty becomes less because you passed away.

Please don’t be afraid to talk, if you have a bad experience with one person it doesn’t mean you will have it again, talking saved my life, it can save yours to.

To conclude, I just want to say a massive massive thank you from the bottom of my hear to these people:  Vicki, Kel, Harry, Sophie, Chloe, Cath, Alex, Amy, Doug, Rebecca, Saira, Sam, Sarita, Tom, Rag, Lee, Steph, Aimee. All of these people have in a huge way helped me through my depression, they supported me through the bad times, they shared my good times, but most of all they never gave up on me. I love every one of them, they are my strength. I missed out one ‘person’ from that list though. Twitter. Each and every one of you who talks to me, who retweets, who favourites, who interacts with me in anyway shape or form helps me through the day. I love you all, and I hope that my words give you hope, that my words help you in some small way. If they do, for just one of you, then I consider that a success. I set up Talk Out to help people, I seem to have a knack of doing it and doing it well. It’s a gift I’m grateful for.

Don’t worry, about a thing, cos every little thing, is gonna be alright! The trick of it is: don’t be afraid anymore!

‘The Trouble With Men’

The trouble with men is society. The trouble with men is stigma. The trouble with men is the past. The trouble with men is…

The trouble with men was the title of a ‘Tonight’ ITV special looking at depression in men and the fear of opening up about how we feel. It centred around former England rugby player Duncan Bell who admitted to suffering from and hiding his depression until one day the team doctor took him to one side and asked him how he was feeling. Having responded with the all too common phrase “I’m fine” the doctor replied “no no really how are you feeling” and Bell admitted to basically breaking down into tears.

So this post aims to explore what it is about men that stop us from talking about depression or admitting we suffer from it. Right there I touch upon something which is perhaps slightly inaccurate. I put it to you that it is not some sort of pre disposition, chromosomal, hormonal or other biological thing that stops us talking, but it is (partly) a societal reason.

It can be argued that gender stereotypes still exist in the modern age, as is evidenced by the ongoing feminist movement, but it’s not just women who are the butt of sexist stereotypes. Men are affected by them too. There is a myth that men are the protectors, the strong guys and the stable people with strong upper lips. We’re meant to get into fights and throw punches. We’re meant to show all the attributes of a warrior. Unfortunately it is this that is part of the reason men are either afraid to talk about their depression or reluctant to do so. I was told to “man up” at age 15 when I first opened up about how I felt, and that was from a guy who was supposed to be my friend. Things like that, silly ancient perceptions of what a man is stop us from opening up and getting that all important help. There’s the idea of a golden hour when doctors try to save people’s lives, well there’s something similar with mental health. If we notice the symptoms early enough then we can help save people from themselves, and help people to save themselves much more easily before depression manifests itself and blinds them to the reality of life. That is why it is crucial to stop this petty culture of sexism that pervades society today. This brings me onto my next point.

Society. I feel that people with mental health issues are perhaps more aware of people who may judge them, and we use our heightened sense of fear to suggest that there is a culture of turning a blind eye when it comes to mental health. I believe we exaggerate the amount of people whom are all to willing to judge us, to look down on us and to ignore us because we are different. I am in no way suggesting this is the case for all, neither am I suggesting it does not exist, because plainly it does! We must be wary not to let our fear blind us though. However, within society exists a culture of ignorance, and this is where stigma stems from. A lack of understanding of issues, of being afraid of change and people who are different to us. Society allows the continued growth of the idea that men should not talk about their feelings because feeling this way is simply not manly. This is so wrong, so very very wrong, and if you come across this feeling guys then swat it down like you would a fly. Crush it like you would a can. We need to find a way to remove this belief, this myth from society, and the best way to do it is to talk.

The trouble with men is that when you combine depression in men with societal attitudes, you get men hiding away and continuing to allow the myth that depression is a weakness and unmanly to pervade our culture. Now that’s not the fault of the people with depression, but if we can break out of this bubble, to talk out and explain how we feel, then slowly but surely the bubble that society holds itself within will pop and people will throw off their false conciousness’ to find the truth that depression can strike anyone, it strikes in different ways, and that men who suffer from it are no less than men who don’t.

The trouble with men is that because of this myth that depression in men is a sign of weakness and not macho many simply suffer alone in silence increasing the pain they hide inside as the world continues to turn, but their world inside crumbles and crashes, beginning to burn. Men are more reluctant to see their GP, to talk to their friends about it, and all because of this idea that it is not manly.

The only way to solve this idea that emotions, depression etc are signs of weakness and not macho is to educate people, to remove ignorance, remove prejudice and stupidity, and to encourage strong independent thinking. Shun societies supposed rules, talk about how you feel if you need to, it’s ok to do so. Education will of course only be 1 egg in the basket, but it will be a bloody big egg at that.

The trouble with men is that we are scared. The trouble with men is that society has indoctrinated us to see vast differences between us and women, when in reality the only differences that matter are biological. Large amounts of what has been discussed here can be applied to women as well, it’s just men are even more afraid to speak out. Men and women, we’re not that different. Lose your chains and fight for your freedom.