For as long as I can remember I have faced obstacles. When I was a young boy, like most children do I suppose, I just dealt with things the best I could when they needed to be dealt with. It was only when I lost my mother at sixteen that I felt the need to speak to somebody. My HR manager at work acted almost as a counsellor, and this was my first experience of any sort of help in that manner.
Some years later when I felt extremely low I had an almost life saving conversation with my godfather, who’s worked as a psychiatric nurse. Not long before that chat, I had my first and only real bout of suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, I hadn’t the bottle.
In 2013, whilst living in Liverpool, I attended a course of counselling called Inclusion Matters, where I spoke with a woman called Jane across eight one hour sessions. Before being directed to Jane, I had tried therapy but was thrown out as I was told it wasn’t what I needed.
My time with Jane helped me incredibly. For ninety-five percent of our hourly sessions I would do the talking, but I found this incredibly helpful and soon after changed my situation for the better. I left Liverpool and returned to Nottingham as I was keen to be somewhere familiar while I, for want of a better phrase ‘sorted my head out’. While I still struggle, and have had low points since, this certainly helped.
In 2016, I suffered a major relapse which finally, after years of struggling with anxiety and stress saw me prescribed anti-depressants which to my disbelief helped an awful lot. They certainly don’t make things better, but they make the bad seem less so.
Mental health issues are so common that I have been able to speak with many friends who are in the same boat, and it’s that sense of not feeling so alone that is a comfort. I had a conversation with my manager at work, who to my surprise offered me an incredible sense of perspective. I have always been someone who has been keen to help others, possibly in a way to cover up the fact that I myself am struggling.
At the time of my chat with my boss I was in a relationship with somebody who was herself having difficulties, plus I, along with my entire team at work were facing redundancy. It was at this point the doctors gave me the tablets.
My manager mentioned the phrase “a monkey on your back.” He remarked how I already had monkeys on my back due to losing my parents, then I took on all my colleagues’ monkeys, and all of my partners, so it was no wonder that I crashed. I had a lot of respect for him after that, and can’t think of anything that had summed up how things were so well.
I have been subjected to the odd “man up” comment, which I just ignore. Until someone has walked in your shoes you can’t really pass comment, and certainly not in such an ignorant manner. The aforementioned phrase sums it up. You don’t hear women being told to “woman up”. It’s naïve to think that men should have a stiff upper lip, and statistics in suicide within men prove that it simply isn’t the case.
In a month where a Premier League footballer has been in the headlines for struggling with mental health I think that we are getting closer to a point where more men will feel comfortable seeking help. We’re getting there, but the more encouragement the better.
Talk. Being silent isn’t being strong. It’s tough out there, and it’s ok to admit you are struggling.