Strength In Numbers

People with depression often push others away, I did for a long time. The reason being, I didn’t feel worthy of the support and didn’t want to inflict my current self onto people who I cared for. I was also confused and struggling to get my head round how I was feeling, so how could I possibly expect anyone else to understand? Including others, felt like too much of an effort, I was already exhausted, it felt like I was trudging through mud whilst lost in a deep fog, why would I ever inflict this onto somebody else. You feel unworthy of the help and they feel hopeless for not being able to provide it! You might believe that accepting the help is putting an unnecessary burden on them, but for them not being able to help is much more damaging. Why not have strength in numbers and battle it together. Opening up was far from easy for me but every time I felt a huge sense of relief and I was left pleasantly surprised by their reactions.

It’s easy to pre-empt how you think others view you and your illness, but I have to admit, most of the time I was completely wrong with each of my presumptions.

A MOTHERS PERSPECTIVE

strength in numbers

My mum wrote the following passage and I thank her for her honesty.

When a newborn baby is put into your arms there’s a special bond that can’t be broken and as they grow it doesn’t wane at all.

A maternal instinct is an extremely powerful thing, as most mothers would confirm.

From the very first moment of their lives your protection instinct kicks in and you’re lost in admiration of the tiny infant in your care.

All you want to do is protect them from harm, in any way that you can but life is sadly not like that and there are times when there is nothing you can do to take their pain away.

As they grow your concerns are always there as you want the very best for them and when they go to school you leave them at the gates with feelings of trepidation.

Letting go has always been a difficult thing for me and both of my sons would probably tell you that I wear my heart on my sleeve and whenever one of my siblings hurt, I hurt too.

It has therefore been a very difficult time to see one of them struggling with health issues without understanding or being able to help. Broken bones can be easily fixed and although traumatic at the time can soon be forgotten by all concerned. Other childhood illnesses often cause a certain amount of sleepless nights but generally don’t take to long to get over.

An illness that cannot be categorised in a straightforward way seems much more frightening and difficult to comprehend for all concerned. The only way to help I find is to be there for them, when they need you. There’s a fine line between helping and hindering and I have to admit that there are times when I feel that I get it slightly wrong but I try to learn from my mistakes. Sometime having a stranger in your midst is not easy to accept as your son is hidden from view quite a bit due to the illness, which envelops him.

When I see glimpses of him returning, be it a smile that isn’t forced or a mischievous glint in his eyes, I know that he’s going to be all right.

strength in numbers

 

Sometimes you can be so wrapped up in your own personal battles that you forget how your health issues are affecting your loved ones. Living with depression, is not only hard for you but also really difficult for those most close to you. I get questions posted to me all the time, from people desperate for advice on how to help someone they love, who has a mental health illness. Yes it’s hard for them but believe me it would be even harder and more painful if you excluded them all together.

It troubles me when I read my mother describing it as, sometimes like living with a stranger, but I guess that’s the reality at the moment. I can be quite distant at times and when I’m feeling down, I don’t always manage to hide it.

Desperately wanting to help someone but not knowing how to go about it must be extremely frustrating. What’s Important to remember is, often just being there for us can be hugely beneficial.

Brotherly Love?

The first time my brother witnessed me having a panic attack, we were in a busy farm shop. Previous to this I’d felt my anxiety rising. In truth I just wanted to get the hell out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there were factors that prevented this. Firstly there appeared to be queues everywhere and I wasn’t sure which one we should be in. Secondly my brother was in slow chilled out mode and wanted to browse the store! Of course he had no idea of my urgency to escape and the pending doom that was now suffocating me. Instead he said ‘calm down, whats up with you!’ and even began to laugh. He presumed I was playing some practical joke on him. It wasn’t until I was bent over hyperventilating that he realized it was no joke.   I didn’t blame him for his reaction, you can’t expect someone to immediately understand if they’ve never seen you like this. Later, outside in the car park he was extremely apologetic and needed plenty of reassurance that I was alright.

Obviously now it’s different. He doesn’t make a big deal of it but also knows that me having a panic attack whilst we’re out, is always a possibility. The same goes for my friends who are all aware of my illness. At the time I chose to suffer it in silence and not include people. My panic attacks have become less frequent of late, as I have learnt several coping methods and know what situations to try and avoid. People now being aware alleviates some of my anxieties as they’re no longer shocked by me, instead they know how to respond in a helpful manner. This can include keeping calm and getting me to fresh air or a quieter environment. Using mirroring techniques to help me control my breathing. Most importantly they’re able to offer copious amounts of reassurance, which is precisely what I need in these terrifying moments.

Battling your mental health is hard but made easier with strength in numbers

strength in numbers

 

 

 

 

Suicide Prevention

The Uncomfortable Truth- Suicide Prevention 

Mental health is still an extremely uncomfortable subject to talk about and life would be so much easier for myself and fellow sufferers, if this wasn’t the case.

They say that one in four of us will have a mental health illness at some stage of our lives. The reality is it’s almost certainly much higher than this but sadly the majority of people don’t seek help. Recently I was made aware of an alarming statistic that over 70% of people who commit suicide, haven’t attempted to get any medical support. Often the families are left totally shocked and bewildered by the tragic event, saying that they didn’t see it coming.

suicide prevention
A smile can hide our true emotions

It fills me with sadness when I think of those people trapped in their own heads having to deal with unimaginable mental anguish and eventually losing the battle. Feeling alone in every sense of the word, right up until the end.

At the moment mental health topics are on the television every day, be it in expert phone ins or actors portraying depression on dramas and soaps. People are being made aware of all the helpful organisations that exist and are being encouraged to seek help from their GP’s for the first port of call. So why when the subject is at it’s most prevalent, do the majority of people, even at their darkest moments, still refuse to get help? I find the whole thing perplexing to say the least and an area that desperately needs challenging.

 

I grew up in a world where I was lead to believe that only weak-minded people could get a mental health illness and only a negative pessimistic person would end up getting depressed. Depression not even being recognised as a proper illness but something that people should just be able to snap out of! I wonder how many still share that view today. I now realise this is complete rubbish. Mental health is not a weakness and as for depression, I for one have always been a positive upbeat person who sees the bright side of life, but I still got it! I could give you several examples of strong level headed people who end up completely pole axed and unable to function properly, all because of this illness.   Telling people that I suffer from depression is a great way to kill a conversation! Either that or they say they understand as they get a bit down sometimes too. Clearly these people don’t get it and it infuriates me beyond belief. Having depression is not the same as feeling a bit down, just as having a mental health illness does not make you cuckoo or a fruitcake, or any other derogatory terms I’ve heard used. It does not mean that you’re stupid in anyway either. Look at Stephen Fry, one of the most intelligent people on the planet, but his illness has been well documented over the years.

The truth is it doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful. Sure- a traumatic event might act as a trigger but often this isn’t the case and you might just be one of the unfortunate ones who happens to get it. Like any other debilitating illness it affects people at random. No different to cancer or heart disease, mental health does not hand pick you. It has no favourites. But the facts are there, clear for everyone to see; suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 20-34. Just how many of these deaths could have been prevented?

I accept that society is becoming more open to talking about mental health, but there’s still a terrible stigma surrounding it, which prevents individuals from seeking help when they need it the most. I was nearly one of those people. Terrified by the prospect of asking for help, I didn’t think I was worthy of it and worst of all I couldn’t accept that I was in any way mentally ill!

 

The majority of people I have spoken to are of the opinion that suicide is a selfish act. This has been the same for as long as I can remember and growing up I shared the same view.

It doesn’t help if you’ve been directly affected by it or know of a family who has. You’ve been witness to the horror and devastation left behind. It’s perfectly normal at this point to mainly sympathise with the family and not give a second thought to the victim and the horrible place they must have found themselves in. What you witness is a whole world of pain and suffering and you can’t help but feel an element of resentment towards the person who caused it. It’s a delicate subject, I know, but in my opinion to consider suicide as a selfish act is a huge misconception. Suicide is not a selfish act, suicide is an act of shear desperation by someone whose experiencing unimaginable amounts of inward torment. Someone who has lost all sense of hope and literally feel they have no other option.

suicide prevention

In my case I was convinced that my family and friends would be much better off without me. I’d become a burden to them all, I’d become a burden on society. I longed for it all to be over, for the pain to finally stop. People’s lives would be so much easier without me dragging them down.

I knew there would likely be sadness right after my death but this didn’t compare to the sadness and disruption I was going to cause by staying alive. I didn’t see myself ever recovering, you see, I was only going to get worse and cause further distress to my family.

I guessed that my closest friends would try to take on some of the responsibility and I hated the idea of them feeling in any way to blame. I therefore wrote letters to each of them in a vain attempt to explain my actions and try to reassure them that they had been amazing friends, explaining that this was my decision alone and nothing they could have said or done would have changed the outcome. I couldn’t possibly predict their emotions but I’d much rather they felt anger towards me, as apposed to guilt. These letters were extremely difficult to write. Would a selfish person have gone to all this trouble?

My next big concern was financial. I didn’t want to leave my family with any debts. In an ideal world I would have sold my house and paid off the excess mortgage. Previously it had tenants in but at this stage the house was vacant and had been up for sale for some time. Unfortunately I’d had no luck, the economic climate being in a poor state. However after doing extensive research I realised that the debt of the house would die with me and my mother would not be accountable for any of it. This came as a huge relief.

I made sure I had enough money in the bank to pay for the funeral and put all my account details in a file in my top drawer. Also in this file I put any other important information my family would need, such as my birth certificate, national insurance number, mortgage details and all the numbers they’d need to contact after my death. I was trying my best to cover all angles and make the process as simple as possible for them. Does this sound like the actions of a selfish man?

I didn’t intend to tell anyone my plan to end my life but as the pressure valve increased I desperately needed some kind of release.

Jack Daniels became my only friend

I chose to open up to my counsellor and in doing so I immediately felt a huge sense of relief. I didn’t hold back or spare any detail, I literally told her everything.

It wasn’t until a much later date when I was in a better headspace and had no intention of going through with the plan. Only then did I confide in my family and closest friends. My friends all responded in a similar manner, in complete shock. They said things like “ How could you have done that to us? How could you have possibly done that to your family?” I couldn’t blame them for asking these questions and don’t get me wrong they have been amazing support to me ever since. But again, their initial reaction indicated that they believe suicide to be a selfish act.

 

It’s hardly surprising that people are so reluctant to talk about their mental health or admit to having suicidal thoughts. Yes there’s many organisations out there offering great support but we can’t expect the alarming statistics to go down any, unless people’s attitudes drastically change.

In my opinion people need educating from a young age. Physical health is well covered at school so why not put as much emphasis on mental health. Everyone is likely to be effected by it at some stage of their lives, either themselves or someone they’re close to. So why not get them talking about the subject as early as possible.

It needs to be accepted as a serious illness and I still have my doubts that people do. For those of you who claim that you do accept it in this way, ask yourself this – have you ever sent a ‘Get well’ or ‘Thinking about you’ card to someone with a long term illness? The majority of us would say that we have. But when was the last time you sent one to someone with a mental health illness?

Acceptance of Mental health

mental health awareness A smile hides our true emotions

Depression is a serious illness that affects millions of people and that’s why there’s so much help out there. Accepting your mental health is the first stage and was the hardest part for me. For those of you who are fellow sufferers you may be in a dark, scary place at the moment but I assure you that what your feeling is not abnormal. It might not feel like it but all the symptoms such as low self-esteem, panic and anxiety, extreme changes in your emotional state and generally feeling like crap! They’re all part of the illness and like any major illness it needs treating. You deserve the help, please ask for it! You’ll be amazed how much having someone to talk to will be of benefit. Unlike the picture above you no longer need to hide behind your smile. I was extremely pessimistic about going to see a counsellor but now I can see, it quite literally saved my life. It took me a long time to open up but counsellors are used to this and will be patient and empathic towards you. Once I did begin to unload all my bottled up emotions and talk about my mental health I felt a huge sense of relief.

Many people make the presumption that if your depressed you’re bound to fall into a certain category. Maybe your alone and isolated with no family or friends to turn to. Maybe you’ve experienced a life changing traumatic event. You might be financially unstable, facing bankruptcy, the bills are mounting up and you cant see an easy way out. You have no outgoings, no reason to get up in a morning, nothing to be proud of and no purpose in life. A disability might be preventing you from living the life you want to lead. Or you might just be one of those people whose glass is always half empty, you some how manage to find the negative side of every given situation and have a miserable outlook on life!

What if none of these things apply to you. I can honestly say I have the best bunch of friends in the world and I’ve been brought up in a loving family, which are still to this day amazingly supportive of me. I have numerous hobbies and interests and I enjoy many aspects of life. I’d like to think of myself as cheerful and my friends would tell you that I’m good company most of the time. So bearing all this in mind, do I still have the right to be depressed? Should I feel guilty for feeling the way I do, when I have such fantastic support all around me?  Well the truth is I did feel extremely guilty and at times even disgusted with myself. Useless and inadequate are also words that spring to mind and I certainly felt undeserving of any help with my mental health. As well as being confused and frustrated by the way I was feeling I remember also feeling an unbearable shame. On the news I’d see children being born into poverty or war zones and it would remind me how lucky I was. I kept going back to the same question of what right or reason did I have to be depressed?

Mental Health Acceptance

Accepting my mental health has been extremely difficult for me and I’m not certain I’ve even got there yet. The fact that its such a difficult illness to fully understand makes it even harder to live with. But it is an illness and a serious one at that, weather you believe yourself worthy of it or not. If you’ve got it that’s completely out of your control. As much as you put yourself down, you do need the help and more to the point your entitled to it. If your like me and you have good friends then ask yourself why? maybe it’s because you to are a good friend to them too. If you have a supportive family the reason could be due to you being equally supportive of them. Its time to start looking after yourself. I had visited the doctors twice in five years and one of those time was for some holiday vaccinations! It took me some time to come to terms with the idea of having a fortnightly slot but I finally accepted that having spent most of my life caring for others and putting there needs first it was now my time to get a little help.

mental health awareness Escape To A Nicer Reality