Over the last few years I’ve done a Facebook post on World Mental Health Day, sharing my experiences and encouraging others to reach out if they are in a dark place. This year I’ve decided to write a blog post.
I’ll give you a heads up, this is not going to be my standard blog post – it will be heavy reading, hard-hitting and difficult read for many of you – especially for those who know me. Some of what I’m about to write, I have never shared with anyone – but feel like it’s not only useful for me to share but I hope it highlights the realness and severity of mental health issues.
Before I get into this, just a very brief intro for those of you who don’t know me. I’m Chris, I’m 25, a Personal Trainer and a pretty “normal”, stereotypical 25 year old dude who loves football, motorbikes and beer (classic). You wouldn’t be able to guess on the face of it that I’ve been battling depression for 6 years now; I’m able to function, I can go to work, I’m fairly sociable and there are few clear outwardly symptoms for anyone to pick up on, but unfortunately, it is easy to hide depression.
The purpose of World Mental Health Day is to attempt to remove the stigma that is often accompanied with mental health disorders. Although there has been such a great work done recently and attitudes towards mental disorders are gradually changing, there are still many who perhaps do not recognise these disorders as illnesses or recognise the severity of them. If you are someone who is very dismissive of mental health, I would like you to do two things as you read my blog…
1) As you read through my journal excerpts, consider whether I would ever voluntarily choose to think in this way, or better still, consider if any human being on the planet would voluntarily choose to think like this.
2) If you consider mental disorders to be “weakness”, read through the excerpts and place yourself in my shoes. How long do think you could put up with these thoughts without trying to find some way of stopping them.
Back in 2016, I hit one of my lowest points. I was so desperate for any form of relief that I was trying anything possible that might help. One suggested method was to keep a journal of my day and my thoughts and feelings throughout the day; so that’s what I did. I personally didn’t find it to be overly helpful for me (although it may work for others), so I stopped soon after. I recently stumbled across this journal and I’m going to share some of the excerpts from that journal.
Depressive Thoughts and Feelings
One most difficult things for me is to try and explain many of my feelings. I often cant really put it into words how depression makes me feel which might explain why I am clearly frustrated in some of these excerpts. The following will give you a glimpse into the feelings I have / had. Even reading them back, I feel like what I’ve said, doesn’t quite do it justice. I hope it will also give you an idea that I obviously don’t want to have these thoughts yet, I feel powerless to stop them.
“My thoughts are taking me to a place I don’t want to go… my mind is all over the place, I feel so hopeless and empty” (March, 2016)
“I’m so angry, upset and frustrated inside but can’t show it.” (March, 2016)
“Being busy takes my mind off all the horrible thoughts I’ve been recycling time and time again but as soon as I’m alone again, it comes back. It’s relentless.” (June, 2016)
“Feel super unhappy and generally awful and once again struggling to put into words how I am really feeling.” (August, 2016)
“I’m a mess and I’m not showing any signs of improving over the past few years – it just been a downward spiral and I can’t seem to do anything to change that.” (October, 2016)
People often refer to depression as a numbness; a lack of feeling at times, something which the following excerpt, which was written a day after a funeral of a loved one, highlights…
“I had very little emotion over the fact that she’s no longer with us. Didn’t affect me at all – unmoved. Even at the funeral… lots of crying yet at no point did I feel sad or upset. I didn’t really feel anything at all and I feel really bad that I didn’t feel sad about it! Double edged sword. Don’t know if I’ve just become numb to idea of death.” (Jan, 2017)
Thoughts of Suicide, Self-Harm and Aggression
This is undoubtedly the most difficult topic to speak about but its such a huge issue that it needs to be spoken about. Depression has not only left its mark on me mentally but also physically. On my left wrist and my right leg I have scars from where I cut myself in my darkest moments. I loathed myself so much that I would often attack myself by punching and scratching which left me bruised and scraped. I can’t explain or understand the thought process that would ever make me want to do these things but I genuinely hated my life and myself so much that I would attack myself. Remember when I said earlier that I was looking for anything to help with my depression? Well for me, self-harm was a method I adopted – not a very useful method but a method none the less. The ultimate form of self-harm is suicide. Suicidal thoughts have been with me ever since I began to feel depressed. When I feel stable, those thoughts are there but I can deal with them and push them away. When I’m at a low point, I’m vulnerable. I’ve contemplated suicide on many occasions and have even previously written a note on my phone in case I ever did. On occasions where I’ve been walking over North Bridge, I would stop, just so I could peer over the edge. I would then get mad at myself for not having the balls to do anything – ridiculous really. I now have people in my life that I can now reach out to when in those moments.
Just referring back to the start of the blog where I addressed the mental health sceptics. Suicide is tragic but it occurs because so many people have a brain that tells them to kill themselves. When you are told that you wont be missed, life is not worth living and you should kill yourself every single day, do you not think you might end up listening to it just to shut it up? Individuals don’t do it because it’s the “easy way out” or out of selfishness, they do it because they literally cannot take any more. It’s mental bombardment and until you’ve been there I doubt you can truly understand how awful it is.
“I still wish I was removed from this world as I want to be free from this pain and have no hope of getting better from this illness. I feel trapped within my body, constantly feel alone and low and just wish to not exist.” (April, 2016)
“I’m willing an accident to happen to me (so not to have to commit suicide) so I don’t have to be in this world anymore” (May, 2016)
“Life is so terrible right now and I often do wish I was dead. I feel so worthless and alone, nobody would really care or remember me in a few years time anyway – life itself is just pointless. Just wish death would hurry up. I’m not planning to do anything but I do long to get away from all this suffering which I honestly feel like I can’t deal with anymore” (June, 2016)
Negativity, Lack of Enjoyment and Impact on Day to Day Life
Because your thoughts and feelings are dictated, it makes it extremely difficult to concentrate and function normally. No matter how hard I tried to concentrate and focus, my mind would quickly and autonomously return to those dark thoughts and there was nothing I could do to prevent this happening. It was not a matter of willpower. On top of that, the negative thoughts drag you down and keep you down – being positive, no matter how hard you try, is almost impossible.
“The last two days have been awful. I feel 10 x worse. I can’t concentrate, I can’t sleep, I feel exhausted and unable to function. Went into work feeling and looking awful” (Jan, 2017)
“I’m going backwards and feel myself becoming more suicidal again. Noticing more and more that people are telling me to take a break and think I need to but I don’t want to spend all day alone and trapped – work provides a temporary relief but even there I feel like I can’t function at times. I don’t think that having a break will help me.” (Feb, 2017)
“I am in a seriously dark place and I feel like I wont ever emerge from it. Life has just become struggle after struggle recently. I’m struggling here, real bad, and the only things I enjoyed or had going for me have gone.” (Sept, 2016)
“I almost now feel that this is the way its going to be for the rest of this life. Feel it is inevitable that I will have to battle this for the rest of time in this world. Horrible thought but I just feel like it’s a part of who I am now.” (Sept, 2016)
“I don’t enjoy life, feel happy or have any sort of hope in life. Joy is distant and I cannot recall the last time over this last year that I have felt true joy. Everything I enjoyed and loved has either gone or now holds little attraction.” (April, 2016)
Sleep and Exhaustion
Depression has more than just an impact on your mental wellbeing but it can also have an impact on the physical. Feeling exhausted and having issues with sleep are fairly common with suffers of depression. I personally have found that being exhausted only serves to heighten the negative and suicidal thoughts.
“I’m feeling very tired, almost dizzy, during the day because of tiredness. I’m just exhausted but I can’t sleep when it comes to bed time. I just can’t seem to catch up on my sleep at all.” (March, 2016)
“Spent the rest of the day in bed (after work). Today has been the lowest I have been in a long time” (July, 2016)
“No wonder I feel so alone. I spend all my evenings now in my room, all alone, doing very little – what kind of existence is that… I just don’t have the energy or strength to go do anything else” (August, 2016)
“This morning, I was very close to going to my manager and being upfront about my issues and tell her that I didn’t feel capable of doing the shift. Out of embarrassment and pride, I didn’t say a thing. Just got on with it which is what I’ve done ever since I’ve started working here. There have been so many occasions where I’ve physically felt unable to get up and go to work but somehow I’ve pushed myself every time and gone and got it done.” (Jan, 2017)
This is just a snapshot of the journal I wrote. It’s pretty shocking to read some of it and I do hope that it reveals a lot about the nature of depression. I also hope it helps to show that depression can impact anyone and that this awful disease is very easy to internalise and cover. If you were a mental health cynic prior to reading this, I now hope you will now begin to reconsider your stance on it.
Just in closing, if you are suffering from any mental disorder in silent can I encourage you to speak out and find help. It is not weakness, it is strength to speak up. When I initially began to feel this way, I tried to hide depression from people and told myself I could deal with it. I couldn’t and not being able to speak about it made every 100 x worse. The best thing I ever did was open up, seek help and I genuinely don’t think I’d be alive today if I hadn’t.
Read this final excerpt from Feb, 2017 which I think highlights how depression can be undetectable, unless you actually tell somebody:
““He (a friend) also said that he thinks I am a very positive person and I had to fight to convince him that this is not the case. It just again indicated to me how dangerous depression can be and how invisible it is. He has no idea what’s truly going on in my head all the time and assumes, based on how I act, that everything is great and I am happy. I would guess that the majority of my friends would be shocked to find out that I suffer with severe depression and have done for years. It’s so easy to hide.”