Hi, I'm Tom & this is my story.
Until recently, most of my family and friends were completely clueless to what I'm about to share with you. From speaking out and seeking help, my life has improved greatly & I hope I can encourage more to do the same by sharing with you all, my battle.
I suffer and have suffered for many years, most of my teenage years included, with Depression.
Depression has controlled every aspect of my life almost every day for as far back as I can remember. It took away what were supposed to be the best years of my life. It has affected my relationship with my family and friends, school life and work.
What comes with depression as many of you will know is sever anxieties and panic.
These anxieties became so much, that eventually for 9 months I couldn't leave my bedroom.
I couldn't face myself, let alone anybody else. I shut off from the world. I'd had enough.
I couldn't sleep. I mean that quiet literally. Days would pass, turning to night. Nights would pass, turning to morning. I would sit in my bed, numb, often crying for hours feeling there was no end to the dark, lonely, silent hole I was in. When I would fall asleep, the nightmares I would endure would stay with me for weeks, terrifying me into not allowing myself fall asleep again. When I would attempt to leave my room the fear I held was crippling. I would drip in sweat, I'd get so dizzy I would feel I was on the verge of fainting. I would literally pinch myself purple almost as if trying to stay conscious & I would itch from head to toe. No comforting words from the one person I had through all these woeful times, my rock, my soul mate, my Fiancée, Siobhán could change how I felt. I quiet literally could not cope.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to see my GP, probably months after plucking up the courage to tell Siobhán what was going on in my head. He prescribed me with antidepressant tablets after diagnosing me with Clinical Depression.
If I felt bad before, things were about to get so much worse. My tables made me so unstable, I would be numb to every emotion possible, I would drop off to sleep anywhere (I can't sleep unless I'm in my bed!), then I would be so hyper it was like I'd had about 4 bottles of wine. Next thing, I didn't know myself in the mirror. Almost over night I bloated. Eventually, they broke down my metabolism so much I gained over 6 stone! My image has always been important to me and now that was gone too! I know I should have had my tablets changed (and I urge anyone who is unwell on any tablets to do so because the outcome otherwise is not good) but I was so depressed and anxious. These tablets had just made me worse & I couldn't find the strength to see my doctor again. I ditched my tablets and packed in my job, which broke my heart!
I retired to my bedroom for the next 9 months. Those were the most torturous 9 months of my life. I pray that I will never relive them. I was so afraid, every little sound terrified me. I would sit rocking on my bed for hours, terrified. I scratched my arms until they bled. A "self soothing" mechanism which has scarred my arms ever since. The pain, the scratching brought about was dynamite. I couldn't lie on them, I couldn't wash them. It would take weeks for them to heel. I turned to pulling my eyebrows, my leg hair.. Anything that would inflict a form of pain to "soothe" or distract the demons in my brain. I broke glass to cut myself to feel blood "releasing" the "venom" from my head. Twice I tried falling asleep with a bag over my head in the hope I would smoother...all the while feeling a woeful sickening guilt for the people I was about to hurt and leave behind.
I eventually befriended alcohol. It actually made me feel quiet good. Suddenly I wasn't anxious, or depressed. I could pour my heart out to whoever was there to listen. I could feel so normal for a few hours. Then my hangover would be so bad, I couldn't think of anything else. And I would sleep like a baby. (Not the best form of treatment, but at the time it allowed me to feel human.).
One afternoon, after sitting in my bed for 3 days (and I mean sitting, because I was too afraid to sleep as I knew if I drifted off, the nightmares I would have and I wasn't prepared for that. I was like a 5 year old boy, afraid of the monster under my bed but instead, he was inside my head. I was so terrified I would not allow myself sleep.) I said I'd had enough. That that was it. I'm done with this life. I just didn't know how to do it. Then I did something, something I never do, I reached out for help. Anyone who knows me knows, I don't ask for help. I always rather do things myself. No matter what. Anyway, I reached out to the Samaritans. I won't get into what was discussed or the outcome as I'm sure they are great in their own way and do wonderful work. I think I was just gone beyond listening to someone down the phone telling me to stay strong. I didn't have the energy to stay strong! I'd done that for long enough! This was one of my darkest depressive episodes to date but like all episodes (they pass, either in an hour, could be a day or a week or a month, but they pass) it passed, not too long after my phone call to the Samaritans strange enough.. Something flicked in my head. I realised, that if anyone was to help me, I needed to help myself. In the coming weeks, I started cutting back on my drinking. It was though because it was my only scapegoat. I would push myself to shower, I started to do my hair again. I would go (never ever alone because that was impossible) for lunch with Siobhán. I gradually reintroduced myself to the living world. And wow, it was a challenge! One thing that was good, and is funny to say now looking back, was that I became so over weight that no one knew me!! That meant I was able to avoid people easily and avoid conversation! There was nothing worse than getting caught in conversations about the weather, the news, going out at the weekend... I literally was not able.
3rd of July 2014 I bought a new car. And that was when I said my life was going to change too. From that day, I never drank again (Except a glass of champagne on New Years Eve & another somewhere else along the way as a celebratory drink), I took my life each day at a time, living literally hour by hour. I lived the good and fought the bad with all my inner strength. I started going outside alone... I remember the first day I went out "running" forgetting I was now 6 stone heavier and not able to catch a breath. I started crying and crying and crying because it was the first day in as far back as I could possible remember that I felt FREE. My brain actually allowed me to be happy again. It set me free and suddenly I was no longer afraid. I will never forget how amazing I felt at that moment. Since then, I have worked my hardest to stay mentally healthy. I've gained new interests and I certainly do not drink, it a major depressive trigger. I know foods that affect me or pull me down just like alcohol does so I do my best to avoid those too! I know staying up late will increase my chances of nightmares and in turn, give me a down day. I know the environments that will fill me with anxieties so I steer clear but am learning to deal with those situations too.
I've basically lived a year of self discovery. I've taken a year where I've listened to my head and what it does and doesn't like and what it can and can't tolerate. I've since gone on to loose 8 and a half stone too - bettering my confidence, energy, and general health!
I know when I'm going to have a depressive episode, I know the signs and I can prepare for it. And more reassuringly, I know that that episode will pass and I just have to allow nature take its course. I'm no longer frightened of depression. My bedroom is literally somewhere I sleep now...it's not where I lock myself away and close the curtains to shut out the world. It's where I go to sleep, without nightmares or demons in my head, allowing my brain to rest which grants me wonderful, depression and anxiety free days. Yes, I still can have very dark, down days where everything is too much and I work myself into a state of panic but for the most, I feel like I've never felt before. I feel FREE!
The reason I've absolutely bared my soul here is firstly to hopefully show someone out there suffering in silence that life CAN get better from speaking you, getting help, being open etc and secondly, we need to highlight the Mental Health issues people all over this country are dealing with every single day. And, there's no point in me just saying that without telling my story!
I have been blessed to have my wonderful, loving, understanding, simply amazing Fiancée, Siobhán by my side throughout the hardest time of my life (how she found the strength for me I will never know, but will be eternally grateful for). However, not everyone is as lucky and THATS why we need a stigma free country. A country where it's perfectly OK, not to be ok!! Where mental health isn't put on the back burner allowing other issues be prioritised. The more we can all speak out the greater the chances we have of that becoming a reality. And that's why I've spoken out today. We need for people who are suffering to see that life WILL get better. That there IS help and that so many people are experiencing what they are going through. I wish no body ever has to get as sick as I did before they can get better. I want there to be no shame in reaching out for help. And I want people to also be understanding. If someone seems weird or odd or a bit off....just think, are they after having to build themselves up for the past week to leave their home..? Are they ok? Might they be suffering in silence?
Please, show some understanding the next time you meet one of your family or friends who seem a little off, because to be fair, none of us have a clue what another person could be going through inside their own heads.
I'm Tom and I suffer with Depression and that's OK! It's ok if you do too! Put down your phone/tablet and try, with all the strength you can find, to tell someone how you are feeling. You WILL get better. I promise! I'm proof!
Thank you for for taking the time to read my story - best wishes.