My name is Dan and I suffer with mental health issues.
I realised this at the beginning of 2018 when I finally worked up the courage to see my doctor about how I was feeling. My doctor diagnosed me with depression. I was prescribed anti-depressants and I was signed off work effective immediately. However I felt like I couldn’t take time off work due to the nature of my job, position, and how it would be perceived within the company so I continued to attend work against the advice of my doctor.
Over the course of the next 6 months I suffered from insomnia every night. It would take hours to get to sleep and when I finally did my brain would not switch off. I was only sleeping for an hour each night if that. During this period, I also started to suffer with tremors. This started with just my hands shaking slightly and leading to me not being able to type or even use a pen at work. I now have tremors in my legs and at times my whole body is affected. My doctor signed me off work an additional five times during this period. It wasn’t until the sixth time of being signed off that I finally approached HR with my health issues, purely because I was both physically and mentally exhausted.
I was signed off work for four weeks in total for depression and anxiety. I did not entertain having my time off extended at the end of the 4 weeks. During this time off work, I wasn’t contacted once by HR and when I did return they didn’t complete a Return to Work Interview. No one called to ask how I was or if there was anything the company could do to assist me. I had no support and felt like I was just expected to get on with it. In reality, I was so exhausted I couldn’t even get to work on time.
I was taking medication for my depression, anxiety, tremors and insomnia, but my health didn’t improve over the next four months. On the 8th of March this year, I completely broke down at work. I immediately left, drove home and within 20 minutes I was laying in the bath in my suit crying my eyes out with a large chefs knife pressed against my wrist, after having just written 3 suicide notes.
For those who have never suffered from suicidal thoughts, suicide isn’t always about wanting to die or end your life. For me it is about not wanting to suffer anymore and for the pain to stop. Every day is a battle with the voices in my head – they do not go away, and I cannot control them. Those who know me, know I am a little bit of a control freak. I like to be in control of every aspect of my life, but then to not be able to control your own thoughts or body…I honestly would not wish this upon my worst enemy!
I’m not entirely sure what stopped me from slitting my wrists that afternoon, but I do know that I was so scared. I felt so alone. I felt like I had no one to call when I was lying in that bath. I already had the number for a suicide helpline saved in my phone, but I wasn’t brave enough to call them. All I was worrying about was failing to kill myself and being found. I was adamant I would be called an “attention seeker”. When the last thing I wanted was attention.
I wasn’t able to bring myself to talk to any of my friends about what happened on that afternoon. Life continued after that breakdown. The depression, anxiety, insomnia, the voices and the suicidal thoughts had now become a part of daily life. I really struggle to remember what it feels like to not feel lonely, useless, worthless, empty, but worst of all not feeling trapped.
During an annual boys weekend away to the Lake District in early May, the whole weekend I wanted to shout and scream to my mates about how I was feeling and that I needed help. I was so worried about how they would react – Would they see me as a burden? Does that make me weak? Was I looking for attention?
On the Sunday of our weekend away I had arranged a skydive for us. Given how I had been feeling over the last 14 months, I was really looking forward to the adrenaline the experience would provide. Once you are 15,000 foot above sea level, falling at 120mph towards the earth, things seem very different. I felt so free, I felt disappointed when the parachute was released however I was now 100% sure on how I was going to take my own life.
It was less than 2 weeks later, on the 25th May, that I was stood at the top of a car park in Reading ready to jump. This time I felt so different to when I was lying in that bath. I was crying, but ironically I wasn’t scared. I was so excited for the pain to finally end.
The mother of my child called me asking for a lift to town with a friend, but instantly knew something was wrong due to me crying. I explained that I had climbed to the top of the car park and was going to jump. She talked me out of jumping and insisted on meeting me. That night she made sure I got home safe and I continued to drink until I passed out. When I woke up I felt regret at being talked out of jumping, I was so angry with myself for even answering the phone.
That evening I drove back to the same car park, the only difference this time was I worked up the courage to call the suicide helpline I had saved in my phone before climbing the wall and spoke to a volunteer called Alan. We spoke for around 35 minutes. His voice was so calm. He seemed to understand how I was feeling, he listened to everything I had to say and he wasn’t judgmental. At the time I didn’t feel that the call did much to help, but looking back I drove straight home after that call and in the morning I called my doctor to ask for help.
Since making that phone call to my doctor, I have been referred to and now discharged from the Mental Health Crisis team, I have had successful sessions with my psychiatrists, and have been fully diagnosed with Major Depression, GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Which had gone untreated since my medication stopped nearly 20 years ago.
This however doesn’t mean my mental health issues have disappeared. I still have to deal with the stigma around mental health, I’ve had to deal with people close to me say things like “you are so selfish wanting to kill yourself”, and “you’ve got a good job, nice house and a lovely car. What is there to be depressed about?” or comments such as “Please try and act normal in front of others”, “well that’s just a stupid thought!” and “how long is this going to go on for?”.
I also still live with the daily battle within myself, but I’ve also lost my job, house and had to sell my car. On top of that I now have to live with the guilt every time I see my little boy. Every time he tells me he loves me, every time he says he misses me, every time he calls me his best friend, I feel so awful for what I would have put him through. Something an innocent 5 year old should never have to go through.
Although I have had to deal with unsupportive comments, I have been very lucky to have such a supportive ex-girlfriend. Sophie and her fiancé were fantastic with their daily messages or phone calls making sure I was okay, that I had eaten something or inviting me out with them to make sure I wasn’t at home alone. Also helping me with my time with my son, who understandably doesn’t understand my illness and why he wasn’t seeing me as much. I cannot thank either of them enough for their support during my most difficult time, especially given the fact they had their own lives, jobs and 8 month old child to deal with.
I would just like to note that since writing this, I have finally worked up the courage to tell my close friends about my situation and my illness, and the support I’ve received from them since telling them has been great. I would just like to say thank you to them for their messages and phone calls. Also, for not being offended when I don’t reply, but most of all for letting me know they are there for support.
I just wish I had been strong enough to ask for help a long time ago.
I don’t hope to inspire people by sharing my story, because I fully understand that am I a nobody to nearly all that will take the time to read this, however if I could just inspire one person, male or female to speak up or ask for help I will be happy. I could have quite easily been anyone’s father, partner, brother, son, uncle or friend.
If you suffer from any mental health issues, please be stronger than I was and reach out to someone, please be braver than I was and know it is okay to not be okay.
If anyone ever reaches out to you with mental health issues, please do not try to act like you understand or you know what they are going through, every story is different. Listen to their story and make sure they know you are available to them for support.
Together lets bring an end to the stigma around mental health and encourage people to talk about their mental health.
Thank you for reading my story…