As part of Mental Health Awareness week, I’m publishing a series of blogs telling the story of someone. This could be someone who suffers or someone who’s trying to help others.
I met Dave properly coming back from a gig we’d both been to. He recognised me from the blog posts. We sat and talked for a while about the gig. After a while the talk turned to what we’d both gone through with our mental health issues. When I asked for people to volunteer their stories, he offered his.
This is the story of Dave.
Would you like to say a bit about yourself?
Hmm… let’s see… I’m 41, married, with 2 kids, and have suffered anxiety and depression for as long as I can really remember, although it was only formally diagnosed about 15 years ago when things came to a head and tipped me over the edge. My wife has also suffered depression since our youngest daughter was born. She eventually lost her job because of it, (although some completely unsympathetic management was also to blame).
How did you first notice that you were showing signs of depression?
To be honest, I didn’t really know anything about it until it was too late. I was just me. I was lazy, I overthought everything, I often didn’t feel like leaving the house for days on end if I didn’t have to go to work. My wife was then my girlfriend, although I was fairly apathetic about the relationship. Then somebody, somewhere (and I still have no idea who), did something that had a fairly traumatic effect on my life, to the point where I tried to end it all.
It was only after that that I/anyone else realised I was depressed, although looking back now, I realise that I probably have been depressed since I was a kid.
So when you were diagnosed what kind of support were you offered? How did people around you react?
To start with I was simply given Citalopram and sent on my way. My GP was relatively supportive, but couldn’t really offer much. I was sent for an initial mental health assessment, where they basically told me I was mildly depressed, which effectively shut the door on any other help/treatment on the NHS.
Most of my friends and family were very supportive, especially Sarah. Some friends backed away and disappeared from my life. My employer was less than sympathetic. after three months off work, and constant pestering/persuasion to return, I felt well enough to go back. I was called into a “return to work” meeting where I was told my services were no longer required, and that was that.
That’s pretty harsh, being treated like that and obviously won’t have helped you. Were you able to move on straight away or did you feel like you regressed?
In a word, no. I didn’t move on at all. I didn’t really do anything for about a year, then started to move on. Got a job, moved in with Sarah, started to get my head in some sort of order.
How did you manage to move on eventually? Was there a point where you just decided you had to do something to move on from it?
Kind of by accident really. A friend suggested me for a job where he was leaving, and I kinda reluctantly took it. It gave me something to do rather than just sitting around, and kept me occupied.
How has Sarah managed? You’ve said that she suffers herself so do you think she feels that she had a better understanding because of her experience?
She’s always been there for me when I’ve needed her, and never shown any frustration with my bad days. I think it helped her to recognise what was going on with her, when it first started, so she saw the signs and went to the doctor for help.
That’s good. How do you feel you’re doing now?
At the moment I’m pretty stable. I have good days and bad days still, but the downs aren’t as deep, and don’t take as long to climb out of. I’m getting on with life, slowly trying to make things better.
Is there anything you think has particularly helped you or anything that’s made you worse?
Support from my wife & family, and regular contact with GP has been a massive help. I’ve been through all the usual talking therapy routines, and none of them have been particularly helpful. Probably the biggest drawback has been that my GPs keep on leaving the practice. Not their fault, as it’s just a job, but it knocks my confidence/trust every time.
Going to certain places triggers my anxiety, and at least temporarily knocks me back a couple of steps, and listening to certain albums can trigger unpleasant memories/feelings.
How do you try and deal with these attacks?
Mostly through avoiding going to those places, although as with the music, a bit of desensitising helps lessen the effect.
So, what would you say to anyone who suffers from anxiety?
That would depend on the person. Everyone’s different, and we all have different triggers and means of coping with them. If you wanted a one-fit’s-all type quote I’d say don’t dwell on the future or the past, and just deal with the present. Everything that’s happened has already passed and can’t be changed. Everything that’s going to happen is going to happen whatever you do, and it probably won’t be as bad as you think anyway.
Well said bud. Do you have any final words to say in closing?