Mental health: Man tells of battle with depression following sad death of Ceri Linden
Aug 28, 2014
By North Wales Daily Post
A first person account of a man in his mid-20s who struggled with depression
The suicide of 20-year-old mum Ceri Linden , who had been battling depression, has prompted a man to speak out about his own experiences.
One in four of us are said to suffer with mental health issues at some time – in Wales the rate of suicide for men is higher than the UK average. Due to the stigma attached to the condition, the man writing his moving story wants to remain anonymous:
I was an educated male in my mid-20s and for the first time I felt alone, trapped by who I was, where I was and what was expected of me.
It was at the height of the economic recession and months earlier I had been cruelly and unfairly dismissed from a menial job I had only taken to avoid an even worse fate – that of a dole statistic.
Furthermore, all the freedom and independence I had built up from my University days had also dissipated – not only was I now jobless but living back at the family home as a young, single male.
I felt nothing was going right for me; I wasn’t getting a break and felt I didn’t have anything to hold on or aspire to.
I just snapped, blacking out and coming round to my mum’s screams and tears as the room I was in had been destroyed in a whirlwind of emotions and anger I had kept bottled up inside for years.
This is my story, my struggles with my own personal demons, rehabilitation and my current quest for fulfilment.
In isolation the situation may sound melodramatic but it is only in the cold, harsh light of day and through counselling I later realise the beginning of my psychological breakdown stemmed from a multitude of factors which had left me frustrated, angry and bitter with the world.
Growing up I was the top boy at primary school, often in the local newspaper and on national television before attending an illustrious secondary school were sporting and academic achievement were second nature.
What should have been a natural progression soon descended into my first experience of personal hell as I was severely bullied in my first year at the school.
Acutely aware my Grandad was dying of cancer at the time I ‘manned up’ and hid the incidents until a chance encounter between my parents and a fellow-classmates parents at Parent’s Evening alluded to the fact there may be a problem.
The morning-after the night before my carefully constructed lies and deceit came tumbling down and soon meetings were set-up between my parents and the school.
After later suffering a broken wrist and thumb in further exchanges, I was eventually transferred to another class and my schooldays became relatively normal.
Then, shortly after my 16 birthday during GCSE year I fell ill, doubled-up in agony for six months with an underlying and previously unchecked bowel condition; being tested for Bowel Cancer, Crohns and Colitis that same Christmas a particular low point as my weight plummeted.
All the promise of predicted A* and A’s had been snatched away from me as I spent a total of four days in school between November and May, sat doing exams in a private room on painkillers.
Exam-wise, I passed with grades not to be dismissive of but not what should have been while the physical and mental exhaustion left me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), with both my hair and skin falling out.
After my GCSE results I tried to go back to sixth-form and ‘be normal’ but I just couldn’t, instead taking the year out and searching for a fresh start at sixth-form college the following September.
I enjoyed my time there but the affinity to the place and people were never as strong as those I had eventually made at my secondary school.
For me college acted as some sort of redemption – to prove I could come back and get to where I wanted and felt I should be. And I did – achieving the required A-Level grades by one solitary mark to get to my first-choice University.
From that point on I thought life would be simple; graduate, get a decent job, house, mortgage, wife, and kids – the natural progression for a man.
For men, rightly or wrongly, a large part of our existence revolves around our perceived status in society – take that away or the opportunity to strive for this and we feel emasculated.
There is still a perception of being the Alpha-male, the hunter-gatherer, never showing a sign of weakness and certainly not speaking about emotions.
This psyche is one of the fundamental reasons why suicide is the single biggest killers of men aged 20-49 in the UK and depression amongst men is commonplace but never openly discussed.
Even after my school experiences, I still tried to toe this Alpha-Male line after leaving University, as I set up my own business venture.
When that failed I stumbled into a series of part-time, zero-hour, minimum wage jobs to make ends meet while working on freelance projects and constantly applying for suitable Graduate jobs to put a tentative step on the elusive career ladder.
But the longer I went without a break, the harder it became – a deluge of knock-backs declaring a lack of experience or how my current employment did not fit with the desired criteria.
So when I went into my current employment only to be told unexpectedly my services were no longer required it seemed the beginning of the end.
I just couldn’t comprehend how real life didn’t seem to reward those that tried to get on, work hard and continually try to do the right thing: I mean, Why was I bullied? Why did I get ill? Why couldn’t I just get on with my life?
After smashing up the room I was rushed me to the local surgery, checked over and believed to be well enough to return home with the proviso I needed counselling sessions.
I was angry at the thought – I didn’t want to sit on a couch like Woody Allen and discuss my problems or feelings. I wanted a job, a life without hassles or problems and opportunities to get on.
Although angry, at no point during the months of my breakdown was I suicidal – the common misconception being if you are depressed you must be suicidal. Depression takes on a number of different guises, depending on the individual.
Personally it was me against the world – the world didn’t seem to want to give me a chance so why should I give it one? I wanted to fight everything and everyone, verbally or physically and didn’t care what the consequences could be.
I went through a perversely liberating period of speaking my mind at every opportunity, to all and sundry at any opportunity I saw something I didn’t like or behaviour I deemed unacceptable.
I felt a compulsion to champion the underdog, the down-trodden and that I was the only sane person in a crazy, mixed up world.
I would be quick to temper, switching from serene tranquillity one moment to raging ‘Hulk’ moments the next. I was a walking, talking angry young man on a mission of self-destruction.
But the more I acted on these impulses the more of a recluse I felt and the more angry and upset I became with myself.
I was soon prescribed anti-depressants by the counsellor in order to control my emotions in order to start to deal with my issues and situation.
Looking back, although much-needed the pills made me completely soulless but with the anger haze beginning to lift, the counsellor was able to explore the root of the problems with me and give me coping strategies and advice on how to deal.
At no point was there any self-indulgent Woody Allen moments – this was cold, harsh hour-long explorations of my entire psyche and how this breakdown happened, the different types of breakdown, how to overcome them and how to prevent them.
The breakdown had left me stripped bare with nothing else to give or lose, and through these sessions I was able to turn this apparent negative into a positive building me back up again.
The invaluable advice was endless but one which particularly stands out is ‘you can’t control the uncontrollable’ – a lot easier said than done, particularly for the majority of men who like to feel they are in control 247.
The truth is a lot uglier but the solution is to look at what you can control and do each day, week, month, year and concentrate on those.
My counsellor soon became an ally in my recovery and someone I would like to think of as a friend today.
Don’t let things get to breaking point like I did – open up to someone before it’s too late. Admitting you have a problem is not a sign of weakness but a first step to recovery and dealing with it.
I was one of the lucky ones, through a combination of the counsellor, family and friends I eventually came through the other end.
The final part of my rehabilitation came when I got the first rung on the career ladder and moved out of the parent’s house. Perversely it came with the least amount of effort and without me really looking for the opportunity – more a case of right-time, right-place and grabbing it with both hands.
There’s never any magic cure for a mental breakdown and I am still struggling to love who I am as the scars and demons will be some that I expect to have for the rest of my life.
For me, this is the next step, or what my mum has labelled ‘fulfilment’ – how to live with these or negotiate them successfully to find some semblance of happiness or contentment in order to completely move on with my life.
Similarly, I have kept my identity deliberately hidden in this article as I haven’t openly revealed the true extent of my experiences with anyone I have met post-breakdown and don’t feel confident enough to do so with just yet.
I know this is something at some point I may have to conceivably do for more intimate relationships but as I said, it’s all about loving myself for the time being.
Mental illness carries so much stigma in today’s society with even the word ‘mental’ sending a shudder down my spine, almost suggesting everyone with such issues should be strait-jacketed and written off as a waste to society.
I hope reading this I have proven this misconception wrong and for anyone this account has resonated with please don’t give up or give in, talk to someone and take it from someone who has been there – you can and you will come through this.
Credit: North Wales Daily Post Link :