Sam shares his experience of depression.
My sister is about to graduate this summer. In celebrating this achievement with her it has given me some time to reflect on my own time at university.
I won’t be alone in admitting that my own time at university was difficult for my mental health. However, it was also turning point year for me. I was diagnosed as having depression and started, slowly, a series of treatments and techniques to get myself well.
I can’t begin to tell you how alone I felt back then. I felt like a black sheep, constantly pushed aside and unable to understand why I was feeling so low. I would frequently find myself silent and in the foetal position when things were tough and not going my way.
I felt that I shouldn’t feel the way I did, I was from a loving home and had a great upbringing – mental illness isn’t something I should have. But it can hit anyone.
In a lot of ways I was lucky, where so many people like me aren’t.
It was after a particularly difficult Christmas, which I spent avoiding members of my family and being huddled in a corner as much as possible, that my mum encouraged me to go to the doctor about how I was feeling.
Reluctantly I went, but looking back this was really my first step back on the road to recovery. After bottling up your emotions for so long, I couldn't believe what a relief it was to finally admit to someone else exactly how I felt.
It isn’t uncommon for people, particularly men, suffering from mental health problems to bottle up how they are feeling. It shocked me the first time that I heard the biggest killer of men aged 18-30 (the age group I am in) was suicide. But I genuinely believe that talking about how you feel can help.
Shortly after my diagnosis I found myself in my first counselling session. I’m not going to pretend that just going to a couple of counselling sessions cured me, but very slowly I was able to start seeing a change in myself. The more I opened up in counselling, the less of a burden I felt on my shoulders. What was always reassuring with my talking therapy was that it felt like that load was being shared, I felt I was being supported.
It is an odd journey to go on from not wanting to talk about yourself and being a closed-off person to being able to open yourself up to someone you have never really met before. In some ways I think it is much easier to open yourself up to someone that you don’t know, apart from in this counselling capacity. It is a relationship you wouldn’t be able to have with anyone you know already and I found myself discussing thoughts that I had pushed so far to the back of my mind, I didn’t even know I had them.
I know from my personal experience that it can be incredibly difficult to start talking about your problems. However, I believe that it was by opening myself up that I was able to identify some of the things that triggered my illness. I used talking therapy to help me to figure out why I was feeling the way that I was.
What you can do?
I would encourage anyone who thinks that they are suffering from a mental health problem to seek out some counselling or talking therapy. By sharing my problems I was really able to ensure that my depression didn’t get the better of me.
I am better able to cope now that I have recognised this isn’t something to be ashamed of. I can talk about my illness like an illness without a constant feeling of shame hanging over me. I’m now an active volunteer and campaigner for a number of mental health charities and I am going to be taking on my second big fundraising challenge for Mind later in the year – climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
I know that if I hadn't started talking about my problems then I might not be here today. For that reason I will always be grateful for my talking therapy and the people who made sure I got the help I needed.
There are many great places you can start your journey to recovery. Take that first step today.