Michael blogs about opening up to a friend about depression and anxiety.
Amongst some of my mates I’m known as Houdini. Not because I know any magic tricks but because I’ve got a bit of a reputation for being able to disappear and go off the radar.
My friends never really knew why, until recently.
It feels like utter emptiness – and a physical pain dragging my body and my mind into the ground.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. I had a rough childhood: an alcoholic father and a distant relationship with my mum. It laid the foundations for what I struggle with today 20 years later.
When I’m at my worst, I need to pull away from the world and disappear. It feels like utter emptiness – and a physical pain dragging my body and my mind into the ground.
I might stare at a spot on wall for an hour. I lose myself in dark thoughts, or just blankness, before I snap out of it and try and refocus on something else in the room.
My friends have never really known the dark place I’ve been in when I fall out of contact.
During a really tough time, I lost touch with my mates for a year. My friends have never really known the dark place I’ve been in when I fall out of contact. They just thought I was busy with work.
I never really told anyone close to me apart form my brother. I sought medical help when I was younger and have been on and off anti-depressants.
I was never game enough to tell any of my friends for fear of what their reaction might be. My dark world was my biggest secret.
I got a call one day to say that Martin, a good friend and someone we met on our football team, had taken his own life.
He was loved by so many people and we all had a close relationship with him.
A few months before we were having a riot of a time at a stag party in Berlin. A few months later he was gone. He was loved by so many people and we all had a close relationship with him. None of us knew he was struggling, not even me.
After his death our group was shell shocked. We reminisced and questioned whether we could have done anything better.
It hit me hard to know that I had so many nights where I had been on the brink myself. The hardest part was the fact that I felt like if we had spoken and opened up to each other we could have said so much.
A few months after Martin passed away I was in the pub with one of my closest mates.
“I have no idea what we he was going through”. He said.
I took that as an opportunity to tell him about my own struggles. I told him I knew what he must have been feeling because it’s been something that I’d struggled with all my life.
We had a chat over a few and everything pieced together for my friend Fernando. Suddenly my Houdini moments fit.
It felt good to have someone outside my family actually know.
Knowing that I have a bit of extra support really lightens the load.
I’ve been on medication on and off. I try not to stay on it all the time, but sometimes there’s no choice. I see a counsellor every month which can be hard sometimes, but usually I leave feeling better. I throw myself into exercise when I feel like I have and patch coming on and it helps.
The statistics on male suicide are shocking. It’s the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45.
My message to anyone is that it’s okay to talk when you’re struggling. Find someone close and tell them.
And why not just ask someone how they are, if they’re really okay. It could make every difference.
Now I don’t need to disappear and have extra support when I’m at my lowest. Knowing that I have a bit of extra support really lightens the load.