Luke, from Merthyr Tydfil, blogs about his journey to accepting his depression diagnosis.
Luke is supporting Mind Cymru's #StandForMe campaign, where we are urging the next Welsh Government to put mental health at the very heart of its agenda, listening to and acting on the views of those of us with a mental health problem. Read more about the campaign.
This is new for me. I’ve spoken briefly about my own journey with depression and the general ups and downs of my mental health, but nothing in detail. So please, be gentle!
2015 was the first year that I’d felt low. Really low. So low that I couldn’t see a way out of it. For those who know me and spend time with me, this was a shock to them then, and still a shock to them now. My default disposition is a positive, happy, smiling, bouncing (I walk on my tip toes) ‘Tigger’ style caricature of a person. So, any reference to feeling low is not expected of me.
There were many contributing factors to my mental health being poor at the time. In hindsight, I was far too busy; burning the candle at three ends and then chucking it on the fire for good measure! I was a dad of two young children in my mid-twenties, working a high-pressured full-time job that was out of my comfort zone, and then playing gigs sometimes three or four times a week. All in all, this left me massively in debt to my wellbeing.
It took a full breakdown and an intervention from my family to help me on my way.
For my 27th birthday my gift was a doctor's appointment booked, courtesy of my mother. They could see I was falling apart and needed help, which I will forever be thankful for.
My initial consultation with the doctor was massively underwhelming. While I knew that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a very real and valid condition, I didn’t identify with that diagnosis at all. On my second visit to the doctor, I was prescribed antidepressants and signed off work. Being the big strong man that I am, I didn’t collect my prescription and thought I could fight it myself, but eventually found out how wrong I was. A few weeks passed and without the hectic work and gigs to occupy my mind, I spiralled deeper and deeper into a depressive state. I could find no joy in playing with my children and would often snap and bark at them for no reason. I would leave the house at the slightest sign of stress, and could feel my grip on reality slipping further away.
Thankfully, I was urged by my sister and mother to collect my prescription and start taking the medication prescribed. No doubt this saved me and my children from further heartache and misery.
Though I initially experienced some ups and downs with the medication, I trusted the process and eventually began to feel the benefits. One such benefit was clarity that I needed to change other aspects of my life too.
My diet was shocking, and I was lethargic because of it. I drank alcohol almost every evening, and even though in my mind it was ‘just one glass’ of wine or beer, I knew it was a habit I needed to kick. Having never been a big fan of exercise, the gym seemed like the last place I’d choose to go, but after some of my friends recommended a local gym, I decided to give it a chance. Daleon Gym in Merthyr Tydfil became a sanctuary for me as I literally transformed my life, while being supported and encouraged by the other members. I had a new lease of life!
I’m very aware that a few interventions from people in my life saved me. I was (and still am) lucky to have such caring family and friends, who are always there if and when I need them. I always try and reciprocate: being a caring and supportive person is massively important to me.
Since that dark time, I quit the high pressure job and found my calling: working in a college to help support young people with their mental health and wellbeing.
My lifestyle changes – coupled with my medication, which keeps me on a level playing field – have helped me more than I could ever imagine.
Thankfully, I now have the clarity to appreciate everything I have in my life.
I love my little family, my partner, and my two children who keep my days filled with love and laughter (and the occasional tantrum!).
I still have days where it’s all too much, and have sometimes found myself feeling like a failure, but my support system has helped me time and time again. I guess the main thing I’ve learned is you have to give yourself a chance. Speak to medical professionals, get a medical opinion and move forward from there. I’m not too hard on myself when I do feel low and really put my faith in others. They will help in whichever way they can.
I’ve realised that acknowledging my struggles and talking about them isn’t a weakness. Talking is a strength that can help overcome even the most seemingly insurmountable challenges.
There are many organisations out there to talk to. If people feel as though they’re not ready to speak to friends and family, they will always be there to pick up the phone, answer an email, or a text message.
I battle every day, but thankfully the battles aren’t as hard anymore or as damaging to my family and me.
That's why I'm supporting Mind Cymru's #StandForMe campaign, because I know firsthand what can happen when you seek and receive the mental health support you need.
Take care. Talk to someone. The world is a better place with you in it!
Thanks for reading,
Luke lives in Merthyr Tydfil and is a dad of two beautiful little humans and two very naughty cats. He plays guitar, sings and generally makes lots of noise whenever possible.
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