Matt blogs about losing his uncle, his own experiences with depression and how a rediscovered love of the guitar helped him fundraise for the Mind 3000s trek.
When I was 12 my uncle took his own life. This had a profound effect on the whole family, but particularly on dad, who really struggled to cope and then went through a deep depression. My rock, someone who everyone used to turn to and who was always so solid suddenly couldn’t function day to day. He was signed off work and given medication but it was never something he wanted to take.
My own son was born with a rare tumour of blood vessels under his skin near his mouth which made feeding hard and caused ulcers and pain. We were constantly in and out of hospital. The worry was incredible and my partner developed post-natal depression.
I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders; I needed to stay strong for my wife and son, as well as hold down a job. I was really struggling to cope and my GP recommended a course of cognitive behavioural therapy. The CBT helped but couldn’t fix my problems and the strain started to affect my relationship.
We decided to try a fresh start, but moving to a new job and new area where I didn’t know anyone made me feel more alone than ever. I found it hard to sleep; home life was stressful and the new job added another level of pressure. It all came to a head when I broke down at work one day. I just walked out of the office and burst into tears. My GP signed me off for two weeks. But returning to fulltime work I felt like I was back to square one. I had a huge panic attack and shook uncontrollably – terrified of going back to the office. I went to see my manager and together we agreed I would stop work and my contract would come to an end in a month’s time. The relief I felt was amazing.
My next job involved a lot of travel, which I really enjoyed. But looking back it was the final straw for my marriage. She left me four days before Christmas. I got the news from a police officer who called to say that my wife and son weren’t coming back, but that they were safe. That Christmas day I felt ready to end it all – I just couldn’t see any point in going on.
It’s funny, but one day something kicked in and said ‘life shouldn’t be like this, it shouldn’t be this hard’ – spending days just getting up, working, going back to bed and staying there whenever I could. I started CBT again.
At the beginning of 2014 things seemed to be getting back on track. There were ups and downs. I learned to ride a motorbike. Then I was knocked back by the custody battle for my son, but this time I went straight to the doctor and was prescribed medication for anxiety.
I joined Elefriends and found huge support in the network of people I met on there. I joined a band – my love of the guitar died when I first experienced depression, now it’s a massive part of my life that’s back.
Then I saw a post on Facebook looking for people to join the Mind 3000s trek. It was the perfect challenge – a huge test but something I wanted to do. I thought: ‘It’s just time I gave something back.’
So I signed up. I’ve been playing gigs with the band to help fundraise and have thrown myself into training. Now it’s D-day – wish me luck!