Skydiving helped me battle depression
Matt blogs about how jumping out of a plane changed his life.
Matt is 36 and a university lecturer. He lives with his wife and two children in West Sussex.
How could free falling at 130 miles per hour out of a plane help in my battle with depression? Doesn’t seem logical does it? But skydiving really changed my life.
For the past year, and probably longer, I’ve been living with depression. It’s a battle I’m still trying to win; a debilitating, exhausting battle. A battle to carry on fighting, to rediscover purpose, to regain happiness and enjoyment. A battle to carry on living. It’s also a battle I never thought I would face. I have a wife, two beautiful kids, a house, a job, and supportive friends and family. When she found out, my very dear friend said to me, “everyone is fallible buddy, everyone is fallible”. She’s absolutely right and her words really comfort me.
In 2016, I lost myself. I couldn’t sleep at night, my brain wouldn’t switch off. I would analyse things, trying to find answers, re-running events and conversations I’d had that day. I was exhausted. I’d function but be on auto-pilot. I had no appetite, and lost all enjoyment in things.
"I felt empty and struggled to find my purpose – even doing the simplest things felt like climbing Mount Everest."
My confidence evaporated and my armour disappeared. I found it really difficult to deal with stress, conflict, criticism, and negative events, big or small. Then I started to self-harm.
At the lowest point in my depression I sat down with my family and said we were all going to come up with a couple of things we wanted to do this year to make us happy. I created a poster full of ideas and pinned it on the wall. One of my ideas was to skydive – I wanted to know what it felt like to feel again.
On 2 July 2017 my family came with me to watch me jump out of a plane. The whole experience from driving to the base and seeing parachutes falling to the ground, to the jump itself was incredible and something I’ll never forget. Was I nervous? Honestly, no.
"I thought that if I can battle depression, jumping out a plane can’t be that bad."
The flight up to 14,000 feet was rather surreal. Harnessed to an army parachute instructor, everyone sat between each other’s legs. Just above the cloud line my instructor pointed out: “We’re half way up now”.
When we reached 14,000 feet I sat on the edge of plane and looked to the sky. My instructor leaned out of the door and out we went.
The free fall was simply breath-taking. I was up so high I lost all sense of distance. It was so calming, so peaceful, so tranquil and I felt like I was floating and flying at the same time. I could see for miles as I watched the clouds approach me.
When I landed, the buzz was amazing but most importantly I felt such a sense of pride.
"I was proud of what I’d achieved but mainly the progress I’d made and what the jump represented."
It was a huge milestone in my life – and raising money for Mind made it all the more special.
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