In my early twenties, I hit rock bottom after a toxic relationship ended cruelly. I masked my mental state behind a cocktail of parties, alcohol and drugs. To onlookers I probably looked like the life and soul of the party, but behind closed doors, I was in a dark place. A place that lead to an attempt on my life.
After that, the way out that suicide offered was never far from my thoughts. I was young and naïve, and dismissed the counselling I was offered as a waste of my time – how could my counsellor, a 60-year-old woman dare think she could advise me on a life so different to her own? My naivety and idiocy lead to me bottling up more and more, and masking more and more of my troubles. The only way I could quieten the noise in my head was to repeatedly plan another suicide attempt. I’d set myself unrealistic targets, such as telling myself on a lonely Monday evening, whilst lying awake in bed, with my mind engulfed, that if life didn’t improve by the weekend, I’d kill myself. The weekend would come, I’d get so obliterated I’d pass out and before I knew it, it was Monday again. Another week of being alive had passed.
I went on like this for a long time. It was a dangerous way of getting by, but somehow, I survived for months, perhaps even a couple of years with this mindset before things slowly improved. Of course, like any illness there were set backs, but slowly a glimmer of hope appeared. As I said, I wrongly dismissed the counselling, but I did have check-in with my GP for regular reviews of my medication, and I was speaking (reasonably) openly about how I felt with my mother. Although she couldn’t offer many answers, speaking about it helped rationalise my thoughts and removed some of the weight from my shoulders. More often than not, that was enough, and I started slowly but surely thinking with some clarity for the first time in years. I took the decision to move away from where I’d experienced so many lows and moved to London, and I felt like a new person. Constrained by years of misery, I suddenly felt reinvented; seeing new people, going to gigs, experiencing culture, wearing different clothes, whilst all the time exploring my creative side by writing for whoever needed a few words strung together – music websites, football magazines, lifestyle blogs and the like. Like yoga, running or painting is to others, writing became my outlet; a release, a way of using my mind for something positive, rather allowing it to slip back to those dark, dark times.
A few years passed, in which time I met my wife, had kids, started a new career and my mental health was manageable - most of the time. Last year, things deteriorated after an experience I can’t go into, but what I can say is my depression was out of control, my anxiety was crippling me, and severe panic attacks were common. For the first time in years, suicidal thoughts crept back into my head. It would only be a fleeting thought, often whilst doing something mundane like driving or having a shower, but that’s how bad things got. I have a beautiful wife, two incredible kids and a lot to live for, but mental health and suicidal thoughts don't give a damn about any of that. Thankfully, I’m strong enough now to dismiss such thoughts, because that’s what they are; thoughts and not an option. I’ve also since begun private therapy to try and help manage my mental health better, as I’ve come to the very real conclusion it might always affect me. I just need to manage it and not let it manage me.
I’ve lost so much of my life to my mental health issues and I often reflect on how the world would be now if my suicide attempt had worked - the people I know and love would be missing a husband, a friend, a son, a brother and my children simply wouldn't exist.
If you’re reading this and if any of it resonates, please don’t be that naïve, dismissive young man I was. Seek help. Speak to someone, whether that’s a family member, a friend, a charity or a professional. Having your issues out there, instead of repeatedly detonating in your head is an enormous first step in addressing problems that might seem like they can only be extinguished in one devastating way.
You can hear more about my experiences with mental health and suicide, plus those of the men I’ve interviewed on my podcast, ‘Man Talk’, a show that’s tackling men’s mental health and is made in support of the charity CALM, who work to prevent male suicide. If you need their help, please call them on 0800 58 58 58 or visit their site www.thecalmzone.net. CALM have also launched a petition, Project 84, asking for the government to make a real change, please take a moment to SIGN THE PETITION