It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, plus I’ve just launched Man Talk, a podcast tackling men’s mental health, so I’ve decided to document my experiences with mental health.
I’ve touched on it before (see last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week blog), but on reflection, I held back. A lot.
But I’ve had enough of not speaking up as much as I should, I’ve moved on and feel strong enough to share my struggles in the hope that it might make more men speak up and seek help if they need it.
So, let’s go all the way back to the start. No, not the moment I entered the world in a gooey mess, but back to my earliest memories of my mental state…
I grew up in the countryside with my mum and dad, plus two sisters. We enjoyed a lovely lifestyle, with dogs, cats and rolling corn fields being my lasting image. It was a happy childhood, it really was, but when I think a little harder about my mental state, I do recall being incredibly nervous a lot of the time. I wouldn’t leave my mum’s side at a very young age, and then as I got older, the nerves continued as I started spending most of my time with my father playing football – I played to a good standard but remember always being a nervous wreck. This all led to me being quite awkward as I moved into my teen years, and felt unsure and uneducated about life, puberty and the emotional changes suddenly being thrust upon me. I never opened up to my mum or dad about anything. Moving into secondary school I experienced some harsh bullying, purely down to the fact my surname, ‘Day’, rhymes with ‘gay’. Five years of name calling and threats of violence followed and I couldn’t wait to leave my teenage years behind. My parents also split when I was around 17, so when I met a girl in my late teens, I pinned everything on that relationship. On reflection, it was probably because I was seeking some security after a difficult few years.
A few years on, my mood deteriorated, and real signs of mental health issues were becoming apparent when I suspected she was cheating on me. I was on a downward spiral and I took an even bigger fall as my suspicions rung true. I was incredibly depressed. I was prescribed antidepressants, I started seeing a counsellor and I had to visit mental health clinics. By this point, my mind was a wreck. One night, I decided to try and end it all.
A real, real low.
The years after that were peppered with huge bouts of depression, reckless partying and irresponsible behaviour. When I was 28 I decided I needed a clean break from the surroundings that had been the backdrop for my mental health issues. Within a week, I’d rented my house out, packed my bags and headed to London.
London might not be the first place you’d think of if your mind is already on the wobble, but I wanted to experience the buzz, the vibrancy and the endless things to do – I basically wanted to busy my mind with new things. I started hanging out in places that wouldn’t last a week in my hometown, I met lots of new people, I spent weekends at food markets, I walked for hours round Victoria Park with my dogs and sought new threads down Brick Lane as I threw myself into the East London lifestyle. The change suited me and within weeks, I stopped taking my medication and for the first time in years, I felt happy.
Five months after moving to London, I met my wife, Georgia. We enjoyed a whirlwind first few months and quickly moved in together. I was head over heels in love and I felt my mental health issues were a thing of the past.
Regrettably, I never told George about my mental state. I thought those dark times had passed and I didn’t want her to think any less of me. As time passed, I thought about telling her, but it just got harder and harder to say something. But then about four years into our relationship, my depression started creeping up in me again. It soon became obvious my moods were changing and one evening I had to tell her. I broke down as I told her everything from start to finish and her response was incredible. She was, and still is, so supportive. I should have told her a lot earlier, and I’d caused myself years of unnecessary torment by keeping it locked away inside.
For the next couple of years after that, I was up and down. I took medication again which steadied the ship, but I always felt fragile. Then about two years ago, I started to really struggle again.
A difficult situation in my life instigated months of deep, deep depression, huge anxiety, hopelessness, sleepless nights and debilitating panic attacks. It was a truly awful time and one that really took it out of me. My biggest regret of this period was the impact it had on my daughter, who, in turn started displaying signs of anxiety.
Thankfully, in the last few months I’ve started to find my feet again. I’m on a high dosage of antidepressants, I work for myself doing things that I love and I’m away from the negativity that was having such a demoralising effect on me. That’s not to say I’m cured, because I doubt I ever will be, but, because I now talk openly to family and friends, I don’t think my mental health will get the better of me again. Sure, it’s always there, lingering in the background ready to pounce, and it will strike me down regularly, but at least I can talk about it now and that always seems to be the first step to making me feel happier.
Click the image below to listen to my men's mental health podcast, Man Talk