It’s been thirteen years since my first mental breakdown and six years since my second. From my current vantage point I can firmly say that they were amongst the very best things that ever happened to me. That said, I hope, more than anything, that I never experience a third.
Depression brought me to my knees, and it kept me there for a long time. I was off work for five months during my first illness, four months for my second. It’s no exaggeration to say it was a living hell. Although maybe that’s inaccurate, in the sense that I wouldn’t describe that period as living. I was surviving. But only just.
There were many, many times when I felt my story was over. The harsh reality is that at many moments I wished it was, such was the suffering that depression heaped upon me. I wouldn’t wish that anguish upon anyone.
I didn’t think I would ever smile again, but slowly I turned the corner. With the help and support of friends, family, anti-depressant medication and professional counsellors, I climbed out of the deepest, darkest hole imaginable. And, after finding my feet, I walked into a future full of opportunities that I could never have imagined.
Opportunities placed in my path because of depression, not in spite of it; opportunities born out of being open about my struggles and not being ashamed of them. Because, after the hell of enduring depression, I learned that it didn’t matter what anybody else thought of me. Nothing could be worse than what I’d been through, and yet I got through it. In doing so I discovered that I had strength I never could have imagined.
It’s an important point to make. Myths persist about depression being a weakness. It isn’t. Depression is an illness and it can be fatal. We must be able to talk about it and to admit when we need help. There’s no shame in that, we all need help sometimes.
Being open about my own struggles has been positive in so many ways – from accepting I needed help and talking to professionals, sharing my story and becoming a published author, and, most importantly, being able to show others that not only can mental health problems be overcome, but that your life can be better than ever because of them. My life has been enriched in so many ways by what were, by a million miles, the worst days of my life. From the blackest of nights have come the very brightest of days.
If you think you may be struggling with your mental health please don’t be afraid to seek help. Please don’t feel that you are weak or a failure – you are not, you’re just human. And please, please believe this – it gets better.
To read more content by Matt head on over to Love, Laughter and Truth Blog
Author of Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression.