It’s amazing what a difference a year makes.
Towards the end of 2007 I found myself standing on a bridge thinking about throwing myself off.
A lot of things went through my head at that point;
“No-one would miss me.”
“I’ll finally stop being a burden.”
Those thoughts and many more. Of course none of them were true. My family would obviously miss me and they’d never seen me as a burden. But it’s hard to see things that way when you’re suffering from depression mixed with insomnia.
I must’ve stood looking over that bridge for a long time when I heard a voice.
“You ok there mate?”
I turned around to find a police officer facing me. He started asking me what I was doing and where I was going to at this time of night and where had I come from and said that I fitted the description of someone who had been keying cars. He obviously wasn’t sure what my intentions were at the time and I assured him I’d just come from work and was heading home. Just the talking to him was enough to snap me out of whatever I was thinking of doing. He took some details down and I headed off and so did he.
I had a feeling, or a realisation, a few days later that the car keying story was a fallacy and a way for him to start talking to me. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t but it was enough to stop me doing what I was thinking about and go home to my wife.
It was a combination of events which saw me standing on the bridge that day. The funny thing was I usually biked home from a night shift but, for some reason, I decided to leave my bike and walk. It was during the walk home that my mind became consumed with the thought of ending it all. It was the middle of the night and there was barely anyone around.
I’d told my boss just that week that I was feeling low and depressed. It was a cry for help but I chose the wrong person to cry to. I could tell he wasn’t interested in my hard luck story.
The next day he walked into the office and said to me, in front of my colleagues, “Pull yourself together and cheer up” Then he pointed at me, while some of my colleagues guffawed and he said, “Look at him, what has he got to feel depressed about?”
He knew fine well that my wife had recently had a miscarriage and my grandad and my friend had recently died all in a short period. There was plenty to be depressed about.
It had all gotten a little too much and I didn’t talk to anyone about it. Then the first person I did speak to about and someone I thought I could trust, in my boss, made a joke about it in front of me and my colleagues. One colleague realised that it was a bit much and asked me how I was, I told him I was fine…but I was lying and putting a brave face on it all.
After the bridge incident I went to the doctors the very next day. For the first time in a long time I spoke to someone who empathised. I broke down in his office and cried for a long time. He diagnosed that I’d had a complete nervous breakdown and insomnia brought on by PTSD. I’d suffered from depression the vast majority of my adult life and the whole combination of events and negative thoughts didn’t make for a very good mix.
Later and over the following years I couldn’t help but think that, in my hour of need, I’d turned to the wrong person in my boss for help. Things could have been so different if I’d acted on my thoughts. How many other people out there were, or are, in the same boat? Afraid to say something for fear of shame or reprisal?
I was given some medication to deal with my insomnia and some leaflets for associations to turn to with regards to my depression. I found out later that a friend had been suffering from depression for a few years and just talking to him about it helped a lot. The medication really helped with the insomnia but I was keen to get off them as soon as I could. I phased myself off them and since then, I’m happy to say, my insomnia has more or less gone.
I decided that I would go into 2008 with a more positive mindset. 11 months later my son was born and it was at that point that I decided I needed to change. I was ultimately partly responsible for shaping this boy’s life and he needed a positive role model. I was obese, I struggled to walk up the stairs without getting out of breath and I was eating for comfort. I couldn’t carry on like that, not with a child to take care of.
To this very day I still get low and I still feel down some days. I still have bad days. But I externalise it now and say how I’m feeling. Sometimes they may mean I need to take a break from groups of people and sometimes I need to be around people, sometimes I just want to be quiet and be left out of conversations.
In some ways I think most people deal with depression at some points. But there are so many out there who are doing it in silence and these are the people we need to reach out to. These are the people we need to turn to and say, “It’s ok to not be ok” and we don’t need to adhere to other people’s perceptions.
As for me, well, running entered my life at the end of 2008…and everything changed forever.