Don’t suffer in silence: Confessions from a depression sufferer
In an era where mental health is being talked about more than ever before it’s reflected
My friend Graeme Fowler (ex England cricket batsman) talked about it emotionally on the BBC Sport podcast HERE.
I am uncomfortable talking about negative subjects (although ironically not talking about it is very much the root of many problems it seems)…
That said mental health is not a negative subject, it’s a positive one and we must see it that way.
Although the number of women diagnosed with mental conditions in the UK is significantly higher than males and women are almost twice as likely to suffer from anxiety conditions, the suicide rates in the UK are 78% male, 22% female. Something’s not adding up there. Very clearly this indicates many men are struggling and they are struggling in silence.
Back in 2001 I’d just moved up to Newcastle and had begun university up there. I had some friends from Leeds that I’d moved up there with and I’d thrown myself into everything I could possibly do to build momentum for myself in a new city.
I’d joined the rowing team, continued my martial arts training at a new club, was out partying 2-3 nights per week (or more) and I was loving it. I even managed to attend the odd lecture in between all this too!
Then suddenly over a period of a few days I started to feel nervous and anxious.
About nothing in particular just anything and everything began to bother me.
Pretty soon the nerves got worse and I was literally worried about leaving the house I lived in. I reached a point when I had no option but to move back home to my parents house and spoke to my mother about how I was feeling.
At the time she said it was down to lots of things happening at the same time such as moving house, starting a new job, meeting new people etc.
I did not buy it at all.
I was the confident kid who nothing shakes them. I dismissed my mothers views.
But it got worse. Very quickly I was living at home in Leeds permanently and failing at university badly.
I couldn’t sleep because of the anxiety. Every night was a challenge. I was scared.
In the days I was stressed about feeling so bad and wanted to recover. But I had no idea what was wrong with me.
After a number of hospital visits I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and prescribed Venlafaxine to take everyday. https://beta.nhs.uk/medicines/venlafaxine/
It must have helped because the effects became less pronounced and I was able to operate effectively towards the end of the year after a total of around 12 months of complete turmoil.
Here’s the interesting point. Since that year I have never had a day that it doesn’t cross my mind in some way the feelings from that year. Sometimes it’s just bad memories of feeling like that. Other times it’s genuine anxiety or depression that I have to manage. Whilst I’ve never had to take medication again and I hope that continues to be the case, I have to manage my mental state daily.
I believe the situation was caused by too much change in too small a timeframe for me to handle. Exactly what my mother said (which I dismissed at the time). I believe that to be the case but I don’t really know.
In the dark days with no sleep I managed to cope (just). When I look back there were three major things that helped me to get through (I didn’t no this at the time).
- I went to the people who I felt the safest with. I sought solace and comfort in their company.
This was really important to me. Just simply being in their company hour after hour. Sometimes with no talking just with the TV on in the background. It helped.
- I talked to trusted people and unpicked the condition and the feelings. What this enabled was an ability to partially rationalise the condition. When you are thinking emotionally we don’t use logic. It’s irrational by its very nature. But thinking through something logically and coming up with some kind of rationale did help. The thing is you don’t know the answers. You just need to believe the logic in some way. What other choice is there. But it still helped.
- I put the reps in. By far the hardest but the most important step. When I was suffering I didn’t always have the ability to talk to someone else about it. At 3am in the morning you can’t simply pick up the phone and call someone. So I put the reps in. Thousands and thousands of reps going through the story of ‘I am going to be okay because…’. Literally chanting this out loud or in my head. It sounds like something a crazy person would do (maybe I was) but it’s what got me through the suffering. What I was trying to do was block out the irrational thoughts with the logical progression I’d devised.
I still define myself as a depression sufferer to this day. 16 years on from that year I am able to manage it more effectively. I am actually grateful that it hit me at such a young age because it’s a constant guide for me now as a business owner and leader. I have an operating system that I know when it needs recharging and refuelling. This I owe to the year 2001.
Here’s a few things that I learnt to be true for me about the condition during and since that challenging year.
- The intention of the feelings is good. They are trying to protect you. The question to figure out is why? Solving this is the start of the way through I believe.
- I don’t believe you are ever cured. I believe you learn to manage the feelings more efficiently. It’s a daily practise.
- There are a lot more people suffering than we think. We are not alone in this quest for a healthy mind.
- Mental health is like physical health, we need to exercise the mind otherwise it begins to diminish and shut down.
- Company is critical. Our brains are built to take external cues from other human beings. Without this we struggle.
Why share this? Well I hope that it may help someone else. Perhaps you are suffering…please don’t suffer alone. Perhaps you know someone who might benefit from reading this. Please pass it on to them.
I include this in my high performance newsletter because I think a lot of people looking to achieve in life get caught up with their own psychology and block their progress sometimes for good.
Studying depression helped me. Studying NLP helped a lot. Along with the desire to improve and understand.
I’ve rambled enough. Please do reach out if I can help at all.
My best to you as always,
PS: You can reach me on @brendanchaplin at all the usual platforms. Let’s talk publicly about this issue.
Or you can reach me through the site. Your choice.