So here goes……….
Have you ever been so overawed by life that merely getting out of your bed each morning is a struggle that you never thought you would have to endure? A feeling where you feel worthless. Where you question what is the point in living anymore. Where every waking moment your head is filled with a sense of dread and negativity.
Well I have and this is the reason for my protracted disappearance from social media. I have taken a break from most social media while I tried to heal myself. This process has taken nearly two years to complete. And I sit here today writing as a survivor of depression. I can see quite clearly how this illness can claim people because I was nearly one of them.
Since March 2016 I have been battling a depression that has shocked me to my very core. I have seriously contemplated suicide on several occasions. I have talked openly about this with my counsellors. I am able to put this down on paper without regret. Why should I regret it? Is it something to be ashamed of? No it isn't. It's an illness. If I'd broken my back people would be able to see that. But you can't see what's going on in people's heads. But that doesn't make it any less debilitating or real.
What annoys me about mental health is the stigma which surrounds it. I was sat in a Mental Health First Aid course the other week talking openly about my issues. And I got thanked for sharing my thoughts. Why should I be thanked for being honest? Shouldn't we all be able to talk about this horrific illness without fear of reprisal? It's taken me a long time to get to this stage in my recovery.
In the past two years there have been mornings when I have been surrounded by such a claustrophobic all-encompassing blackness that simply getting out of bed has been a battle. But I have battled because I felt I had to go to work. Because I had to keep a roof over my head. This was stupid. I should have sought help sooner. I wish I had.
I am not writing this for sympathy. I am writing this as a retrospective memory of where I've been and what I've been through so that if I ever find myself at the bottom of a well again I can reread this and remind myself that there is a way out. There is a ladder of hope that I can climb because I have been there before. I have overcome depression once so if needed I could do it again. I just hope I would seek the help I needed sooner.
I have hidden myself away. I have not fully aired my feelings except to those closest to me.
I have lost friends because I have been reclusive.
In all honesty I should have sought help a lot sooner that I did. But I didn't. Because……….PRIDE. But now I know that this was stupid of me.
Looking back now some of the thoughts I have had had seem like the distant ramblings of a stranger but they weren't. At the time they all felt real and they were me. The me that was struggling but still me and still real even if a little strange.
I can vividly remember laughing hysterically at my own joke in a meeting at work. I can remember the questioning looks of my colleagues to this day. I can remember the shame I felt as clear as if it was yesterday. Was I losing my grip on reality?
I can remember sobbing uncontrollably for four hours alone in my house before a friend convinced me I needed help, this was the turning point for me. I finally gave in after this because I was at my wits end.
I can remember going on a night out with friends and being sat outside of a pub sobbing after they had gone home because I had to go home to the all encompassing deafening silence.
Life threw me a curve ball. I wasn't expecting it. And it caused my to unravel.
Depression doesn't give a damn about who it takes as a victim. It knows no boundaries and it doesn't care how much it affects people. It is the illness which could pick out anyone regardless of how well off they appear to others.
I would like to go on record as thanking those who have stood by me through thick and thin.
From the owners of companies (yes you Deano) who knew my problems but treated me as they always had by standing by me, supporting me and asking for my feedback on their prototype products.
To my family, friends and colleagues who have been there to check in on me, to listen to me, to pick me up and dust me off (more than once), invited me round for tea, made the effort with me, hugged me, been normal with me and gone for a beer with me. I could list you all individually but you know who you are and no amount of words can portray the thanks I owe to each and every one of you.
I would also like to apologise to the people I have lost as friends. But my actions weren't me. They were the depressed Michael who was struggling with life.
Around the same time I got thrown my curve ball by life. I got elected as the Head Coach of Doncaster Triathlon Club. I've done my best to juggle this role along with my battle with depression but I know I've not been as effective in this role as I would have liked. My passion for coaching and helping others is still there as it always has been and I hope now that I am feeling better, the people I coach will reap the rewards from my volunteer coaching.
And now for my last rambling thought. If you're reading this and are struggling, feel free to get in touch via Twitter (@smoker2ironman). I've been there and the first contact is the hardest to make. Don't be ashamed to ask for help. Don't keep burying your head in the sand. Help is available if you want it. I've used the Samaritans more than once in the last two years and they are an amazing charity.
Thanks for reading.