I talked in the last blog about my attempts at suicide, but I’m not going to pretend there are any quick fixes. But you can learn to look out for the signs. Yes, I still have down days. When my dad died in 2017 I had a couple of weeks where I was just out for the count, but that was understandable, that was grief. So I recognised what it was and I just let my body and my brain do what it needed to do to go through that period and get over it.
But that wasn’t depression. Yes, I shut myself off and I didn’t talk to people and I shut all my social media down, everything like that, but it still wasn’t depression. Depression is different – it’s almost as if you’re dead from the neck down. From the hairline down, everything is a ‘no’. You can’t engage with people, and the worst thing is that you can’t see a way out. You can’t see a way forward, you can’t see your way clear. There’s no escape.
For me, in my depression, it was like one of those comic black holes, like the ones in a cartoon where the hero’s being chased by the bad guy and the bad guy’s getting a bit close, so the hero puts his hand in his pocket and throws a black circle on the floor which suddenly becomes a hole, and the bad guy drops down the hole. Then the hero picks up the black hole, puts it back in his pocket, and carries on moving. And that’s what it was like for me.
It was, and still is, a full stop on a page of text, and that’s how I monitor my depression. A full stop on a page of text. And what used to happen was that it would get bigger and bigger and bigger. And I wouldn’t notice it, and then all of a sudden it was completely covering me and I was in this black hole with no way out.
I mean, I wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks. I wouldn’t eat, or if I did eat it was just… y’know. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. My girlfriend was pulling her hair out. It was just a really bad place to be, a really dark, dark place.
And you can’t get through to people, you really can’t get through to them. If you know someone who’s depressed, the only thing you can really do is to make sure that they are eating and make sure they know that you are there for them. That’s probably the most important thing, that they know you are there for them.
Ideally, the best way to deal with depression is to notice someone on the way down. Because if you can catch somebody on the way down we’re still communicating, are still able to be rational about things, and can still understand what’s going on around us. And that is probably the time where you can try to intervene and maybe just help that person stay level, rather than dropping down any further.
But it’s not easy because some people just won’t spot it. I mean for me, sometimes nobody knew what was going on until I was actually down there, in the middle of it, and unable to respond to anybody.
Other times, it was more like a gradual descent, so it would happen at work or at home, and that would just throw me completely. It would be like a gradual slide – I would start maybe not eating that much or not wanting to go out or not talking to anybody, not responding – that kind of thing.
And then it would just get worse and worse until I was finally in the hole, and that was it, I would just be in this dark place. To this day I don’t know what brought on my later suicide attempt. I think it was a combination of things. There were some financial issues, I think work wasn’t going that well, I think potentially the relationship wasn’t going that well either.
Things just weren’t going well and I wasn’t able to deal with it. I had no way of being able to deal with it. I had no one I could talk to or confide in because men don’t talk. Especially back in the mid ’90s, it just wasn’t the done thing, y’know?
I read a post today where somebody said it’s a sign of weakness – and it was. It was a sign of weakness. So you didn’t let on that you had a problem and apart from those closest to you, nobody knew you had a problem. You just were off sick because you’d hurt yourself, or whatever.
And it’s only when I went back to work that I went to see the company doctor and said, vaguely, what had gone on. I didn’t tell them about the suicide attempt or anything like that, and they still didn’t really understand because they were just not trained for it.
Now thankfully there’s this mental health awareness training, a bit like first-aid training, that you can get, which is really, really useful. It teaches you the signs of when someone might be struggling or suffering. But the thing is, it’s just not easy. You just have to be there for the person. It’s a balancing act, that’s what I’m trying to say.
Because whilst they’re on the way down, you don’t want to follow them down, because people can drag you down, can bring you into this darkness as well, and you don’t want to go there. You need to be able to stay afloat. You need to be able to have a ship that is watertight and isn’t going to sink, because if you both sink, you can’t support each other.
That’s one of the reasons why I really am not keen on some of the groups on Facebook, because rather than helping and encouraging people to make a move out of their depression, there’s lots of talk of, well, you know, it’s going to take time and don’t worry about it, tomorrow’s another day, and all this kind of thing. And they’re not really helping people. They’re just kind of sympathising, and a lot of people are going to these groups, I think, just for the sympathy.
Me, I never wanted sympathy – I just wanted to die, I just wanted to be completely out of the picture. Thankfully, seriously, I am now so happy that it didn’t happen, that I’m still here. In the next blog, I’ll look at some of the things that helped me, and I think can help men who have the same kinds of feelings and problems as me.