I remember the call like it was yesterday. It was just after dinner one night when my mate called to ask me how I was going. But not ...
- This made me think
I have tried to take my life twice. These suicide attempts, not surprisingly, were the lowest points in my 26-year life. They were not cries for help and they were not attention seeking. I was seriously ill and I genuinely wanted to die to end my pain and what I thought was the pain of my friends and family. If I had not been found, I might not be here to write this story. Twice in my life I almost made the worst mistake I could have possibly made. It was the powerful, seductive and poisonous voice of depression that drove me to that point. It is a damaging illness.
Soften The Fck Up is one of the best things I have been involved in. I wish I had found something like it a lot earlier in my life. Maybe it would have helped me to tell my mates or my family about the pain and confusion I had felt since I was a teenager. If I had been able to talk about how I felt, then I could have started on the road to overcoming my illness a lot earlier.
Talking about how I felt was only the first step in getting control of my major mental illness. It wasn’t enough enough to fix it. Don’t get me wrong, I think discussing how you feel is seriously important and seriously good. Sometimes just opening up is even enough to lift a lot of the fog of depression or anxiety. That’s why I became heavily involved in helping get STFU off the ground. But I want to give encouragement to guys who open up about how they’re feeling and still feel like shit. There has always been more I can do to feel better and get healthier. I softened the fck up in many different ways.
Talk to a psychologist. A professional therapist has helped me to dig out some deeper reasons behind my depression and anxiety. I like to think of it like seeing a physio about a dodgy knee. The physio would tell me to change your running technique; my psychologist tells me to change the way I think.
I also needed to see a psychiatrist and start taking some medication. When I started taking anti-depressants I thought I’d failed. But then my doctor asked me whether I would have felt the same way if I was diabetic and had to start taking insulin. A lot of the time just talking about the illness won’t fix it for me. And a lot of the time it will take a few different types of medication. I’m on my eighth different pill. I try not tp get discouraged by this: it means there is always something new for me to try.
Sometimes I have been so knocked around and ill that I’ve had to go to hospital. There’s nothing wrong with that. Would you feel like a failure if antibiotics weren’t enough to fix tonsillitis and you had to go into hospital to have them taken out? I’ve been to hospital four times and I’ve met some great people there. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what job you’ve got or how physically fit you are. Mental health clinics look after everyone. On one of my admissions I met a nationally famous footballer who was getting some help. I felt nervous about hospital the first time I went in, but I now know it’s a really helpful option if I need it. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I’m not ashamed of any of the treatments I’ve received. Trying to get control of my illness is something I’m proud of. That’s why I’m not afraid to say that I had electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and I’m glad I did. I was pretty scared and apprehensive about getting electric shock treatment for a while. After I had it I wasn’t willing to talk about it. But it lifted me from the fog in a way nothing else has and I now reckon that’s worth talking about. Soften the fck up right? Unfortunately ECT, like mental health in general, has a stigma associated with it. Let me tell you that ECT helped me a lot. That was after I was still really struggling despite seeing a psychologist, a psychiatrist, taking pills and having a few stays in hospital.
I want guys to talk about their mental health. Speaking with my friends and family and doctors helped me so much. It lifted the pressure of keeping my feelings secret. We all need to soften the fck up. But opening up doesn’t just mean talking. It means opening up to all the different options and realising that mental illness is an illness like any other. There are many treatment options and there is always something different to try. I hope you can soften the fck up like I did.
Today is RU OK Day, a day for us to keep our mates honest and check on them to see if they’re really, really okay.