Our backstory and why we’re passionate about mental health awareness
“Back in my last year of university, two months before I was due to graduate, I found out my brother was terminally ill with cancer. I found out in a phone call from my dad whilst I was 300 miles away and the pain from that conversation still reverberates around my mind, hanging over me never really disappearing.
I suppose as a child I was always a worrier, in fact as I grew older I became bitterly self-conscious with my mind almost constantly telling me what other people thought of me – mostly negative. However, the death of someone so close, someone I just naturally presumed would always be there, almost made my subconscious aware of mortality and the painful reality of death. Something deep inside changed. I became swamped by the very real thought that something awful was going to happen – pretty much constantly.
The diagnosis by my doctor and subsequent therapy sessions then seemed to help me realise just how far it had got. Left for a few years, I had started to see the change in personality, the dark moods and the constant fear of something awful happening as normal. Something had to change.
I had CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) sessions with an organisation called Talking Change who were fantastic. Even so, my ego always seemed to get in the way of real progress and I just couldn’t concentrate on the sessions, or if I did, I left with more questions than when I arrived. I would often leave feeling better informed but with the whirring sensation of thoughts and anxieties filling my mind once again.
For the past few of years things have gradually improved to a point where I now feel as anxiety free as I have done for many years. However, I know that the battle to keep depression and anxiety in check takes careful planning and consideration which is why charities such as Mind are so unbelievably crucial to help people understand exactly what it is they are going through.”
“It’s hard to say when my depression actually started. The obvious cause to point at would be the death of my mother from a brain haemorrhage in December 2002. I was 18 at the time, recently finished school and was planning the rest of my gap year before I started at University the following year. While I continued with this plan, my life was changed. When you’re raised by an essentially single mother (my father was living in Australia for the most part of my early life and while my stepdad was an important presence in my life, he’d spent a long time away with work and their relationship was often turbulent), you do become (from my experience anyway) somewhat of a mummy’s boy. To have the person who has been the biggest influence on your life cruelly taken away from you just as the next stage of your journey into adulthood is beginning is extremely damaging. At this time I’d recently come out of the British public school system, an institution that is known for embracing a stiff upper lip attitude to life’s troubles, and as a result I was unsure how to react to this life changing event.
In the end, I decided to go away for 6 months and act like any other backpacker, leaving the issue behind as I attempted to push down any feelings of grief and loss that were inevitably trying to make themselves heard. I then returned home and almost immediately started University (where I would meet Tom), again distancing myself (literally and figuratively) from my home life. This is not to say I didn’t have an amazing support network. My father was now back in London and my stepdad (by this point, his relationship with my mother had been long finished) had moved in with me so that I didn’t have to suffer too much upheaval. This was a great help but I still could’t fathom the level of grief that I knew was bubbling within.
Once I had finished my three years of studying, I made the decision that I needed a location change once again, so I embarked on what I thought would be a year away in Australia. As my therapist(s) would later go on to ask, ‘was I running away from facing up to what had happened?’, and the probably answer was yes, but at the time I saw this as ideal. That year, as often does with ex-pats in Australia, turned into far more and in the six years that I eventually spent there, further events eventually resulted in my depression coming out in full force, leaving me on the precipice that at one time I did not think I would be escaping from.
On December 27, 2010, my godson was born but had tragically suffered complications during birth and was born heavily brain damaged. I made the trip to Brisbane to be with my best friend and his girlfriend and was with them as their week old son breathed his final breath in what has to be the most emotional experience that I had ever encountered. There was nothing that could prepare me for that and differed from the passing of my mother as I wasn’t at the hospital at that exact point. I was thankful that I could be with my friends during this awful experience but it also contributed heavily to what would ensue. And perhaps this was the trigger that was needed for me to realise that I needed to seek help.
My relationship crumbled and soon, so did I. On December 7, 2011, I had my first real suicidal thoughts. I was standing at the window of the office I was working out of, looking out onto the ground below, my mind clouded by awful thoughts and not being able to talk. I was alone in there and it was only the fact that the windows happened to be sealed that stopped me from ending it all. I could see no other option, my head was a mess and I just slumped on the floor, an emotional wreck. I tried thinking about all the things that I had to look forward to in my future, but nothing could stop me thinking this horrific thought. These thoughts would then return in at the beginning of 2013 but I managed to pull myself away from these by telling myself about the people I’d be affecting by committing such an act – sadly not all people are able to come out of this mindset in that way. These people are, for the most point, not running away from something, this is one of the most crippling thoughts that you can ever have. Your body goes numb and you are in box that you feel you’ll never escape from. It truly is one of the scariest situations one can find themselves in.
After both these occurrences I sought help. Thankfully in both Australia and the UK, there were avenues to go down that allowed me free help and to have a number of sessions with a psychologist. In these sessions, we looked at my whole life, and you realise that the unconscious is a VERY powerful part of yourself. I had a turbulent (yet loving) childhood, which very much plays a role in your adult life, so even talking about this helped. Having that opportunity to talk to someone who held no judgement and was just there to listen to your life story and try and help piece it together was invaluable. They’re not there to tell you what to do or question your motives, they will offer you a certain amount of advice in how to deal with issues as and when they arise, but essentially they are there to help you figure out why you are suffering from mental health issues. After some of these sessions, I came out with a massive weight off my shoulders, something that was truly liberating.
Today, I generally feel great (unfortunately depression is something that can raise its ugly head at random times) but I know there are so many (too many) people out there who are suffering and need to be helped. They need to be given confidence to come out and say how they feel, and there needs to be the avenues to make sure that this is freely available to anyone who needs them. Raising money for Mind is just the first step on how I want to help people who suffer from various mental health issues. Every person is different in what makes them feel good. Personally, I’ve found that exercise has been a great way of keeping my mind in order, and setting myself the goal of this challenge is pushing me on to achieve much more in this area. I hope this will be the first of many and I hope that in the future I will be working directly with sufferers in order to give them the opportunity to take on similar challenges in order to give them the drive they need to take the next step in their lives!”