It all roughly started in 2003.
There were no warning signs or particular incidents that set it all off.
Just unexplained reasons for feelings of worthlessness and serving no purpose in life.
Staring at the ceiling and crying myself to sleep was just a normal daily routine. Dark thoughts were a regular occurrence. I would always find myself tearing my hair out, screaming to myself when alone.
Why am I feeling like this?
When will it stop?
I was just a kid, I had everything a young guy could ask for and more. I came from a great big loving family, had a great education, all the mates in the world. Mates that I'd had since school, but also shared a unique bond with one another through footy and still share to this day.
After months of bottling these feelings I began to turn into one angry individual, one I didn’t recognise and I began to push those closest to me away. A very close mate of mine at the time was in part aware of my situation and gave my parents the heads up. They weren't fully aware to the extent of my problems but I'm sure they had suspicions that something was up.
I had so much anger directed inwards towards myself after months of unnecessary arguing and fighting over the smallest things. The anger was turned towards my parents purely because I hated myself and life as it stood. I could see how much hurt it was causing them and one night I eventually cracked, I had to talk.
I recall breaking down to my mum telling her I was unsure what was wrong with me. " I don’t want to be here anymore and I need help." She read a letter I had written, I'd willingly handed to her in hope there were some answers in that bit of paper. My parents were shocked, in disbelief. I can't imagine what they must of thought.
Did they think I was crazy? Were they disappointed in me? Disappointed in themselves? Did they think I was crazy?
I recall them being very emotional at the time, trying to wrap their heads around what and why I was saying such crazy comments. To them also I had the perfect upbringing, I'm sure they began to question if they'd done something wrong. Truth is, back then in my world, nobody knew what depression was. Nobody ever spoke of it. I certainly had no idea what it was and can guarantee my parents didn’t.
Mum took me to see a specialist doctor a couple of days later to seek some help and understanding on what was going on. After lengthy discussions with the doctor he recommended I immediately start on a prescription medication to help with “Chemical imbalance of the brain” from which I may have been suffering.
Perhaps it was a pride thing or simply lack of knowledge and understanding we decided to decline the medication. I felt medications were only for the seriously sick or crazy people, told myself to suck it up, stop whining and get on with life.
Following this visit my mum and I had several meetings with the school in which they then became aware of my situation. I felt everyone around me (teachers & parents) had such a close eye on me but were treading on egg shells as they didn't know how I would react in certain situations. I've always seen my family as a pretty hard headed, strong family, same goes my friends at the time. We don’t speak of feelings and emotions, we see life as black and white, right and wrong. I didn’t want to be seen as weak or a failure, so my best approach was to bottle everything up and not let emotions get to me. This was the way I lived for many years till recent times.
Many, many years had passed since this first episode. I should've seen it coming, we all know too well that bottling up emotions only leads to disaster down the track. By doing so I unknowingly pushed those I loved in past relationships away. Now at a older age again I masked my pain with abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. It was an escape from reality, day to day, just so I didn’t have to feel normal emotions. This went on and on in phases for a very long time till recent . Behind closed doors I could feel myself going down a very dark path all over again. I decided I needed help and I needed it quick.
Once again I was beginning to hate who I'd become, I couldn’t get ahold of my anger or my anxiety. I couldn’t go anywhere in an unfamiliar area or establishment without the feeling of being consumed and feeling a complete lack of control of my body. I would get the sweats, the shakes, feeling of either wanting to be sick or go to the toilet. I was abusing alcohol and pain meds to escape and mask these feelings on a regular basis. I decided to go to the docs, this time alone.
This was my problem and my problem only and I needed to fix it myself.
I was immediately put on a Mental Health Program. I started a low dose of prescription Anti Depressants for Anxiety and Depression. I was meant to report to a local psychologist and begin counseling on a regular basis to follow the mental health program, but to my own stupidity and ignorance I didn’t. I believed a magic pill would fix me and I could carry on with normal life.
How wrong I was.
I went about my life as normal whilst taking medication daily for months. I continued to binge drink socially on weekends with mates, whilst knowing I shouldn’t of been drinking any more than a standard drink or three whilst on the meds due to the side effects. I always seemed to get black out drunk when drinking. I had no self control, but the anti depressants magnified the effects . The effects of alcohol would hit me a lot harder. The hangovers and low days after would hit harder and last longer. The busy period of the Christmas rush is stressful enough for anybody, but running your own business, as I'm sure anyone in the same situation can attest, takes it's toll, both physically and mentally.
To keep on the go and purely focus on work and the tasks at hand I began to self medicate, doubling my prescription dose throughout the 2 weeks leading into Christmas. Not realizing how unsafe and dangerous it really was and simply how uneducated I was, I was playing with fire and burning the candle at both ends.
Once Christmas had finished and we closed up for the break I dropped my medication dose back to its normal amount. By doing so this would have caused a significant change of chemicals produced in the brain. The next day I woke up a different person. I could not get a hold of my mind and thoughts. I was literally having a breakdown. My family was away at the time, I was pacing the house in hysterics at a rapid pace and could not stop crying. I had one dark thought on my mind and one thing only. I wanted to end it all there and then without warning. I knew exactly what I was doing but had no control, it was already played out in my mind and I knew this was it. I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason.
I know I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for some lucky circumstances or perhaps fate. My best mate turned up at my door completely unaware of what he’d just interrupted. He wasn’t due to pick me up for hours as we were heading out for New years Eve. He was not aware of what was happening. I sent him back to the car and told him I'll get dressed and be out in a minute. Sitting in the car I was in such shock, embarrassed and in disbelief of what I was actually about to carry out to do. It could have all ended right then. “Faking a smile is so much easier than explaining why you are sad” especially when you don’t have answers. We all carried on into the night as normal but I was still in shock.
I just continued to put on my normal front. Once we were back at my mates girlfriends apartment in the early hours of the morning, I cracked. I couldn’t fight it anymore. I broke down to some of my closest mates and partners , explained what I set out to do earlier that day and some of my past experiences. They consoled me for the remainder of night in both disbelief and love. One quote that always seems to stick to me and I felt is so fitting: “On a good day I can conquer the earth. On a bad day I don’t even want to be on it.”
It was now apparent to my mates I was dealing with something behind closed doors and needed help. The following week I was called to a BBQ with my closest of mates which to my surprise was an intervention. I was extremely embarrassed but also shocked. Shocked in a good way that these very people I was so afraid to tell my problems to didn’t judge me and wanted to do everything in their power to help me. This was a massive wake-up call and reality check and I immediately started seeing a psychologist regularly for approx 12 months.
I couldn’t of done it without the help and support of those mates and my partner at the time. As time went by it was a daily struggle but I managed to get a hold of my binge drinking and my state of mind. After being on the medication for a period of time without abusing it, I felt I was beginning to lose touch of who I was and my independence, I had to learn and find myself again.
After a lot of counseling I began to feel strong enough to fight for myself and regain who I was. I had to get my independence back instead of hiding behind the medication. I began a cycle in which I had to be weaned off the medication over the course of 7 weeks for the chemicals in the brain to adjust and level over a period of time. Week by week I felt a more positive change and could see a sense of independence again. I have successfully completed this process without any relapse.
Today I can proudly say I am in a much better head space. I have my independence back, I still run a successful business and have a great support network around me even if they have no idea. It hasn’t been easy & I still battle severe anxiety on a daily basis but deal with it in a much better way. The gym has been a great outlet and change for me. I may be the smallest guy in the gym, but to me it’s a form of great positive therapy. Music is also my life I couldn’t live without it, its also a sense of escape for me. But of course my family & friends.
My family may not be perfect, but really who’s is. Every family has encountered their own share of issues I’m sure. But to me without every single one of them and my friends I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I feel as though I have been living a lie and living a second life in the shadows behind closed doors. Knowing that some of my mates are aware of my problems always helps, it’s like a weight is lifted off the shoulders and no longer I have to put on a front. I now know I’ve got their support.
It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to be emotional.
I believe that In today’s society it is no longer seen as a sign of weakness, yet a sign of courage and bravery to speak out and seek help.
I'm very aware that this piece of writing will be a shock and extremely confronting to many of my friends and family as there is only very few who know any of this, my parents included. With that said this is why I have chosen to do this. It could be your son, daughter, friend, wife or husband battling their own demons behind closed doors and you wouldn’t even know before it’s too late.
I feel very passionate about anxiety and depression as it is obviously something I've had to deal with a majority of my life. Strangely, it gives me such joy to hear and read other peoples story. Reading their experiences. Their journey. Seeing their courage and bravery to come out the other side a better person. Raising awareness is what this is about.
I've been wanting to do something about this for a very long time following the passing of a school friend to suicide. A part of me didn’t want to air out my darkest of secrets and dirty laundry at the risk of self sabotage. I didn’t want to be judged, treated differently nor am I seeking pity. But then I thought, I didn’t go through all of this for nothing good to come from it.
The struggle is that this story, not just for me, many others in similar situations, gets the limelight it needs and deserves. By openly sharing my own personal experience in this raw form, I hope that this helps and gives at least one person the courage to speak up and seek help.
We are not alone.
If this helps change at least one person’s life for the better, I will feel satisfied my journey was worth the pain. “Be kind, For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” “Life’s Swinging Hard, But I’m Swinging Harder”
If you are struggling and need to reach out, please visit our Get Help Page for a list of organisations that can help.