By Kevin Clark, Innerleithen Store Manager
This year, International Men’s Day is focused on ‘Better health for men and boys’.
Back in April 2016, I had a breakdown. I was a new dad, recently married and had recently changed roles too. I’d been burying my head in the sand for months with issues at home, work, family and other personal problems, bottling them up hoping they would either deal with themselves or just go away. It wasn’t long after my daughter turned three months old that my world just seemed to crumble.
Anytime I was alone and had more than a few minutes to myself I slipped into thoughts of suicide and self-harm. This started off small, but eventually grew so big it consumed everything I did.
Monday 4 April was the day that everything changed. I’d had a horrific night and I realised I just couldn’t take how I was feeling anymore – I had to go to the doctor to seek some form of help. I couldn’t hide from my problems anymore and knew I couldn’t face them alone. I felt useless as a husband, a man and most importantly as a new dad.
A 10 minute GP appointment lasted 45 minutes as everything just came out in one go. At the end of that appointment I had a prescription for medication I didn’t want to take, but knew it would likely help me face into my issues. My doctor also gave me a sick note that I really didn’t want to give to my boss as I’d never had any time off. But I took the advice. I was also given information for where to turn for help and counselling.
It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but at first I was completely against seeking counselling. I couldn’t understand why speaking to a stranger about how I was feeling could help me – I wasn’t even willing to speak to my wife about it. Whilst I waited for my first appointment I hoped my medication would work and take away the need for it, I kept active, I was advised to keep a journal of my thoughts which again I was very sceptical of, but I did it anyway – I had nothing to lose really.
After about two months, things became a lot easier. I was now on different medication and importantly had started talking to a counsellor. I had preconceived ideas about counselling that filled me with dread, mainly from American TV programmes where I had visions of having to lie on a couch and talk about my feelings. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, it was just me and a doctor talking and strangely it all came so easily and by the end of my third session I felt so much better. I was getting control of my emotions and my life back. I could handle the day to day aspects of life, I found some basic meaning to the word “happy” again and I even managed to take moving house in my stride!
I slowly felt more at ease about dealing with my issues and problems. I didn’t bury them and hope they disappear. I didn’t want to end my life anymore. It was still tough, but as time progressed each day got better and better until this massively difficult part of my life became a distant memory. A memory that I’m not even sure is accurate as I had lost all sort of logic and rationale thinking. Not long ago I came across my journal that I’d written but can’t even remember writing half the negative things in it. It did identify though the three people that I can hand on heart say got me through it. Without them I doubt I would be here today. My wife, my daughter and my best friend.
Four years on, I’ve had some serious ups and downs along the way, but I’m now far better equipped to deal with problems than ever before. I’ve also found my experience of depression and anxiety massively helpful in supporting others. I can recognise the signs in myself and can stop myself from slipping into bad habits. If my story helps even one person feel they are not alone, then telling it has been worthwhile.
On International Men’s Day I think the most important thing I could tell any man out there is simply this; we men have emotions too, masculinity may well tell us that we should hide these, bury them deep and never see them again. But they won’t go away. In today’s modern world it’s more important than ever to share your problems with someone, this goes for anyone. Whether you just need a good rant at a friend about your day, or there’s something far more serious going on – talk to someone. There’ll be no prejudice.
You aren’t alone. There is lots of support available to you as a Co-op colleague on anything from mental wellbeing to financial support – you can find out more here. You can always find support by calling LifeWorks from a UK landline or a mobile for free on 0800 069 8854. For online support, you can visit the LifeWorks website, the conversation will be totally confidential. Register here if you’ve not already.