By Daniel Jones
My name is Dan. I’ve just turned 30, moved into my first home and have a great job. I’ve got a wonderful and loving family and great friends I love to spend time with. Life seems like it’s going pretty great for me, right?
I’m probably not someone you would suspect to have depression but I do. On Thursday 10 May 2018, things took a pretty nasty turn.
While sitting at my desk at work, my mind and body began to feel in intense pain. The only way I can describe it is as if they were both being wrung out like a sponge.
I felt dizzy and I initially tried to let the feelings pass but coupled together I felt on the verge of tears.
It wasn’t enough just to hope that it would pass any longer. I needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling.
A friend of mine from university had told me to speak to her if I ever needed to about this sort of thing. While initially I was reluctant, I realised I needed to. So I reached out and explained how I was feeling. The thing about having a good network of friends and people who support you is that you will never be met with judgement and neither was I. My friend told me she was glad that I spoke to her and immediately offered to meet me for dinner to talk about what was going on.
Along with a couple of our other friends, that’s just what we did.
I also called my mum, who has constantly been there for me over the many years I have gone through the muddy and sticky waters of anxiety and depression and has offered nothing but love, understanding and compassion. I couldn’t be more grateful to have these people in my life.
We might hear a lot of people using the words ‘it’s okay to talk’ and think nothing of it. The truth is that talking saved me. It saved me when I was in pain and when I thought life wasn’t worth living.
This came at a time when the suicide of a main character on Coronation Street caught the nation’s attention and the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison who also tragically took his own life.
Perhaps selfishly, after almost ten years of a cocktail of anxiety, depression and panic attacks, I feared that this was the path that I was also heading towards. I am, by my own admission, a chronic over-thinker and I can blow the slightest worry out of all possible proportion. In case you thought I wasn’t giving myself an easy enough time already with all of that, throw into that mix constant rumination and worrying about things I have said and done and how they might impact on other people.
And so with all of this going on in my mind, I saw these two events occurring in the same week and began to panic that it was the only outcome waiting for me.
‘Who is this wonderfully stable person, panicking about being anxious and panicked?’ You might be thinking. The truth is, I’m not alone. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the United Kingdom. In the past it may not have been treated as such but it is welcome news that mainstream TV programmes such as Coronation Street are now tackling what in the past may have been viewed as a taboo subject.
There was one other result of my bad mental health day that I hadn’t predicted. I thought I would share what happened on Twitter in the hope that it might encourage one or two other people to open up and share how they are feeling when times are rough too. I should also add that I was quite nervous about sharing this tweet, as being open, honest and vulnerable about my mental health hasn’t always been met with a positive response from everyone in the past.
I’ve been completely taken aback that, one week later, the tweet has been re-tweeted almost 5,000 times, including by JK Rowling and liked almost 35,000 times. But what struck me most was that, of the over 1,000 responses I received to my tweet, not one single reply was of a negative nature. Every single one was caring, supportive, kind and warm and I cannot thank every single person who took the time to write to me to offer me words of encouragement. I even received a response from Monica Lewinsky, someone I have looked up to immensely since her powerful TedTalk on the price of shame. It was quite a week but I felt that opening up and being vulnerable in this way had the impact that I wanted to; that it might have encouraged someone else to have a conversation about how they are feeling.
On Sunday, in what was a particularly vulnerable day for me, I spoke to my brother and my concern about how I feared that I was heading along the same path as Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit. “What his suicide has done is that it is getting people talking about their mental health” my brother told me. Although desperately tragic, perhaps this could be the legacy he leaves behind and I hope that in encouraging others to talk through my own experience, we can continue to open up when we go through tough times.
The greatest lesson we can take from these events is to find a trusted friend or family member you can talk to. Even if you don’t feel that there is someone you can speak with, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 116 123. What we can also do is to make ourselves available to listen to our friends and family members, especially if we suspect that things might not be going so well for them right now.
Talking saves lives. It did for me, and one day it may for you too.
I’m so pleased that there are platforms out there like Vent where people like me can share our experiences and help others lead rich and full lives alongside our mental health conditions.
Daniel Jones is Policy and Public Affairs Officer at The British Heart Foundation.
To follow Daniel’s story and learn more, you can follow him on Twitter.