Read Joe's story, in his own words. TW // Depression & Suicide Ideation
Trigger Warning: Mentions experiences with suicide ideation, depression, and mental health concerns.
Man Down is a new campaign created by Joe, the elected Male Students’ Representative. The campaign wants to reassure men that it’s ok to ask for help and help raise awareness of how we can support the men in our lives.
As we launch the campaign, Joe has written about his own experiences with mental health and hopes he inspires more men to talk about their feelings. -
Depression: my experience
I believe that talking about feelings honestly and openly is one of the most liberating and important things a man can do. Whilst men’s mental health has come a long way, there is still a lot of judgement and stigma levied at men who suffer with mental illness. To try and challenge this stigma I have decided to talk about my feelings and share my experience of mental illness.
I vividly remember when I first realised that I was depressed, it was a humid day in April 2018, and I had gotten out of bed at around lunchtime. The second I got up I felt my heart drop to the pit of my stomach, my shoulders slumped, and each step took a frightening effort. I was genuinely scared of my reflection in the mirror. I looked like a bug-eyed ghost of myself with thousand-yard stare and a frown that could crack the glass. The sinking feeling I had when I got up only got worse throughout the afternoon and I began to cry. I had tried to hide my low moods for a while, lying to my parents and blaming other illnesses for the way I felt, but there was no way I could have hidden my feelings that day. I felt awful and I wanted to die. My parents noticed that I was in a state, and they asked me about it, I remember saying “I’m very sad” and I broke down. That was one of the worst days I’ve ever had.
To me, the worst thing about my depression was the constant, unrelenting feeling of sadness every day for months. There was never a reason for how I felt, I didn’t understand my emotions and I felt like I’d never get better. I began to feel like a spectator to my own life, watching myself live a life that wasn’t was mine. My emotions began to die, and I couldn’t really feel anything apart from sadness and anger. I sought therapy to try and understand why I felt so bad all the time, after 6 months of waiting, I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
When I began therapy, I didn’t even know what emotions I was feeling, and I had no idea how to talk about feelings. The process was tough, and I nearly dropped out of therapy a few times because it made me feel worse at the beginning, but I started to understand why I was so sad all the time. Once I figured out what my emotions where I could start working through coping mechanisms and ways to start feeling better. I did 2 courses of therapy over 3 months, and it gave me the understanding and techniques I needed to get better. I began to steadily improve, and life started to feel normal again.
I started uni at the height lockdown and moved into a silent and unfriendly flat. It became one of the loneliest periods of my life. I began to slump back into depression, and I used alcohol to feel better. I drank too much and ate too little; I lost interest in my classes, and I isolated myself from the world. Eventually I had to be taken home by my dad because I couldn’t keep myself safe anymore. At home, with the support of my parents, I began to use the lessons I learned in therapy and once again became a healthy and productive man.
Currently I am the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been, the lessons I’ve learned from personal experience and therapy have given me the tools to deal with my depression. The constant support from my friends and family have helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, and they have kept me safe when I couldn’t.
If Joe’s story resonates with you, whether it’s encouraged you to talk about your own feelings or check in on a loved one – have the mental health conversation.
If you are worried about yourself, or a friend – reach out for help. You can find information and support services on the Man Down webpage here.