We aim to publish meaningful stories of perseverance amidst mental health struggles.
I thought I was in a loving relationship. It was the most serious relationship I’d been in up to that point. I had even moved in with my girlfriend, into her mother’s house, due to my inability to stay in university halls of residence following my failure to complete my course. I had been suffering from depression and anxiety for years, but I began to bottle it up due to how my girlfriend often reacted to its symptoms.
She would threaten to leave me whenever my mental illnesses manifested, mostly because it drudged up memories of her father, who had sadly committed suicide sometime before we met. Rightfully or wrongfully, understandably this left me without much support at home, and so my condition steadily worsened.
My mental health struggles began, and were exacerbated, by two events: I had become redundant from the only job I ever enjoyed, leaving me without an occupation to keep me busy, and I was also involved in an accident, where a car had run me over, and critical care was required for my full physical recovery. My girlfriend had given me a PlayStation Portable – (a handheld video game console, for those who don’t know) – to help me during my time in hospital. It had reignited my old passion for the hobby, and for a while it brought me a limited amount of joy.
However, despite the gesture, this was no cure for the deepening rift between me and my girlfriend. As time went on, I retreated further and further into video gaming to the detriment of what was already a lopsided relationship, and that caused my girlfriend to outright resent me.
Eventually her emotional ties became so frail that she started spending time with another man. She claimed at first that it was just a friendship, but I was convinced that it was much more than that – a suspicion sadly confirmed when they got together not long after the following events…
My girlfriend’s patience had run out, and in an effort, I suspect, to break up with me, she accused me of rape after one of our increasingly rare sexual encounters. The shock of such a horrible accusation has given me an undeserved guilt, and even to this day I struggle with the pain that it caused me.
After that, my life spiralled further downward. I was naturally ejected from my girlfriend’s home, but luckily one of my closest friends offered for me to stay with him until I could find somewhere else to live. However, despite his charity, my friend’s patience for my plight could only last so long; and it transpired that he wasn’t entirely convinced of my innocence. So, despite being in what I regarded as good company, I still felt alone.
A couple of weeks after I moved in with him, I found a cheap bedsit to stay in; one of the few places which would accept my state benefits for the rent. Now I was truly alone, physically speaking, and left with my video games and the occasional Chinese takeaway. I attempted to reconnect with more old friends and acquaintances, as well as make new ones, but even after my greatest efforts it soon lost all meaning to me. I was known to engage with mental health services, but mental illnesses of this type are peculiar. The more that assistance is needed, often the less motivated someone is to seek it.
And so, I continued to deteriorate. Each day bled into the next as my mind began to shut down. I would respond to you if you talked to me, but I suppose you could say the lights behind my eyes were gone.
I would only eat once per day, because two visits to the local chip shop was too expensive. I always wore the same few sets of clothes, but never washed them because I didn’t see the point in it. I rarely bathed or tidied my tiny room, because even these trivial tasks were too much for me to handle. Even the video games I played became ‘white noise’ to me. I no longer enjoyed them. I no longer enjoyed anything.
Sadness, shame, guilt and self-hatred filled my mind.
The intense emotions that came with anxiety and depression had controlled me for a very long time, but intense emotions cannot last forever. When those feelings slowly subsided, they weren’t replaced with happiness or contentment; they were replaced with an unfathomable feeling of emptiness.
I began self harming in a variety of ways, attempting in vain to try and feel something, but I never did. The emptiness gnawed at me ceaselessly, until contemplations of committing suicide were all I could think about. Perhaps death, I thought, was the only option left to be free from the endless pain.
One day, I could tolerate my hollow existence no longer.
I didn’t bother to lock my door or take any of my belongings with me.
I didn’t need them anymore.
I felt nothing as I arrived at a nearby train station. I sat down on a bench for a moment, asking myself one last time if this was what I wanted. It didn’t take very long to come up with an answer. I was empty inside as I walked out onto the tracks.
My mind was in a complete haze at this point, and I failed to notice that there were plenty of people around who were luckily able to stop me. I was arrested, kept in a holding cell, and later escorted to a mental health hospital, where more intensive therapy and treatments than I had experienced before were given.
This laid the groundwork necessary to try and gain a semblance of normalcy, but none of it properly propelled me forward towards recovery. I still felt hopeless, and that my illnesses would always get the better of me. That was, until a new friend decided to lend a helping hand. This man, whom I had recently met, needed an assistant for his job, and appointed me to the position. The work mostly involved the two of us collecting and delivering heavy pieces of furniture for a charity.
The work was strenuous, and the hours were long, especially for someone as inactive as I had been; however, it paled in comparison to the enjoyment I felt connecting with my new colleague.
Having been in a similar situation, my friend could relate and empathize to a much greater degree than I had experienced before. In understanding and learning about each other, and through the hard labour we did daily, I started to feel better for the first time in years.
It wasn’t to last forever, though, and although I once again became redundant, and although my mental health still occasionally relapses, the upward trend did not stop. I soon found a new job, a new home, and a new girlfriend – whom I later married.
These things give me a sense of purpose, of meaning, and I am no longer living an empty life. These duties and responsibilities prevent me from sinking back into oblivion, as too many people care for my well-being, and count on me to be at my best. Now that I have something to live for, I have a reason to get out of bed every day to tend to my basic needs, and to be vigilant against the signs of my mental health worsening.
By devoting myself to my loved ones, I soon cleared those initial hurdles, and now aspire to reach even greater heights. I found within myself the determination to keep going, no matter the hardships, and I’ve accomplished things I never thought possible. These made me almost proud of who I am, which in turn gives me a positively alien sense of self-esteem.
Although I will be forever haunted by the depths to which I sank, those memories also spur me on to continue to enjoy the normal life that most people take for granted.
Each person is individual, and so their journey to a better life will be just as unique. However, for me, I didn’t start to get better until more was done than giving me state-sponsored zombie pills, and endlessly talking about my feelings with strangers who probably didn’t care about me. I didn’t start to get better until I realised that other people really understood what I had been through, and perhaps unwittingly, this is how they helped me. Feeling like one has support is very different from actually having it.
Remember, no matter how hard life gets, you are not alone – contact family or friends, and I’m certain you will find someone who understands.
If you or someone you care about is affected by depression, anxiety, isolation and/or suicidal thoughts, we urge you to find information and support at www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us