Me and my Mental Health

Me and my Mental Health

There was a time in my life, a long time ago, when the only place I felt truly safe was on the top deck of a bus in Liverpool. I took the same journey to college every day, and for about 20 or 30 glorious minutes I felt pretty much ok. And during that period of my life that was as good as it got.

Once I was off the bus I was a bit of a wreck. I avoided social situations, and avoided other people in general. I had friends but didn’t really function around them. I didn’t know it, but I was suffering from a mental illness from which the monotony of the bus journey provided a kind of numbing relief. 

Since then I’ve come to understand what it was all about. I had depression. Back then, almost 30 years ago, I had no idea. I certainly didn’t talk about how I was feeling. 

I’ve been back down this path a few times since then (and in truth my Black Dog, as Winston Churchill called his own depression, probably first came by earlier). Over the years I’ve learned more and more how to train him so that when he visits these days, I know broadly speaking what to do. But sometimes he can still cut loose and leave me struggling. 

Knowing that I’m not alone is incredibly powerful. And I’m far from alone. One in four of us will suffer from a mental illness at some point in our lives. We will all have friends or family who’ve been through it. 

Knowing too that mental illness is like physical illness is important as well. The outward signs of physical ailment may be obvious: but the pain and challenge of mental illness can and often is just as bad. 

I’m also clear that there is nothing weak about succumbing to a mental health challenge. It’s about much more than “just feeling a bit low”. You can’t “just snap out of it”. It hits me like the flu: knocks me for six, puts me out of action, makes me really not feel like myself. 

Of course there is still a lot of stigma around. Men in particular are still too often conditioned to bottle it up, to “man up” or “get a grip”. Too often they listen and reach instead for alternative and harmful ways of coping. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. 

But things are changing. The Time to Change campaign led by the mental health charities Rethink Mental Illness and Mind has made great strides to both challenge stigma and encourage a climate where talking about mental health is the norm: hence it’s Time to Talk day tomorrow, which the Post Office is supporting.

Talking is incredibly powerful in my experience. There is the realisation that this sometimes lonely and debilitating illness is more widespread than it seems, and there is great collective strength in sharing experiences and facing challenges in a spirit of fellowship rather than isolation. 

And it just makes things feel easier too: sharing strategies, feelings and experiences, and just being there for someone else, can be a release and a great support.

So tomorrow I will talk I about my story at an event for Time To Talk day in Finsbury Dials. Do come along if you can - I’d welcome the support. 

Of course it’s not easy to talk about this kind of thing, and we should all do what feels right for each of us. One step at a time. But know this: you are not alone.

*PS if anyone out there would like to talk more about this I’m always up for that. Just drop me an email at mark.r.davies@postoffice.co.uk find me on Twitter @markdavies67 or on Yammer.