Depression was a word I never thought I would associate with myself, especially in the sense of being someone who would personally suffer from it.
I’ve always been an upbeat, charismatic, get-up-and-go sort of guy, but rewind to 2016 and something was internally not right. I was severely depressed but didn’t know what that actually meant, or how to move forward.
In 2012 I had embarked on a life of freelance work and entrepreneurial go-getting, setting up pop-up shops that sold British menswear to the masses – well, that was the plan at least. It had all started out so positively: brands were excited to support my efforts and customers were parting with cash for products that I had selected, in retail spaces that I had curated. But this all came crashing down after a poorly chosen business partnership left me out in the cold to fend for the business on my own.
With a good concept under my belt and the world of e-commerce growing, I had interest from a friend’s partner to join my ship and help me raise capital. ‘Partners’ we said when we sat down to plan global menswear domination, but a few months down the line with product orders placed, and not a penny of investment raised, a better deal came sailing along, and he set off on another journey.
Left holding the (fashion) baby solo, I scrambled for resources and embarked on a path of securing business loans that would effectively keep the wheels turning, but they would ultimately derail me and the company I was trying to keep afloat.
Life as I knew it spiralled out of control, and slowly but surely, my ill-advised financial decisions took me to a point of no return – a point where the only way out that I could see was to stop my story and take my own life.
Contemplating suicide on numerous occasions felt at odds with the positive person that I consider myself to be, but depression, like my business, felt like a weight that just wouldn’t shift and a fogginess that had no light at the end of the tunnel.
With social engagements being missed, and a visible funk surrounding me, my retreat into myself was questioned by a friend who prompted me to talk as little or as much as I wanted about my state of mind. Ever the manly millennial, I held back at first, thinking that this feeling would be better off dealt with alone, or better still, not at all. But burying my head in the sand was no longer an option and it all just tumbled out.
How REFRESHING it felt to be honest, to share this burden I was living with. Our chat (and chats of this nature) are an invaluable opportunity to start the journey to recovery, and I was thankful to have taken the opportunity to do so.
As men, we can too often walk through life weighing ourselves down with a machismo that dictates that it is better for our problems not to be seen or heard, but this is setting us backwards, and is inevitably the cause of so many men taking their own lives between the ages of 20 and 49.
Having made the jump from riding solo with my depression to it being out in the open, I probably assumed that life would be one long walk in the park again – oh, no, no, no. Every day was – and still can be – a bit of a hump to get over, but by comparison, I felt able to tackle life’s day-to-day trivialities with a headstrong attitude.
It really is true that a problem shared is a problem solved. But to keep it real about depression, it’s not as simple as that. Talking or sharing with a friend or family member is simply step one towards regaining control, but seeking the help of a medical professional (as I did) was an essential part to putting in place the building blocks to having better mental health.
Jump forward to 2017 and with a support system in place (friends to be open with and therapy sessions) I felt I was finally stepping out of the funk and getting back into the groove of being the ‘old me’, but an improved version who had an invigorated view of life. I’ve grown from these experiences for the better, and hope that my walk with depression will encourage someone to see the benefit in being able to talk.
We have a duty of care to ourselves as humans – but men in particular – to find our voice and get real about the state of our minds. One resource I found useful was the PHQ-9 form. It’s essential that you answer this questionnaire honestly, but take your time. It’s a brilliant tool that allows you to get to grips with your depression and put your situation into perspective.