Notes on a Birthday

Hi all,

Today I am twenty years old, and I’m happy to be. However I can’t deny that on many occasions it is a year that I almost didn’t make it to. When this year began, I knew that it would be a liminal year, the year where I would die or something would change. Luckily for me, the latter happened, but not through lack of trying the former.

This year, I accepted that I needed help. I was sectioned, detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, and medicated. I’ve met people who I will value for the rest of my days while I was in hospital. The experience, while giving me a dose of how great people can be, also drew a stark light on the foibles within the mental health system itself and the way the NHS handles mental illness. Since I was discharged I’ve done more than I ever thought possible.

I started a blog that got thousands of views, I was in the Guardian, and people I’ve admired for a long time have read me, shared me, and thanked me. And yet I almost didn’t live to see any of that. If you had asked me at my worst what lay ahead of me I would’ve laughed and said absolutely fuck all. The very idea was laughable and was so hopeless that it wasn’t even worth thinking about. Evidently, that blackened belief has been proven wrong, and hopefully, will continue to be proven wrong.

Today, I’m still obsessed with the whys and what ifs. I learned however, as I walked up and down Brighton beach once or twice a day with my therapist, that to ask why was something of a red herring. It simply is.

The odds are that I will have another depressive episode at some point in the future. The stat is that with each depressive episode that you have, the likelihood of another increases. Hopefully, I’ll be better equipped to deal with it. I have strategies and there are many fail safes in place to prevent me reaching a crisis point. If I could talk to myself at the start of the year I would say this – The greatest lie that depression ever perpetuates is that you are it and it is you. You are more than an illness, so much more. Living with depression may not be as oxymoronic as it may sound. Hopefully, if I have another depressive episode, I’ll remember that depression is the most insidious liar, though that’s easier said than done.

Also, the fact remains that if I die the most likely cause will be suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under forty five in the UK, and only twenty percent of the UK population know that fact. Suicide stands as the starkest crises that we face today, while also being one of the cruellest and most debilitating for both the sufferer and those around them. (For each suicide an estimated six people are directly affected).

So, in lieu of a birthday gift, if you or someone you know is struggling, please please talk. Start a conversation. It’s often the most awkward conversations that are the ones worth having, and that benefit you in the long run. Talk to the friend you haven’t seen in a while, or the person who is off the radar. Talking over a cuppa or talking to your mate at the pub may well save lives.  Please, please talk. Silence is the oxygen of depression, and only through talking can we wretch the life from it, placing it back where it belongs, firmly in our hands, to be enjoyed and rejoiced in.

Today, my only goal is simple. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat ad infinitum. And hopefully, I can continue to do that for many years to come.

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