This week's interview is with my friend Adam. For me, having met Adam around the time of his depression diagnosis, he appeared to be a guy whose smile could mask a million emotions. I met this outgoing, comedic and sociable man with no idea of the internal battle he was facing until he brought it up. Today, he is speaking out about that time in his life to help raise awareness, and I am so proud and grateful for his honesty.
In his own words:
Hi, I'm Adam, I'm 36 and I'm dad to 3 fantastic kids. I'm currently in my third year of a Podiatry degree with the University of Wolverhampton. I'm quite a sociable person who tends to end up in conversations with lots of people, mainly old dears in bus stops. I like to think I'm funny but I think I'm more stupid if anything. I'm in to films, sports, cooking and gardening.
1) Hey, how are you?
2) How are you really?
I’m good. A bit stressed out due to my uni course but I’m good.
3) How would you describe yourself?
I’m just your average bloke. Suppose I’d say I’ve got a good sense of humour that can be a bit odd at times. I’m quite an active person, I always have to be doing something or I get fidgety.
4) When were you diagnosed with depression?
So my depression was diagnosed about 3 years ago.
5) For someone who has never experienced depression, how would you describe it?
For me, I’d say depression is like a void inside yourself. You’re not you and your personality is squashed and you become almost like a shell. It’s like hurting a lot but not feeling anything at the same time. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. It’s like you need to function but your body and brain don’t want you to. Depression makes you feel insignificant.
6) Why would you say it's important for people to try to understand depression, even if they've never experienced it?
I think people need to understand depression because it’s a dangerous illness. I think people believe that depression is a case of just being a bit sad but it's so much more than that. I also think that depression affects a multitude of people ranging from young to old and from varying walks of life. Depression can be subtle in how it presents itself and you would not know if someone has it, which makes it incredibly dangerous.
7) Can you remember what life felt like before you had depression?
Yes, but if I’m completely honest I think that from the age of about 12 I’ve suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, as I lost my dad when I was 12 and I had to see him slowly deteriorating in front of me when I visited him in his hospice.
8) I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad when you were so young. Over the years, have you ever tried to hide your mental health struggles from people? If so, how did that feel?
I have but not very successfully. I wear my heart on my sleeve so people can tell when I’m not myself. It was like trying to conceal this dirty secret but it was impossible.
9) For you, what has been the most challenging part of having depression?
The hardest thing was being my usual self and being a dad. During the bad times I wasn’t a nice person and I feel I let my children down.
10) How would it make you feel if someone was to say something like “just smile” or “it could be worse”?
Oh, people said that to me loads, ex-work colleagues and family, but it made me angry and sad that they just didn’t understand why I felt the way I did. I don’t know why I felt that way either, I just wanted them to be there and it felt like they weren’t (even though they were). It was frustrating and highly upsetting.
11) Have you found ways of coping on a particularly dark day?
My depression is pretty well managed now. I keep very active and running has helped massively. I also do breathing exercises and try to remain as calm as possible. I took to reading books also, something that was done very rarely beforehand.
12) If someone reading this today has just been diagnosed with depression, what would you like to say to them?
I’d probably say that there’s going to be good days, bad days and utter crap days but you need to know that no matter how you’re feeling there are people around you that care and love you.
13) How is depression different from feeling sad?
Depression is a whole shit show of emotions. Sadness is something that you can bounce back from in a day or two. Depression is like the world's strongest glue that is full of crap that just won’t allow you to leave.
14) Did you learn anything about yourself through being diagnosed with depression?
I learnt that I’m stronger than I know. I really had to re-evaluate life and what was important to me and ultimately I’ve become a better person and a stronger person.
15) How has anxiety impacted your life?
Anxiety has played a big part in my life. I stress regularly and to a point it has impacted on my working life as well as my university education. It can be consuming if I allow it to be.
16) What would you say is your biggest goal with regards to your mental health?
My biggest goal is to not allow depression and anxiety to ever get the better of me again. I’m in the best place I’ve been in for some time and I don’t want to allow that dark place to get the better of me again.
17) What do you think is the most important thing for people to understand about depression?
That it’s not a case of being sad, it’s completely different.
18) What could someone else do to help you when you're feeling depressed?
I think the best thing is to just have someone there, to be able to talk and get feelings off your chest, so that they are able to support you.
19) Why did you feel it was important to share your mental health experiences?
I feel it's important to talk about depression and anxiety. I think society almost thinks these are taboo subjects as if they are dirty but they’re not. I believe everyone needs to know about mental health issues, especially what to look out for, as ultimately it could save someone’s life.
20) How are you feeling after answering these questions today?
I feel good. I think it is important to talk about things, and I think it's almost like therapy for me. It clears my head and gets rid of any negative thoughts or feelings.
Thank you so much Adam for doing this interview today. Your perspective is so important and will help a lot of people to know they are not alone. I'd like to take a moment to reassure you (re: your answer to question 9) that you absolutely have not let your children down through having depression. You've set a brilliant example for them of how to keep going and push through despite how you feel, and by speaking out about this, you're sending a message to them and to everyone else that reaching out is a good thing to do. You should be proud of yourself, as I know your kids are too. You're also absolutely right, people do need to know about mental health issues so that we know what to look out for to help others. I have no doubt reading your interview today will help in that regard.
If you're reading Adam's story and you can relate to his experiences with depression and/or anxiety and you haven't reached out for help, please do. You don't have to do this alone and there is help out there for you. See a doctor, speak to someone you trust, or go to the 'support' page on this website where you'll find some useful contacts. Look after you, you are important.