Well hello guys. I'm not really sure where to start with this as I've never done anything like this before, but hey, let's give it a go and see what happens. Surely it can't be that hard, can it?
My name is James, I'm 25 and live near Manchester. My first experience of mental health, and the realisation I had depression, was in 2007 when I was working abroad in France. I was struggling with being away from home and I suppose it was like a snowball effect, one negative feeling after another.
My childhood wasn't great. I was taken into foster care in 1997 and placed with an amazing family. They were so loving and caring and made me feel part of their family, which was a great feeling, but we all need our own family in life. Being with this family gave me a feeling inside that I had never felt before; love and affection. As you get older in the care system you have to move on and, unfortunately in 2007, it was my time to say goodbye to my foster family and move into what they call a 'semi-independence unit'. It felt very weird! I didn't have that love and affection I craved and I needed. Suddenly, I was a 16 year-old teenager alone in the big, bad world.
So, as I've already said, I started a new job in January 2007 in Paris, France. At first I was so excited that I was experiencing life in my own little way, but then part of me was really scared and nervous. So anyway, about April or May, I started developing a very low self-esteem. My confidence wasn't all there and I was having trouble sleeping. I came home at the end of May, just for a week's break to clear my head, and then I'd go back. But I never did. I just couldn't.
I ended up staying with a friend on his sofa for about 3 weeks, then ultimately at some sheltered housing for a couple of months before the council found me a flat. This is when I first thought to myself "I need to go see a doctor". I was finding it very hard to sleep at night, or even get out of bed in the morning. I was stuck in this cold, dark flat on my own, every day and every night with no-one to help me. Given what was to come though, this was heaven.
I didn't know it at the time, but 7 years later, I would be evicted from the flat, all due to my growing depression and insomnia. It caused me to miss JobCentre appointments, which got me into debt on my rent, which caused me to be evicted. There's that snowball again. I remember the day I got evicted, I was so embarrassed that it had got this far and was wondering where I would even sleep that night. I got my things together and made my way to a friend's house. When I got to his door I just broke down in tears and started sobbing. At first, he offered me some really good advice, support and he offered me a place on his sofa for a couple of days but then, one night, he didn't want me there anymore. Just like that, I was back on the streets.
I had a backpack on and I can remember wandering the streets until 2am just trying find somewhere warm where I could get my head down for a few hours until sunrise which, as it was summer, was about 4am. In total I spent 5 days on the streets, which was horrible. I had no-one to turn to, nowhere to go and only about 34p in my pocket. Eventually, I called one of my friends to ask could he lend me a tenner. This is where I knew I was at the end of the road. I wanted to take my own life. I couldn't see any other way out. I walked really slowly to the nearest Tesco to buy some paracetamol and a bottle of vodka. I wandered into some bushes in the local park and sat down to make the cocktail which was going to end me. I started to drink it and must of been halfway through when i stopped. I thought surely there has to be a way out of this, so I walked for about 10 minutes to my local A&E. I told them what I'd done and was taken into a waiting cubicle and given some liquid charcoal, which tasted horrible! I was given a bed for the night, which wasn't very comfy but after spending 5 nights on the streets, it felt like I was sleeping in a penthouse in the Ritz.
In the morning I was seen by a local mental health nurse who diagnosed me with depression and managed to get me a place in a hostel, which wasn't great but hey, I was off the streets and inside, where it is warm and dry.
Life in the hostel wasn't great. I was living in a small room with 2 bunkbeds with people who had loads of different issues, including alcohol and drug dependancy. Saying that, I did meet some great people in there and until this day I would consider them my friends and would go out my way to help them. As part of my agreement with the hostel, I had to visit a homeless shelter in Wigan. The people in the homeless shelter are the nicest and most caring people you will ever meet. During my stay in the hostel and working with the homeless shelter, I built my confidence back up and overcome boundaries within myself I didn't think I could. Now I am a much stronger person. I've got a very caring set of friends, got an amazing little family and a very beautiful girlfriend. So my journey from here will be to support other people with mental health problems and travel the country talking about my story and fighting the stigma that comes with mental health.
So guys that is my story and a bit of what I've been through in life but hey, my motto is 'Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start'. So lets keep supporting each other and one day we will beat mental health stigma.