I'm Dan, I'm 44 and I've suffered with depression for about 20 years. During this time I've done pretty much everything I can to help myself and a great many things I could, to destroy myself. I am currently in a period of great stability and I am about to enter my second year of college on my own journey to becoming a counsellor. This is my story.
My first breakdown was in 2001/2002, I didn't realise it was a breakdown, at the time, I attributed it to some kind of early mid-life crisis (I was turning 30) but it was also around this time I found out my dad had lung cancer and the financial impact of being made redundant 18 months earlier had started to become evident. It manifested itself in very strange ways and my behaviour became erratic and I questioned my whole life. All the things I'd worked for came into question.
During my late teens and early twenties I'd always felt moody, short-fused, angry at things even had times were I couldn't go to work, but I just put it down to my personality, and being unhappy in my job. It never really crossed my mind that I could be depressed. I thought people like me don’t get depressed, I'm happy-go-lucky, the life and soul of the party, the clown.
Looking back I used crutches, drugs and alcohol, I knew I was using them to block stuff out and escape, but again I just put this down to "well that's just life"
Over a period of probably 10-15 years from the late 90s, when I realised things weren't quite right. I saw a range of mental health nurses, counsellors and even a psychiatrist and took different medications, but I still didn't really accept that I was ill, but looking back no one actually told me I was. The stigma of mental health has been bred into society for so many years so to admit you have a mental illness is very difficult.
I got made redundant in 2000 and changed careers, which was a big deal. Financially it was huge. I went from earning about £12 ph to about £5 ph, but I didn't think about it too much, I just cracked on, because that's what I thought you did.....just cracked on.
After my most recent breakdown, which in all honesty was the worse one I've suffered. I found myself in tears in a carpark deciding which way I was going to end this current life. Would I kill myself? Run away? After the initial pain my wife and son would surely be better off without me? I couldn't believe this was it, after all these years I had reached the point of no return, after all the hurt and pain I had caused to those who loved me, this is where it was going to end, in a carpark on a wet winter's morning, the day before I had arranged to return to work, alone.
My head was swimming and I couldn't breathe. I was battling with my own mind, rationale was telling me to go home, that I could get through this, but my irrational side was saying, you've been through too much, you've hurt too many people and the worst thought of all this will show them I wasn't making anything up. My phone was ringing for what seemed like an age, before I answered it and my wife pleaded with me to go home. I drove home in a daze thinking what if I just crash the car or turn into the traffic? Once home, things are very blurred and it's difficult to remember what actually happened.
I did return to work and, even in the fragile state I was in, I felt some relief. Over the coming weeks I began to feel stronger and my confidence slowly started to return. It now feels as if I had to go to the edge of the abyss. Looking back that day in the carpark was a definitive moment.
In early 2014, after a spell off work, I started seeing a person-centred counsellor. I'd had counselling before in the form of CBT, which in all honesty hadn't really worked for me, whether that was a reluctance on my part to fully accept I was ill I'm not sure, but there had been short-term results but nothing life changing.
The big difference this time was I had sought out counselling, rather than it been advised to me. Once I started my sessions it became quite clear this wasn't like any form of counselling or talking therapy I had previously had, there was none of the typical 'on a scale of 1-10 how likely are you to harm yourself? Think about a happy place etc. etc.'
Now I believe CBT has its place, however it had been proved in the past it wasn't what I needed, but I fully believe in the process of counselling and I would never discourage someone from seeking any form of counselling or talking therapy.
These sessions were about me, about my feelings and where they came from. Over time I learnt about why I felt like I did and most of all that I wasn't going crazy, that these feelings were natural. And, if they were dealt with correctly, could actually be used to my advantage.
I became more confident about talking about my feelings, about my depression and I wanted to help change people's view, help lift that stigma. I decided either I became a part of the solution or I was a part of the problem and I came to the decision that I wanted to help people and I wanted to be a counsellor. I wanted to become a part of the solution.
I now feel emotionally stronger than I can ever remember, I have control over my emotions, not all the time. But you know what? That's fine I'm human I'm not a machine. I am on a road that I actually want to be on, both emotionally and with my career. And I can finally accept me for who I am, and that's Dan. Yes I suffer from mental illness but I can accept it's a part of me and I now know I can be stronger than it can.
Do you recognise any parts of Dan's story in your own life? Which types of therapy have you tried and which worked for you (or which didn't)? Let us know in the comments below.
You can keep up to date with Dan on Twitter, where he's @danbriggs72