“JAcOB” stands for Just An Ordinary Bloke, it's not my real name (obviously), it's my artist name. To protect my children – who I no longer see – I’ve hidden my identity. In 'real life' I’m an engineer, with my own successful construction design business, and it is this role that drove me to start up my own blog site.
Often I’ve heard men that work with me brush their problems off, or dismiss their feelings as if they’re effeminate or unworthy. I hadn’t discovered Men Tell Health back then, or any other groups focused on male mental health, so I started my own site. It's there for people to realise they’re not alone; to see how I deal with my illness and how I express myself.
I started writing a blog and putting my creativity out into the public arena a couple of years ago, with the aim of being a male mental health advocate. I have struggled with depression for a very long time, and after losing my two girls (due to an unfair and biased foreign legal system that left me close to financial ruin – which I describe in more detail in my autobiography and on my blog) I spiralled to rock bottom and have battled ongoing suicidal thoughts. Throughout the traumas I’ve experienced, during my darkest hours, I have been writing, and shaping my thoughts into poetry and songs.
The act of self-expression, even if only for your own reference, can be a life saver, and believe me, this is not small feat.
On my blog I’ve written before about the potentially potent weapon of pen and journal, in the ever-increasing battle between people and mental illness. I have kept a journal for ages; jotting down thoughts, and lyrics, and poetry as they come to me. I used to travel a lot on my own, and my time on a plane was 'me time'. A place I could completely switch off. No one to break the silence. No phone beeping. In this anonymous space my self-expression is often fairly prolific. Thoughts can come and go freely and safety in my journals.
If you’ve not tried using a journal, give it a go. Friends I know use theirs to scribble everything down before they go to sleep for a more restful night. Others get their thoughts down and then publish them at a later date. It’s a tried and tested coping strategy, often used in combination with other methods or even medication.
Self-expression can be difficult sometimes. Yet, it is so important in the role of being human.
When we’re passionate about something, self-expression can be a natural flow of words and energy to those listening. Equally if a subject matter is topic you aren’t comfortable with, expressing yourself can be rather challenging. Throw a bout of depression, anxiety, extended stress, or low mood into the mix and self-expression can feel completely impossible.
If your depression takes on the early warning sign of manic behaviour, a period of over-energetic need to “go & do” at an unnaturally fast pace, then your self-expression can go through the stratosphere and be potentially harsh and hurtful, or it can be creatively amazing. Mine swings between the two.
I write this with intimate experience of both these extremes and I’ve messed up relationships with really good friends because of these extremes. The effects of my self-expression often haunt me day and night.
The way we choose to express ourselves will have effects just like a ripple caused by a pebble thrown in a pond or the toppling tile in a line of dominoes. The dominoes keep falling, be they positive and loving, or negative and hurtful.
Depression is an illness that can be so all-consuming, for not only does it affect the sufferer but also their loved ones. I know my actions have been so horrid at times and I have made the most terrible of mistakes, but I have some degree of peace as deep down I know I tried my best.
If you are a loved one of someone with depression, I wonder if you might allow “just an ordinary bloke” to offer a thought for reflection? Often a depressive person can act erratically to a point where the loved ones can be emotionally hurt, upset, offended – perhaps by erratic self-expression. I am one of these people. But the fact is that sometimes the real root cause can be the oblivion of presence in a depressed person’s state of mind due to their illness.
If you’re suffering from depression in silence – and I have known many who do – then please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may feel totally alone (and with good reason!) but please speak to someone, even if it’s just a friend. Men Tell Health are a great resource for support, and there are lots of us online, expressing ourselves and offering a virtual shoulder to cry on.
If you feel you don’t want to do this for yourself, then maybe you can 'steel' yourself to take this step for your kids or friends, as a compassionate act toward them because if you don’t, they will likely feel the lack of your self-expression and the domino effect.
With love, peace, hope and sincerity,
It's absolutely fantastic that we have a blog here that is so open and yet so honest about Jacob's feelings and the difficulties he's gone through. We thank and salute him for sharing his story with us. Does anything he mentions ring true for you? Let us know in the comments below.
You can find more about channelling your depressive feelings into something creative by looking at our Man-Kit.
You can read more from 'JAcOB' on his own website, including blogs, songs and poetry, over at justanordinarybloke.com. You can also keep up-to-date with him on Twitter, where he's @JAcOB_TRoMM or via his Facebook page.