We’re branching out at We Are Chester, introducing more health and lifestyle content alongside our posts on all things artistic and cultural in and around Chester. One topic that is thankfully talked about a lot more these days is our mental health, which is just as important as our physical health. In the first of a series of blog posts focusing on this subject, we hand over to Sean Graham, who will share some of his experiences of looking after his own mental health.
Words and photo: Sean Graham
The start of a new year can be a time for reflection and resolutions and can bring about excitement for change and out with the old, in with the new mentality… but it can also be a difficult time for those dealing with mental health issues.
Would you like to sit alone stuck in some unrelenting cycle of despair, oblivious of the outside world and in a state of numbness?
You sit alone in your house, night after night with nothing but your own thoughts. The world through your eyes is motionless as if something has pressed the pause button, yet you can see motion.
You can see people through your living room window moving around, often in couples or taking their dogs for a walk and seemingly living their happy lives.
You look at around at your proverbial four walls and see nothing but emptiness. All those hobbies you once had have become a dim and distant memory as you systematically detach yourself from the very things that define you as a human being.
You are not alone
If any of these strike a chord with you then please read on because whilst you may be sitting (or standing) alone you are, in fact, completely not alone.
Before I get into more detail about my experiences with mental health, I would first like to introduce myself.
Now I could pretend to be somebody else or even share my experiences with you anonymously, but this would defeat the whole object in my opinion.
Sharing my experiences anonymously would just feel meaningless. There has to be a connection. There has to be this notion that depression and anxiety is nothing to feel ashamed of and, although invisible, it’s very real.
Open and honest
I am experiencing it now, even as I write, dreading the thought that what I’m doing, what I’m writing, will be of little use; which is funny really because this is one aspect of depression that I’m conscious of. It’s simply better to be open and honest.
I am by no means a qualified doctor, psychologist or any of that sort of thing. I am not an expert and can’t work miracles, but what I can do is share with you my range of life experiences, which I’m hopeful will resonate with your good selves.
Homelessness, foster care, unemployment, having to decide whether to eat or put electricity in the meter, critical illnesses are amongst some of the things I have fought through, and won, but depression is the hardest battle. I’ve bought the t-shirt but most importantly I have never forgotten how to wear it.
The real matter in hand though is not to wallow in nostalgia, self-pity or sentimental embellishments; instead I want to draw more focus on my experiences and coping mechanisms with depression. So here goes.
My name is Sean Graham and I am 36 years of age. Phew! That’s the hard bit done. I currently live on my own in a small Welsh rural village. Who am I? Why am I writing this? What am I all about?
Well for the past couple of years I’ve struggled with so many things that it’s surprising I’m still here. Since separating from a 14 year relationship with my wife I have found everything a battle.
I have strong feelings of hopelessness, fear of failure, worthless, finding it both hard to socialise and being on my own. I’m not ashamed to say that I have depression and I’m not frightened of challenging some of the negative stuff that goes on in my head. In fact I’m proud of the awareness I have, and even more so that I’m trying to push these negative thoughts away.
These feelings I have are the toxic ingredients which, when stewed and stirred inside a seething cauldron by creatures inside my head, form a cocktail we usually call depression, or anxiety.
Just like a cauldron it simmers away until reaching boiling point, then I have what I call a ‘meltdown’. It’s an amusing picture that makes me laugh from time to time, but that’s how I see it and that’s how it feels.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be taking you on a journey. Let’s set the scene. You are sitting on a train with ‘destination unknown’ written in bright yellow LCD on the back of the carriage. You’ll encounter stops along the way which halt your journey.
Many stops will be short but others will be long, perhaps arduous. Sometimes you’ll need to get off the train depending on where you stop. Occasionally there will be an inexplicable halt along the way, leaving you feeling stranded and directionless.
The train might be busy whilst you feel lonely, or the train might be empty and you feel content. The train journey you are on, unlike the real world, is not finite. Much like depression, it doesn’t end until you decide when it needs to.
In the next article I will discuss loneliness. In the meantime, have a think about your journey, where you have come from and where you want to go.
If you are affected by any of the issues discussed here then a number of organisations can offer support, including the NHS, which has a list of useful contacts and helplines here.