Real Men, Real Stories: Meet Stuart
I approached Stuart about sharing his story after he submitted his mental health journey as part of the Happylands research project. With over a decade of living with depression I hope his story will inspire and help other men who may also be struggling. Remember, you’re not alone. If you need to talk the Samaritans are there for you 24/7 on 116 123.
I've suffered on and off with depression and occasional anxiety since I was 20 years old. Although looking back all throughout childhood I often suffered from low mood. I've been on anti-depressants a few times over the years, the longest stint of taking them being over the last year and a half.
The hardest time was when I hadn't been sleeping for months. I was lucky to get 2-4 hours of broken sleep a night. I was trying to kid myself that I was on the up so I tried to do something I enjoyed - baking. I was getting stuff ready and left the room for 2 seconds when my relatively new cats had jumped onto the side and were licking the mixture. I tried to hold it together and rationally went to the shop to get more butter.
I started again, I left my partner in the kitchen this time but she was absorbed in her phone and once again the cats got into the mix. I just utterly broke down. In floods of tears, I was getting my shoes on to go out for a walk to I don't know where, shouting about this that and everything. This was meant to be something I found calming and enjoyable but it was the straw that broke this camels back. I stumbled back into the kitchen, one shoe on, the other in my hand, eyes streaming and fell into my partner's arms telling her I need help and that I'm not ok. That’s when I knew I had hit rock bottom.
I had ignored the warning signs I'd come to know intimately over the years. Afterwards, I signed up for counselling through a scheme with my then employer, took myself to the doctor and spoke with my partner daily about how I was. I found talking to my partner was really important as I didn't want to cause her extra anxiety by wondering what was going on in my head.
I very much had in my head before that element of a stiff upper lip and just carry on. You can't stop. The reality was, I could stop. Work would carry on without me, the company wouldn't grind to a halt. I knew I needed to focus on myself to bring myself back, to not damage any relationships further, to not let depression take over everything.
If I hadn't spoke about my mental health with my partner I don't think I would have found the strength or mechanisms to find help. I want other people to know;
You are not alone.
You don’t have to pretend you’re ok.
You can talk about it on your terms.
Most importantly, talk.
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