I never thought it was possible

For 25 years I've had the burden of mental health issues. Plagued with depression, anxiety and panic attacks that have impacted my life in so many ways, its been almost impossible to remember a time when things were simply "normal".

Depression became my companion in life wherever I went and whatever I did, it was there in the background giving me the occasional reminder that I wasn't in control of my mind and would spend the rest of my days purely surviving to make it through until the end.

I guess with any related subject albeit trauma or some form of health condition you become accustom to those sensations and accept that's just the way it is, but always wondering what life could be like just for a brief moment without that horrendous burden. What sort of person could I have been? Would I have been happier? More successful? Would I have perhaps had a family and been fantastic dad? What does normal feel like?

Such questions can eat away at you from the inside serving no purpose but to induce self torment and further hatred at the situation, only stirring the pot of negativity pushing the mind in to a deeper pit of depression and loss.

Over the years when things randomly got worse, I always knew there was something far deeper that caused my mental health to decline but no matter how much counselling or medication I had, it was like putting a temporary sticking plaster on top of it. Gradually the infection would seep back through and the vicious circle of decline would continue. This would continue on and off my entire adult life and become part of my routine until 2019 when the stars aligned and things began to change.

It was simply by chance that I saw a different doctor on this day. I was broken again and unable to function at the most basic level, desperate for help and questioning whether there was any point carrying on with this charade. The previous year I'd been diagnosed with PTSD and received a handful of counselling sessions with EMDR, but here we were 12 months later and I was no better off. Was it PTSD? My mood was fluctuating so badly that I'd queried if it was something else such as Bipolar. That almost seemed to make more sense but would require the help of a psychiatrist to review my symptoms properly.

Where previously I would just be re-medicated and signed off, this Doctor must have seen my desperation and had a change of plan. She referred me to the Priory for a complete review to find out what was going on, and from that day onwards she'd unknowingly changed the course of my life in a direction I'd never thought possible.

I can only describe it as though I had my own guardian angel watching over me every step of the way. A tiny sense of hope began creeping in as I started my weekly reviews. I wasn't mad and I wasn't untreatable, I just hadn't received the right treatment yet. It became clear things were just a little more challenging than originally thought and I was then referred to a rather amazing psychologist who I now refer to as the "lady who saved my life".

When the diagnosis of Complex PTSD came, it arrived with a sense of relief that I struggle to put in to words. Being able to understand what's been happening to me for all these years and begin a treatment plan was beyond my imagination. I can still recall our first meeting where she said to me "we won't finish treatment until I know you're ok". Finally there was light.

The learning curve has not only been steep, it's been a fascinating journey of self discovery and understanding of how intricate the mind really is. But what I would say to anyone else who's in a similar position is you have to put in the effort. Attending weekly therapy sessions and then doing nothing yourself just isn't going to cut it. Also it wasn't all happiness and rainbows!! There were many many times I caved in, hitting rock bottom and questioning the whole process over and over again. Perhaps I couldn't be fixed and I was meant to always feel this way? Those were the hardest times of all when I had to ride out the darkness until I was strong again to fight another day.

Twenty months on and I'm the person I never thought was possible. I wake up with a sense of interest for the day and what it might bring. I've developed a love for writing and one day hope to write a book about my journey so that it might inspire and give others hope that you can begin to heal. I feel content with who I am and how lucky I am to have people in my life who love me and care about me.

Throughout all of this is the one person who's been by my side the entire time, supporting me and never giving up. My wife Erica. I love you.

I don't forget for a moment that there still maybe times when things go a little south again as life has a tendency to throw the odd curveball our way on occasion. However having an understanding of my condition and learning a plethora of coping strategies has provided me the opportunity to live a better quality of life and to give hope to others who might be in similar situations.

At the age of 47, 2021 is the year that things change for the better. There's a lot to cram in now and make up for lost time, but I have a sense that things are now possible.

Please don't give up.


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