'I have a really social and outgoing nature, so when I first spoke to my GP about my depression and anxiety, the doctor was shocked.'
Despite my self-awareness and knowledge of mental illness, it took me until my mid-40s to get an official diagnosis of depression and start my journey toward recovery. I had been suffering depression for a while by then. As a teenager and university student I struggled to keep on top of things and had that heavy anxious feeling in my stomach constantly.
Looking back on it now I can see that I even had an organ removed probably because of anxiety. I kept complaining of stomach pains so the doctors took out my appendix but they noted that there seemed to be absolutely nothing wrong with it!
The anxiety I was experiencing was extreme and it turned into a deep depression.
It wasn't a shock to me when the psychiatrist said I had depression; it confirmed my beliefs. I had majored in psychology as an undergraduate and have worked in the health sector for a while so I knew about depression.
I was only really forced to confront what was going on with my mental health when I tried to take my own life at the age of 45 and was hospitalised. At the time I felt like there was no end in sight; I had lost hope. But I am lucky. I've always had a supportive family, a wife who works in the health sector and two sons, now adults, who have always been there for me. My GP and my work colleagues have also always been supportive.
I stay well now by taking medication and have found various talking therapies really helpful, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance commitment therapy. I also exercise and enjoy getting involved in the local community. I'm an active part of my community's weekly park run. Every Saturday we get around 500 participants from the community. I find that the physical activity is important for keeping healthy and mentally well. Equally important is the sense of community and belonging that comes along with the event.
Another way I stay active in the community is by volunteering at the Black Dog as a community presenter. I find the volunteer work with the BDI really rewarding. I love getting out there and talking to people; it relieves the stigma of mental illness. I really love the ethos of the Institute with its focus of practice, research and community education. Anything that engages the community is really useful.