Major depressive episode. That's what the doctor wrote about my medical record. It was August 10, 2014.
The day before a few friends had picked me up from the sidewalk in front of the office building where I was working and took me to the nearest hospital crisis center.
They would come because I posted a message on Facebook with the message: & # 39; I need help & # 39 ;.
Kevin Braddock, pictured, from Shropshire called on Facebook in August 2014 when he was actively considering ending his own life while sitting drunk on the sidewalk outside the office of a job that was gradually destroying him
I was a wreck, a broken man as they say: stupid, drunk, tearful and overwhelmed by panic, fear, shame and confusion, hardly able to get up, let alone speak.
I decided on ways to put an end to my life, while walking through the list of known methods. Earlier I had written a letter of resignation to leave the job that I knew was gradually destroying me. I started crying and then left the office.
There was a license nearby, so I decided to drink: bottle after bottle. Ending my life would be an end to everything: all the torments and problems, the need to make decisions and responsibility, the requirement to be me. But then an alternative thought came up, I don't know where from. I could ask for help. And so I typed those words into Facebook, added my phone number and location, and waited a while, wondering if I should post it.
What would people think? Maybe they would laugh or think that I was just looking for attention. The time passed, I don't know how much.
And then I pressed the & # 39; post & # 39; button. My phone soon started beeping, flashing, ringing. Then friends got into a taxi, scraped me up and took me to the hospital.
How I ended up at a low point
I told the doctor my story, as well as I could: I am Kevin. I'm in my mid-forty and come from a small town in Shropshire. I grew up there with my mother and father, who were teachers, and my sister.
When I was 20, I had panic attacks. A doctor diagnosed & # 39; stress-related depression & # 39; and a psychiatrist noted & # 39; obsessive compulsive disorder & # 39 ;.
I received a short series of antidepressants, which smooth out the twists and turns in my thoughts and feelings.
When I was 29, my girlfriend and I broke up, I found a new job and lost it, started a new relationship that didn't last long, and then found a sequence of places to live in which I then had to leave. Between anxiety, depression and panic attacks I went to a doctor, did a little therapy and got antidepressants again. I always take them with me ever since.
Being gloomy or sad, or frightening and preoccupied, became completely normal: it seemed to me to be normal.
When I was 20, I had panic attacks. A doctor suggested & # 39; stress-related depression & # 39; fixed and a psychiatrist noted & # 39; obsessive compulsive disorder & # 39; (photos with models)
I was a journalist and worked mainly for magazines and newspapers, and my freelance life might have looked carefree and easy, but I felt very lost inside. I felt that I needed a change, so I moved to Berlin in 2009.
The work, editing a fashion magazine, was constantly stressful. In general I succeeded, but I also had a glandular fever, which added a low level of misery. I wasn't drinking too much for the first time.
I was in love, but the relationship had gone through a difficult period and there were conflicts and arguments that I didn't know. And I was full of doubts, struggling with what to do and how to be.
The question why this all amounted to a malfunction, burnout, crisis, whatever you call it, I have tried to answer many times since. More than anything else, I felt a void. A huge, overwhelmingly empty nothing. And that's what being a suicide step is.
In the teeth of a crisis, things are no longer rational and explainable, because this is the process in which mental illness, something I've been dealing with for a long time, becomes real unreasonableness: a madness.
And it came quickly.
The doctor asked me to promise that I would not kill myself. So I said the words: & # 39; I promise. & # 39;
From there, the only way to continue was
The good thing about the bottom of the rock is that, from there we can only go up. Soon after asking for help, when I was at home trying to understand what had happened, I read about a useful mental exercise: if you are going through a difficult period, you imagine yourself five years into the future, and you will return to your & # 39; today self & # 39; with a message.
At that time it was best that I could wish that everything would work out in the end. Today I am five years ahead – I … and things are really & # 39; okay & # 39 ;.
Since my slump I have completed my coaching and mentoring qualifications at University College London and I have studied humanistic and psychodynamic counseling at Goldsmiths, also in London.
A few days after I was taken to the hospital, someone I hadn't seen for ten years read my Facebook message and wrote to say: "From now on, Kev is completely honest and open. Just confront it. And if you're a writer , write it all down. & # 39;
It turned out that his sister had taken her own life – and I followed his advice, which was the first step in what would eventually become my book, Everything Begins With Asking For Help, to be published next week.
It is about four things: depression, anxiety, breakdown and recovery – what they mean to me, how I have navigated them and what I have seen and heard, and that is worth passing on.
Writing it was part of overcoming the intense shame I felt about the man who was the editor of a glamorous fashion agent, scraped off the sidewalk and taken to a crisis center.
Depression is of course not a & # 39; man thing & # 39 ;. But it injures men in a certain and cruel way. So I hope men can relate to or identify with what I have to say.
My first and most important message to everyone who is struggling is: ask for help. In that critical moment of staring at the void, it could mean the difference between dying and surviving, recovering and moving on. I believe in this message because of course it was what kept me alive. And I also realize that it is difficult for many men to do.
Depression happens with ordinary people
There were 5,821 suicides in the UK in 2017 – and three-quarters of them were men. In fact, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 – more than traffic accidents.
The numbers generally decrease. But last year 121 boys between the ages of 15 and 19 took their lives in England and Wales, more than double the number of young girls. The number of suicides increases the fastest in this age group.
Last week a coroner made an open verdict in investigating the death of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint – the 49-year-old was hanged on his home in Essex on March 4. Actor Robin Williams committed suicide at the age of 63, the day after I was admitted to hospital, and last year we lost chef Anthony Bourdain at 61.
Last week a coroner made an open verdict in investigating the death of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint – the 49-year-old was hanged on his home in Essex on March 4.
And in recent years, countless high-profile men have spoken out about their own mental health – from Prince Harry and pop singer Gary Barlow to cricket stars Marcus Trescothick and Andrew & # 39; Freddie & # 39; Flintoff.
But mental illness is not just a story in a newspaper; it's a real, lively thing. It hit me hard when I heard about the death of a man I met last year. Gareth was 41 and a member of an art project in the city where I grew up. I met him when I went there to chat about my own experiences. A few months later I read a report in a local newspaper about a man who was missing. The accompanying photo was from Gareth. Days later his body was found. He had taken his own life.
Gareth was a & # 39; regular & # 39; man, who suffered from mental health problems that are now so common that they are also considered normal.
Men are ashamed to be seen as vulnerable
In her 1990 book The Beauty Myth, feminist writer Naomi Wolf argued that women's lives are subtly determined by the pressure to be beautiful. The same argument can be made about the relationship between men and strength: it is the hallmark of a man's potential in the sexual market, his value at work, his status and his relationship with himself.
A man who feels that he is weak – physically, intellectually or emotionally – inherits a sense of shame.
It is a cliché to say that men bottle things, but there is good evidence that it is true. Studies suggest that soldiers suffering from serious, life-destroying symptoms of post-traumatic stress – once called shell shock – seek help for an average of ten years.
A man who feels that he is weak – physically, intellectually or emotionally – inherits a sense of shame
Women are much more willing to talk about their feelings and emotions, which is again supported by research.
I think men are ashamed of something that seems vulnerable to us, so we hide it at times when we have to admit it the most. But this & # 39; strong and silent & # 39; myth endangers our lives.
There are many other reasons why we do not ask for help. We may be afraid that people may laugh or judge. We worry that we will need help. Maybe we don't want to bother people, or we want to protect them from the truth. But many men, in particular, do not ask because we do not realize that there is a problem in the first place.
Dr. Luke Sullivan, a psychologist working in a NHS crisis service in London, speaks of & # 39; the intolerable moment & # 39 ;: a series of stressful events or situations – workplace difficulties, illness, relationship conflicts – that build up and ultimately become overwhelming.
Suicide suddenly seems the only way out.
& # 39; It doesn't matter if you are depressed or not, & # 39; says Dr. Sullivan, who also manages charity Men & Minds Matter for mental health care. & # 39; If you find yourself in emotional need and it is persistent, you will do everything to get out. & # 39;
Like many people I know, I have a mental health diagnosis.
But I was surprised to discover later that two-thirds of people who commit suicide do not.
I remember thinking that all I could do was a soldier. I was about to break when I asked for help – and in many ways everything happened so quickly, I didn't see it coming.
It's a story I've heard repeatedly: a man takes his own life, and friends or family say they & # 39; had no idea & # 39; that things were so bad.
How do you start again? for me it was the cutting of tree trunks
After my slump, I returned from Berlin to Shropshire, stowed away all my things, and moved in with my father and mother.
I did a lot the following winter: to the library, to the shops, to nearby fields, along the railway line. Some mornings, bored of walking, I jogged. I got a saw from the garage and started sawing tree trunks that I had collected in a nearby log. It gave me a routine and realized that moving my body made me change my mind.
Every day I decided to do something physical: cut a few more tree trunks, walk longer or slower, even print a few times. It is easy to forget that you have a body when depressed and anxious thoughts dominate your area of experience.
Former Premier League footballer and professional boxer, Leon McKenzie and Jagjit Birha, branch Samaritans Ealing have launched a new campaign to provide assistance to those who need it
I didn't know at the time, but this routine triggered a chemical reaction in my body. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to state of mind, often stands at its lowest point in the morning, but exercise stimulates it.
I speak with my therapist once a week, both on Skype and personally.
So how do you ask for help?
My advice is this: think about things you might need but are afraid to ask.
It might be a hug or advice about a decision you need to make. Maybe some money to keep you, a break from work, someone's attention, or just to be listened to for a while.
If you are worried about whether you should ask for help, it probably means that it is good to do.
Ask your doctor or someone you trust – a good friend or family member.
Talk to your manager at work. Or ask someone you know who has experience with psychological problems.
The Samaritans have a 24-hour helpline, at 116 123, and CALMTE also have one that runs from 5 p.m. to midnight, on 0800 58 58 58.
Just say: & # 39; There is something I am struggling with, can I ask you for advice? & # 39; Or maybe: & # 39; I can't handle it and I don't know why. & # 39;
The simplest and most honest thing to say about everything? & # 39; I need help. & # 39;
During our 50-minute slots I feel my prejudices – my fixed ideas about & # 39; luck & # 39 ;, & # 39; strength & # 39; and & # 39; man & # 39 ;, for example – are challenged and pulled apart. Medication has helped by removing some of the gloom and distance between me and the depths of despair.
These days I don't drink (most of the time): austerity is a good match for mental health. But I also do not speak in abstention.
And openness – for others and myself – has been the key. I encourage everyone who thinks they need help to write their own story: ask yourself, when did you start to feel this way? When did things change?
Some mornings I wake up and feel good. In others things look gray and empty, colorless and hopeless. I feel lonely. But since I sought help from doctors, therapists, and reading, talking and learning, I know that life is a combination of the things that happen to us, the things we do every day, and all the things we do to get healthy and stick well.
I can't make promises. I cannot say: & # 39; Follow me, do this and you are guaranteed to get better. & # 39;
But I hope my story will reassure other men who, perhaps like me, may feel that recovery is possible.
© Kevin Braddock, 2019
- Everything starts with asking for help by Kevin Braddock (Kyle Books) being published on Thursday £ 9.99. Offer price £ 7.99 (20 percent off) until May 19. Order via mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p & p is free with orders over £ 15. Spend £ 30 on books and receive free premium delivery.
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