Why did you write your poem Malcolm?
If you read between the lines of my poem, you will find a person who has suffered many years, lost many friends and sadly some family due to my mental health; that is why I wrote the poem and that is why I now try to help other people who suffer from the same mental health issues.
From losing my father at aged five, to losing my first wife at twenty, from being bullied at school and at work, my whole life has been a psychological nightmare. There have been numerous times where I have wanted to just give up, and yet there have also been many times when I have felt inspired and ready to face the world.
Through all of my life I have wanted to help people, whether that be in a physical way or a psychological one. It has been my goal since recovering from my long fight with depression, and it will always be my goal for as long as I am alive; to help people understand mental health and to remove the terrible stigma which still surrounds this illness.
Is it easy asking for help?
No, admitting you need help is often the hardest of all steps to take, but generally the first step on the road to recovery. Of course some people will refuse to help, but what a lot of people do not understand - or maybe cannot grasp - is the effect poor mental health has on the person suffering, and their loved ones. There is also a stigma surrounding men showing their emotions; it is still frowned upon and for a man, being depressed is seen as a sign of weakness. But this is not true; if someone is depressed it does not mean they are weak. Some people suffer depressions due to life events, whereas other have depression because of chemical imbalances in their brain. For some it is like a black cloud which sits over their head and that they are always being rained on. For others it could seem like they are worthless and do not fit into society, either because they choose a different lifestyle to which their family and friends have adopted, or maybe it is just because they are unable to express themselves like everyone else. There are so many different types of depressive illnesses.
How did depression affect you?
I suffered clinical depression from 1984 to 2010, and again recently from September 2018. I was not diagnosed, however, until 1996; it was only then I realised I had actually suffered from depression for many years previously. I was told my depression was due to the losses I had suffered; my father when I was just five, and the fact that one Saturday morning I had woken up to my young wife of just eighteen months of marriage dead. When I was in my lowest of low moods, I would stay indoors, and make excuses not to go out, which would become very frustrating for people close to me because they were unable to accept that I was not well.
How else did depression affect you?
Work suffered; I would feign an illness so I could have a day off just because I was unable to face another day but the problem however, was when I was due to return to work the following day, my anxiety would make me panic and I would find another excuse not to go, or get someone to call for me saying I was still unwell. This happened often resulting in me either losing or leaving my job. The benefit system was such that I would be able to stay out of work as long as my doctor wrote me sick notes and there were times I would literally beg my doctor to write me off for a month, because I just couldn't face going back into society and living a normal life and would panic with the fear that my doctor would say I was okay to return to work. Once I had to attend a medical for my benefit to continue and had to score 12 points for me to stay off work, I scored 11. My benefit was stopped, including my rent and council tax help and I had to go back to work. I lasted three months or so and then it all started again.
How did things get worse?
I found myself at the bottom of a very deep pit and one day took what little money I had and bought a dozen boxes of pain killers and two litres of vodka and took everything. If it had not been for a passer-by I would not be here. I spent three days on life support, and was discharged.
Did things change after that?
I thought to myself, why have I been doing this to myself? Was I to blame for my father dying? No. Was I to blame for my wife passing away ? No. Then why was I punishing myself? I stayed with friends for three months until I became a little stronger and a bit more stable, then moved back home and started to rebuild my life. I found a cleaning job in a cricket club. I also started working the club's bar. Then I did some maintenance work, when someone asked if I could paint their fence, which I did. Then more people asked me if I could do jobs for them, and within three months I had started a little business which ran for six years. I had survived. I had been given another chance and I was not going to waste it this time.