David's story: my shadow and me

Trigger warning - this story discusses suicide

I have lived with depression for nearly five years now but I guess that I have probably had it all my life without realising it, so I call it my shadow. 

It's my shadow as it seems to follow me around wherever I go. It's like it's in the background just waiting to do its worst on me or put me in a dark place.  

You would never have known I had severe depression as I put on a front that enabled me to carry on doing the things I had to do like function at work, as a husband and above all a human being. But I wasn't a machine I knew at some point I would break down... 

I just stopped what I was doing. I didn't go to work and, infact, I didn't do anything. I couldn't. I felt that I was letting down myself and everyone around me. I couldn't talk about how I was feeling, didn't know where to go to get support just thought that I was better off dead.

So I planned one day to just end it all. I didn't think about anything but that the pain would end and, anyway, I and everyone around me would be better off. My shadow was in control. I always will remember this day for the rest of my life, as I came so close to taking my life.

After this day I vowed to get support and rebuild my life and somehow live with my shadow and this was not going to beat me. I started reading about mental health and thinking about what it was like for others who were going through the same experience as me, in such a dark place as me.

I decided that things had to change and I had to change as well. I knew that I was going to have to manage my depression, look for triggers, talk more about it and, above all, I wanted to help others who were thinking about suicide and ending their life. 

I knew that society was not good at talking about mental health so I needed to talk about it. I gave a speech and opened up about my experience of depression and what it was like to live and manage it. I received a standing ovation, many people thanked me for opening up and said that it had helped others to open up about their mental health. 

I write articles and raise awareness about the importance of mental health, I have given many other talks and promoted and raised money for Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. I have bad days and days when I feel down, but these days are manageable.

Recently, I became a mental health first aider, which has helped my own mental health and to support others and spot the signs so that I can sign post them to receive the right support so that they are able to get the best possible chance of successful recovery.

I am so glad that I didn't carry through with my plans, as I have spread the message about mental health and become a mental health ambassador alongside my normal duties at work. I have helped to make conversations about mental health normal and not something to hideaway from so, really, my shadow is a part of me and in some part I am thankful for that as well. 

For years, we have been encouraged to not talk about our feelings and if we are feeling badly to just put it down as another day. It's ok not to be ok and fine to have a shadow. Talking about it and writing about my depression has helped me come to terms with it and gain a better understanding of what it is like for others so that I am able to provide support. 

I have always had a mission and that is to change perceptions and stop stigma and this is what helps me to live my life with my shadow.