John's story: stand-up comedy has helped me with my depression
I've always had issues with low self-esteem, for as long as I can remember it has been a demon with which I've struggled. Even in primary school I can remember thinking "I do not deserve to be happy."
A mantra that has shadowed me all through my life. Only recently has it begun to be challenged.
Despite this I managed to do well in school, socially awkward with my peers and lacking any athletic grace, I submersed myself in a world of mathematics and equations. Looking back now it's easy to see that the real decline of my mental health began in 6th year of high school. I was coerced into a career path out with my own choosing. Suddenly the solace I had found in learning was swept from under me to be replaced with a dull tedium. I was only 16 but before I arrived at school each morning, I'd be drunk or hangover. Increasingly I became dependant on alcohol.
At the end of the year I managed to scrape the results required for my conditional to medicine. Once there however, everything deteriorated rapidly. At no point did I feel able to talk about what I was feeling, what I was thinking.
On top of drinking everyday, I started taking more and more illicit drugs. Trying desperately to numb myself. Anything to stop the deep seeded self-hatred. Of course, this failed to work and that summer I made my first attempt on my own life. Thankfully I did not succeed but instead awoke in a pool of my own vomit but covered in shame. Shame that clung to me, preventing discussing it with anyone.
I ended up failing that Medical degree, not that I particularly cared at that point. Luckily though, I managed to charm my way onto an engineering course, which I enjoyed. For a short time I thought all my issues were behind me, something I could brush off and forget about. But soon the same self-hatred resurfaced, the same self-destructive behaviour remerged.
This time however I was stronger, and was able to ask for the help I so desperately needed. I spoke to my university's counselling service, who advised I should contact my GP. A strength I had gained from finding my passion. A passion for stand-up comedy. I've been performing regularly for over a year now. I may not be very good. In fact the sole review I've had simply stated "remained calm", an irony in itself given the diazepam I often require to face the day. But I enjoy it. I love it. It has given me a new confidence. A confidence I utilised to seek help, and now after six long years I finally see a future. I've a long way to go but for the first time, I'm looking forward to it.