Chris's story

The below article has been sent into us by one of our members. It discusses the writers personal experiences with depression. 

Chris’s story

I wanted to write something real and personal, something that might just open up conversations, yet I’ve procrastinated on what to say and feel that opening up will leave me open to attack or comment. I think that is why so many people put on a front and carry on, sometimes coping whilst at other times sinking further.

Mental health and wellbeing is something that is easy to talk about as a subject or when it applies to someone else. For some it’s easy to ignore or roll out the ‘snow-flake’ or ‘man up’ comments. Having been asked to chair the mental health and wellbeing committee I feel that it is important to be more open and to recognise that we all have different ways of reacting to the many varied situations in life.

I’m seen as someone who should be able to cope with challenges, being productive and happy and taking everything in my stride. That’s not life though, and it’s not how mental health works. Mental health, like physical health is a sliding scale and if you don’t look after it things can get pretty bad pretty quickly.

I don’t have a personal tale of a diagnosed mental disorder that I’ve safely managed or a moment of being saved by another but, like many, I have had a couple of episodes in my life where I’ve fallen into dark, depressive states. One of those times I sat in front of a GP telling them that actually it wasn’t really as bad as I thought when I booked the appointment. I lied to them, and I lied to myself, because I didn’t want to have a label put on my records and I certainly didn’t want anyone to see me as weak or worse.

In the main, by seeing my own poor mental health through the negative light that has been attached to it for many years, I prolonged and worsened my depression. Stress, pressure, worry and fear, put them together with a lack of sleep, money worries, an overactive mind and time, and it’s notable how dark and dangerous our thoughts can become.

For me, I have learned that there are ways to drag myself out of these depressive states which include increasing the amount of exercise I’m doing; opening up to friends and family; trying to reframe the issues and stepping away completely from alcohol. For many it is not that easy, and I am lucky to have a wife and others close to me that can be very direct in telling me when things are not right from the outside. Recognising when I start on that path isn’t always easy, it tends to creep up and develop into a negative spiral, but I now have a better handle on those signs and how to break the cycle early. Thankfully, such incidents have been few and far between.

So how does wellbeing fit in? This is much more about being fulfilled and healthy in mind and body. It is key that we find ways to do that and it is also where I hope we can find productive ways to improve things for all of us rather than just lecturing around mental health issues and explaining what various conditions are. Many of you are already doing things that improve your wellbeing, and it would be great to hear more about them.

I hope that we can improve discussion around mental health and find ways to improve our wellbeing, but this needs to be driven by everyone in the port.