Depression is something which a lot more people are starting to understand. Recently Luke Ambler was recognised for his work with Andy’s Man Club, to go along with the work already done by State of Mind in raising mental health awareness, and point a light towards help that’s available. With that being said, I figured I’d give my own take on the illness and what it has been like for me over the last eight or so years – giving a small insight from a regular person’s point of view.
See, as we’ve seen, depression seemingly starts because of a bad event occurring. Then the person impacted by the event holds back that impact until it drives them to sometimes do unthinkable things, as they feel alone and unable to speak out. Stevie Ward spoke of his experience which caused a great positive reaction and I spoke to Danny Sculthorpe on his battle and how he overcame it. It was no different for me, and I’ll take you through my journey and how I’m often still plagued by the illness today, and what depression means to me.
I was just like any other seventeen year-old lad – going out with friends, sorting out future college plans and doing hobbies – until one day in February 2008 my life would get hit by the tidal wave that is depression and leave me a very broken man.
In February 2008 I went to training at my local rugby union club knowing that my debut for the club against Wigan RU was coming up that weekend. As a diehard Leeds Rhinos fan there’s nothing more thrilling than getting one over on Wigan, no matter what code. I was absolutely pumped – laughing and joking with the lads as my league style of play meant they were often left baffled and confused by some of the things I did – basically choosing to run and not kick all the time. It was going well, I put into a dummy game situation where it was ‘A’ team versus fringe players. That was when it happened. We were winning, not that it matter, but I’m over-competitive anyway. I took the ball at full-back and proceeded to run at the defence. I pushed off one defender and went to step another when my right leg didn’t step with and it folded like a deck chair. I knew something was wrong straight away, as I got a shooting pain down the centre and right side of my knee. All I wanted to do was get up and carry on but I knew that was no good. I suffered ligament damage and because of my health problems anyway, it meant I could never train or play without fear of a repeat of the injury.
At first my injury didn’t hit me as hard as it probably should have. All I ever wanted to do was play rugby and hopefully one day play for the Rhinos, but that dream was gone. Why wasn’t I more upset? I simply didn’t know why. But that’s when it started, I felt lethargic and didn’t want to keep active, because I knew ultimately I couldn’t even if my knee healed properly. This caused a chain of events; my girlfriend left and my friends stopped asking if I was coming out. The support network that all young lads rely on wasn’t there, and at the time, being seventeen I was being a typical teenager and not talking to my parents let alone about this illness that was gripping me. I had absolutely no where to turn. My friends and family knew rugby was important but never to this extent, what could I do?
My ability to physically do things has never been the best, as I’m disabled, to a point. However with rugby I felt I always had a chance to lead a normal life. It kept me ticking over but that wasn’t there to occupy me and my support wasn’t there so I bottled it up. That’s where I hit rock bottom. The metaphorical bottle was at this point overflowing and I only had one friend I felt I could trust with how I was feeling.
The Only Option
One night, I went to this friend’s house and in a bid to try and keep me positive we played video games and had a few beers. Unfortunately during that night, whilst my friend was asleep I quickly and thoughtlessly went downstairs and sat there a broken man – staring at only one option – an option to stop my pain.
It seems silly and to those reading it you may find it silly, but for me I’d lost it all and I thought I had no way back. What ultimately stopped me was a text from my Mum saying she hoped I was okay and that she was there for me, if I needed to talk. At that point the loneliness I felt started to break away and I felt relief.
The next day I spoke to my friend and told him everything – about why I was distant and what I almost did the night before – at which point he hugged me and I felt for the first time I could win this battle against this illness and be happy again.
Since that day I’ve battled with the illness and at some points I feel as low as ever, but I know there’s at least a few people there to support me if things get too much. Sometimes bad events – even small ones – make the depression sting but even talking about it now there’s a sense of relief and freedom about my own battle. Many people have their own battle and clearly it won’t be rugby related and mine isn’t entirely either, however that injury was certainly the start of the depression seed growing.
Many people, including Stevie Ward, Darius Boyd, Danny Sculthorpe talked of their shame of what they felt. But here I was, not even knowing what I was feeling – simply just gripped by a feeling of overwhelming sadness and darkness. I couldn’t even describe the feeling of depression properly, except that it’s like a black cloud of all your worse thoughts clung to you like your shadow on a summer’s day. It never leaves you and it’s something that’s hard to understand until you’re faced with the abyss of what seems like a never-ending cycle of negativity without any acknowledgement of the potential support around you for the fear of being laughed at or misunderstood. It’s really difficult to explain and maybe that’s why we’re still finding it so hard to speak up.
Depression is an evil that has yet to be vanquished from society, especially for young men that are under the misconception that all men should be mentally tough 24/7, with the ability to deal with any problems internally without showing too much emotion to yet again appear invincible. That’s the biggest problem for me, is the stigma that all men have to be seen as almost super human because they’re meant to be the providers and protectors, which is an age-old adage that no longer belongs in the world. People should be able to speak, shout, scream if they’re hurting – whatever is needed to get that much-wanted support.
I contemplated suicide because my dream died, without looking at the bigger picture. I guess the key to beating depression is surrounding yourself with people that understand, that will help you look at the bigger picture.
This article was written by Michael Andrews @LT_Andrewsy https://twitter.com/lt_andrewsy?lang=en
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.