Every time we have a mental health awareness week my spirits sink. We don’t need people to be more aware. We can’t deal with the ones who already are aware” – Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Full interview published via British Medical Journal
Yes, you read that correctly.
Mental health issues today are so common, so pressing and so difficult to manage that awareness itself is seen as a potential crisis for the medical profession, putting further strain on our medical services.
However well-intentioned the comment, like Cancer, mental health issues are more likely to be overcome successfully with early detection and awareness is paramount. Are mental health issues, suffered by 1 in every 4 of us, really so much less important than other, more obviously physical forms of illness?
Today is World Mental Health Day, but for those suffering from mental health issues every day can be a huge challenge. Raising awareness is the first step to change, to turning this around and demanding the resources that the problem requires to enable anyone suffering to speak up and seek help.
The sheer number of people suffering means that every one of us will know somebody who is going through their own mental health difficulties, some we are aware of and others not. For many of our friends and family it will be unspoken, a silent and internal burden.
At stolen goat, this was brought into sharp focus recently when our friend and ambassador, Bruce, opened up to us about his own experience. It was the prompt that made us all the more determined that we would get more involved to help raise awareness and we’ll be undertaking a number of actions in partnership with the mental health charity Rethink through next year.
In the meantime, if you have the time, please take a moment to read Bruce’s story, in his own words:
Bruce Karsten – Brand Ambassador For Stolen Goat
When one thinks of mental health there are so many stigmas attached to the term, it conjures up thoughts or experiences for all of us and I bet that you have already developed some of those when reading the title of this blog… We all know somebody who has suffered from, or been affected in some way, but it’s never ‘me’ and when the topic is brought up in conversation it often fumbled over and bypassed.
The problem is it needs to be talked about and faced head-on. Too long a taboo subject I’m determined to speak about it and so here it is.
I suffer from depression.
Ah, yes. Depression. Half the world suffers from that you say! Don’t worry you’ll be OK, push on and you’ll be stronger for it. Take some rest.
To be honest I was the ‘me’ character. I was aware of the stress and pressure I was under but boxed it. I didn’t ignore it. I knew it was there but I also knew that life had to continue and so I found ways to cope and manage through each day. Inside I was falling apart and over time this started to show on the outside and my coping strategies couldn’t cover every eventuality.
Crying by myself. Stuttering. Comfort in junk food. No energy for anything. Sleep. No exercise. No people – alone
People close to me noticed and offered words of counsel but I’d been down this ‘pressure’ road before and knew that it would come to an end and things would get better. Problem was…
This time it didn’t.
And I crashed.
People talk about feeling like they are in a black hole. The lowest they could be. I was there.
And I guess you don’t really know what it’s like till you’ve been there but let me tell you that you don’t want to go there! I wish I’d sought help earlier. Wish I’d realised that I didn’t have feel the way I did. I wish that I had asked someone if what I was experiencing was normal or could change. If I had reached out I would never have found myself at rock bottom.
Problem is though, that I was like so many guys my age. Cutting a career path, proud and invincible.
No room for emotions.
It’s been 2 months and 30 days now and I am glad to say I am on the up. It’s been a long road but it started with going to see my Doc. I knew that many things would change and I was wary of the stigma that I believed would follow me but it was the best thing I did.
My wife went with me and we talked it all out with the Doc. It was the most amazing relief and yes, I was diagnosed with severe depression and I started on some meds that day.
But it was out. Day 1 of recovery had started.
Things didn’t change over-night but having it out in the open seemed to allow me to confront how I was feeling. I felt crap for weeks after the first Doc visit but WE, my wife and I could pinpoint what was wrong and it allowed us to communicate and deal with the emotions and feelings I was experiencing.
Good moments turned into good hours, after several weeks I started to have good days. It’s been a few months and I now have a string of good days – BUT – I still have the low ones, but now I know how to deal with them and those around me are aware and can help.
There are still rubbish moments.
I still feel terrible
But I’m stronger with the help of my wife and mates knowing.
It’s easier as I can now talk about ‘it’ depression without trying to really hide how I am feeling.
Besides the meds and encouragement, I have found that I have started to regain my desire to exercise and for me, this is to ride!
Two wheels, the open road.
I am still tired and struggle to sleep and sometimes the meds make me feel so terrible but the buzz I get from being out on the bike is worth it. I can clear my head and my legs do the talking… or I at least I try to let them.
I am regaining my fitness slowly but each time out brings a wave of adrenaline that puts me on a high. Makes me feel alive and real. My mates are patient and encourage me to get out when I don’t want to – they recognise the benefits for me and for that I am grateful – their support is key!
Just getting out and riding. The road doesn’t ask questions, the road doesn’t judge me, the road rolls on and I can push my body to the limit and never worry if my 150 Watts today or 300 Watts tomorrow was good enough.
The feeling of riding doesn’t solve everything but it gives me a goal. It gives me an opportunity to let go and live as I was created to.
I have depression.
It doesn’t define who I am.
I’m dealing with it… with the help of others.
Tomorrow is one more day forward.
We know that this is still a very difficult topic but it is an important one and we thank you for taking the time to read. Thank you, Bruce, for sharing with us, for writing about your experience so honestly and for your generous desire to help others. For anybody wishing to know more, we have added some more information below – hopefully, it will be of use to those who need it.
Ways To Get Help
- Speak with your doctor
- Stay close with loved ones, family and friends – never exclude yourself
- Learn more about mental illness conditions
- Always have a goal to work to
- Keep active – cycling and other exercise is not a cure, but it can help reduce and manage mental health issues
Helplines // Support
Rethink Local Support Groups
Rethink and Mind – Time To Change Campaign
Offering emotional support 24 hours a day
Tel: 116 123
Offering specialist mental health emotional support 4.30-10.30pm everyday.
You can also email through their website.
Tel: 0300 304 7000