As 2019 draws a close we find ourselves not only heading for the end of a year, but the end of a decade.
On a personal level the last ten years were full of ups and downs of the highest level and as part of the return of more regular blog posts I wanted to do a three part analysis of my mental health decade, starting with 2010 – 14 – the depression years.
In 2010 I finished secondary school, leaving Honywood Community Science School with all the grades I needed to carry on my studying at Colchester Sixth Form.
To be honest I hated school, I’m grateful for the education it gave me as well as the friends i’m still happy to call my closest but day by day I would say I hated it all, and Sixth Form was even worse.
During my two years studying for my A levels I was finished with education, my mind was wondering elsewhere and I just wanted to be working, the only issue there was I found, which a lot of people find, is that I had no idea what I wanted to be doing for work for the rest of my life.
My first job was part time work at Sainsbury’s to pay for petrol after I passed my driving test in December 2011.
Being told I passed my driving test was a moment I will never forget, especially because three days later I found myself heading to New York for a festive getaway with my dad which is where I think I was given a huge desire to travel the world one day.
Six months later I was ready to enter the world of work and shortly after my final A Level exam I found myself covering for a women on maternity leave by doing admin work for an engineering company for six months until December 2011.
It was during this time my mind began to slip.
Summer 2012 had all the ingredients to be a real cracker.
In May 2012 West Ham secured a swift return to the Premier League after beating Blackpool 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in the play-offs, a game which I would say I felt physically sick watching but as soon as the final whistle went it was one of the best ever.
Two weeks later I turned 18 and to celebrate I had a house party and week after that I saw my favourite band growing up, blink-182, live for the first time at The O2 arena and of course, London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games for which I was lucky enough to get tickets to a few events.
But something was off, something wasn’t right with me and I didn’t understand what.
Throughout that summer my relationship with my girlfriend at the time was on the rocks and, in hindsight, should have ended a few months earlier, but at the end of the summer our relationship of nearly two years was over.
In 2012 I also went to my first ever Reading Festival which was a weekend I was desperate to be part of for so long.
When a line-up consisting of Foo Fighters, Angels and Airwaves and Kasabian got announced I had a ticket booked within seconds, and things got even sweeter when I was there and one of my favourite bands of all time, Green Day, turned up for a surprise set.
Even writing that out I was thinking christ what a weekend! but as it goes, that was the weekend I really began to realise something was wrong.
I wasn’t sober for any of us, I saw most of the music by myself by choice and just felt like the world didn’t care about me so why should I care about myself? In hindsight I never should have gone to Reading 2012 but I guess it was a mixture of I didn’t know any better at the time and was blinded by desperation to see Foo Fighters.
The rest of 2012 and 2013 were when things rapidly went downhill.
My mental welfare was getting worse and worse and I was doing the absolute worst thing any one of us can do, I ignored them.
I was drinking a lot, spending all the money I had saved from my first full time job on nights out every Thursday and every Saturday, trying to out drink myself from the previous night out, usually ending the night in tears in a repetitive cycle.
I carried on this way for many months, then I was given another opportunity at full time work at a friends family business for a few months and I would honestly say that job saved me to an extent.
I knew I had that responsibility to be there on time and do the job I was being paid to do, I could begin to build a bit of routine around my situation and things began to repair themselves from there.
That job was only ever meant to be a couple of weeks and ended up being the best part of five months.
When that job came to an end I began to relapse again for the remainder of 2013 and the first half of the following year, right the way until May 30th 2014.
May 30th was originally meant to be a cause of celebration because when the clock struck midnight, I would turn 20 years old. I had arranged a whole weekend of celebrating starting with a Friday night game of pub golf.
I was so ready to turn 20. I had convinced myself it would be the extreme version of new year new me and that my 20’s were to be ‘My time’ but shortly after I turned 20 I had the biggest reality check of my life to date and it came in the form of a mental breakdown.
We had just left the eighth pub of pub golf and a few of us, including myself, were looking worse for wear so were turned away from the ninth and final pub. In my drunken state I didn’t understand what was going on and the bouncer made one comment to me and that was it – I burst.
My emotions burst out into the open like the released air after a balloon has been struck by a pin. I was in tears, I was shaking and courtesy of the shove I got into a wall by the bouncer I was bleeding all over my new shirt.
Three very close friends of mine saw everything, got me into a taxi and the next thing I knew it was 12 hours later and I was suffering the worst hangover I’ve ever had – but that was the last thing on my mind.
What followed May 30th 2014 was an incredibly tough week which ended with me sat in a small room undergoing my very first therapy session, explaining to a professional the details of that night as well as the negativity I had been hiding from everyone for so long.
I saw a therapist once a week for nine months and after the first few weeks we established that there was very little in my life that I enjoyed doing – in particular on a day to day basis.
During those conversations one of the things that came up a lot was my huge desire to travel.
It was something I always spoke about but never had the confidence to act on.
Before long that all changed…