There is a lot of stigma attached to the issue of mental health, and especially amongst men. As someone who has suffered with depression for a long time now, I have found it difficult to talk about. Now I have managed to open up a bit more to the Villa Community, I have found myself an enormous and diverse support network, all of whom are willing to help me out whenever I need it. I have decided to continue to write about Villans views and experiences regarding mental health issues. Below, Villans share their experiences:
I’ve suffered from depression for many years. For quite a few I didn’t realise I had depression to the extent that I did, I just thought I’d turned into a grumpy old man. I’ve always been one to bottle my feelings up and rather than talk about myself help others out instead. Eventually though the brain can only take so much before you burst. I’d started to self harm to quite an extreme level. Not normal behaviour for someone in their early forties . I had to talk or at least open up a little. I took the mental health first aider course with the view of helping others but using what I learnt on myself. It was quite a revelation, sitting in a room of strangers and some work colleagues and talking about my own issues. It was like a weight lifting off me. I still struggle and still self harm but to nothing like I used too but I’ve learned that when I need to open up there are people around who will listen and not judge. And that’s what I do for others, listen without judgement and offer some form of guidance if possible. Also I’ve learned that sometimes I or others don’t want to talk but for someone to say “ are you ok today” or as joey would say “ how you doing”. Simple words that mean a lot. It’s not always about talking but just letting know people are there. And more importantly, I’ve discovered that, no matter who is pissing us off, what the score was or even what you put on a jacket potato, villa Twitter is like an extended family where we all look out for each other. There are quite a few of us with our own issues but we are slowly opening up and creating another community , helping each other along the way. My advise if you haven’t already is let one of us know, we’re all here to help or even just to ask every now and then “you ok today” there is no shame and no judgement. #ItsOkNotToBeOk
Mark (@markyoddbod)- Villa Fan
To start with I never thought I’d find myself writing about this. Opening up about my recent struggles has been one of the hardest things I think I`ve ever had to do. So If I can`t quite articulate properly my feelings/story…sorry.
These past few years I’ve been experiencing what I can only describe as feeling `off` something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, or explain to people. I did go to my doctors and he thought it was some sort of `midlife crisis`…I’m 60, so a bit late for that!!. My wife started to notice my moods would go from 1 to10 very quickly and just as quickly the other way, and I also found myself getting very teary at the slightest thing, which for people who know me found this most strange, and every little criticism I seemed to turn into a direct attack on myself.
Work didn’t help much either, I am the only male in a busy NHS department, and really couldn’t get across to them how I was feeling. One member of staff called me….and I`ll paraphrase here `Rude, Lazy and Toxic`. When I started to get down I would retreat into my shell and just not want any interaction with my colleagues, this was perceived as me being rude, and my work has, I admit tailed off badly these past few months…..not sure where the Toxic comes from though. Just the sorts of thing you need to hear when your self worth is nigh on nonexistent.
I think what I have been doing was ignoring the warning signs and slowly descending into depression. A few weeks ago, it all seemed to come to a head and it was over something very innocuous, and that was it. All my fight left me, I felt exhausted, confused and utterly defeated.
My wife got me to the Doctors straight away and he basically said it was a classic case of depression…is there such a thing?
I`m now off work, with as yet no sign of going back. I`m on medication and also seeking help through CBT, that’s in its infancy but I`m going to stick with it. Finding this Blog through Twitter has made me realise that I`m not a freak, I`m not alone and it`s actually OK not to feel OK.
Anon- Villa Fan
There’s a lot of things that can have an impact on your mental health, on either a grand scale or a smaller one – but both are equally as important to address. I had a long term relationship break down which put me into what I refer to as a “black hole”, as I had to move back home, quit my job and leave a group of friends behind.
I spent months then not looking after myself or eating, going to sleep at times I’d have usually been awake at to go to work and then waking up just before the evening started. It wasn’t a case of that I was incredibly unhappy with the events that had happened, it was more so the drastic change.
It took some awful thoughts to realise I needed to get help, and I self referred myself to ‘Healthy Minds’, who within the space of a month and a half got in touch and subsequently referred me to the YMCA for counselling. If you feel like you’re struggling with anything, Healthy Minds is a great option.
I also can’t express how much you should use friendship circles, be they online or physical. I had friends that I’d perhaps not given as much attention to in the past by my side, as well as the help of someone who was on the other side of the world. That, and exercise. I was heavily overweight, and I’m still overweight, but exercising a few times a week have helped not only my physical health and appearance, but made me feel more confident and pumping some iron can really help get the negativity out.
It’s also key to remember that it never truly leaves. There’s times where I’ll get home from work now, or I’ll receive a particularly harsh comment on something to do with the blog, and it’ll set me a few paces back, but it’s about remembering where you were and where you are now, and pulling yourself back to that point when you can.
Regan Foy (@FindFoy)- Under A Gaslit Lamp
Mental health can hit us in many ways and personally for myself it was something which had never hit me until the last 6-7 months of my own life. Whilst I don’t want to paint myself out to be at total rock bottom, struggling to recover, i want to highlight how the power of football can help out in mental health.
I’m a normal young chap, living on my own, own house, own car, great family set up, I’m in a professional job as a senior Nurse in the NHs, what more could I possibly want? I was in a long term relationship which i thought was the real deal, until i came back from a short break away with my friend last September to have to deal with breaking up from that person. Totally out of the blue, no warning signs, nothing, and no real explanation as to why. I did my usual, try and understand but the more I heard the more i didn’t understand. From that moment I genuinely felt like the world was crashing around me. This person who I genuinely would have done anything for was out of my life. Every day would change from there on, the simple things, the days out, the normal things a couple can do. I felt so low, rock bottom, never had to deal with any of this.
The days which followed were hard. You do uncharacteristic things when you don’t fully understand a situation and try and get answers time and time again when in reality nothing you hear helps you. My friends and family were a constant support, always there for me and telling me things would get better, but you can’t see it at that point. Going to work was difficult, sitting through meetings and not actually taking anything in because work is at the bottom of the pile of your worries right now. Going home to that empty house every night and constantly having reminders of that person, every minute of every day. It genuinely feels like a bereavement and was tough to handle.\
However, fortunately for me, I was new into my job role so could throw myself into that to act as a distraction and the major distraction for me, Aston Villa FC. I am a season ticket holder for 20 years now and was a regular away day traveller too. I stopped going so frequently once i felt I’d settled down as it felt the right thing to do, but i soon realised this was my hobby and my happiness being dealt a blow. I started attending the away games aswell as the games at Villa Park and I started to smile again. I was enjoying myself, having fun and meeting new people. I have become absolutely obsessed with it all again and can’t wait for the next match day. Next season I’ll be joining the away supporters group aswell as renewing my home season ticket. Mental health can show itself in so many ways, some more minor in others eyes than others. However, we all go through some kind of spell where our mental health isn’t the best and I can honestly say I found comfort in Aston Villa and football. Football clubs and supporters often get bad press but boy is it important in our lives, massively so in my case, it helped me through some of the hardest months in my life and I feel strong enough again to be the person I was before. Thanks for allowing me to contribute, if anyone needs a fellow Villan to talk to, my door is always open. UTV!
Simon Lines (@simonlines)- Villa Fan
One day in 2016, cycling home after yet another torturous day at work, a white van was suddenly heading towards me on the wrong side of the road, just past the airport, initially making me very angry at the reckless driving. He missed me by inches, a real shocker!
And then I thought it, for the very first time…
Actually, it wouldn’t have been that bad if he’d just completely wiped me out. I’d started to think it. I really wouldn’t mind dying, it would have been OK, I’d just had as much as I could take. Standing there three mornings a week, in the shower at work, dreading 8.30 when I’d have to come out and face people I hated with a passion.
It wasn’t long before I was told “You may as well not be in the room” by the sales manager at work. I’d been there 16 years at the time. Thoughts of suicide continued after that, with my Son being the only positive factor in not doing anything. Without him, it’s all over for me.
I tried Samaritans a few times via email. They were nice, but there’s only so much they can do. Not their fault, but it did very little to help me.
A change of job initially helped in 2017, but now 20 months later, I find myself back in the same position, feeling like death would be a blessed release. I just can’t deal with bullies, backstabbers, liars and cheats anymore. I can’t deal with the overwhelming anxiety that every day brings. All I’ve ever tried to do was live my life the right way, with a good work ethic. This has got me nowhere and I wouldn’t recommend it.
I watch documentaries on people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I try and think of the easiest way, with the less damage done to anyone else. I’d jump in front of a train, but I know it’s absolutely not fair on the driver. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ll be walking along the pavement and just think “If I jumped out now” . It would all be over.
I want my Son to be old enough to be able to cope, he’s not long a teenager at the moment. I know it’s not fair on him, I realise that with all my heart. All I’ve ever wanted was to support him, love him, and be his best friend. I’ve taken him to football, music gigs and hopefully entrenched a lot of happy memories in his brain. Things I’d never had the opportunity to do with my Dad. The times with him have been amazing. He’s a wonderful, lovely kid and I love him with all my heart, the best thing, easily, that ever happened in my miserable life. I’m so proud of him, beyond words. That love for him will never stop.
The thing is, no one actually knows. They don’t know the real me at all. I’ve never told anyone how utterly depressed I am. I’ve never seen a Doctor (I hardly ever go anyway). I’ve not really got anyone to tell, I couldn’t tell any friends of mine about this. I just live with it, everyday. The constant nagging doubt, the paranoid fear of who’s saying what behind my back. Who’s watching this, who’s watching that. There’s no end in sight. I’m absolutely gripped by it and it’s literally strangling me, every day. I’m worried I’ll react the wrong way if I’m pushed too far.
I want some help, I really do, but I’m scared. I’m scared of what I’m about to find out and maybe how bad it actually is. Everyone says you shouldn’t fight it alone, but it’s the only way I know how. How do I deal with the constant fear, the stupid anxiety bouts where I think of truly ridiculous but awful scenarios? I just can’t see a way out.
Anon- Villa Fan
Thank you to all that have contributed to this piece, I hope it makes those out there who are struggling realise that they aren’t alone! UTV
Edit: I’ve had some people messaging me concerned about some of the contributors. I would like to add that I am in regular conversation with my contributors, including Anons, and am encouraging those who need it to seek help. Thank you for all your concerns. I don’t want people thinking I let them write things and then leave them without support.