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, more Villans share their experiences:
So I suffered from anxiety and depression for a while a couple of years ago. I use the past tense not because I think I’m cured but because I’ve learned enough coping techniques to see when my health is getting bad again and how to deal with it before it becomes a problem.
I’d got into a spiral after some personal issues but instead of action planning and seeking solutions I catastrophised, nothing seemed to be positive and if the slightest thing did, I’d ruin it because I couldn’t see that I’d done something well or made someone smile. Some days getting out of bed felt like climbing a very steep hill, other days I’d be driving my hour commute hoping someone would crash into me. Then I’d remember my daughter and feel awful that I’d leave her but think she’d be better off without me. I was wrong, of course.
So, because of my beautiful girl and wife, I sought help. People say you’ve got to talk but you’ve also got to have someone who’ll listen to you. I got counselling, my doctor prescribed some medication to allow me to sleep and I exercised. I am a big believer in exercise helping the mind first. Sometimes I ran to create a different pain, sometime to allow reflection but I never felt worse after a run. It was always positive.
My counsellor also suggested creating a list titled ‘I am Worthwhile’ and putting something on it everyday.
I also tried to stop worrying about things I had no influence over and only ‘control the controllables’.
I’m not ‘cured’ but I am in control. The past fortnight I’ve had a bit of a setback so I’ve exercised harder and made time for me to look after myself. Incidentally this involved going to Villa Park, a place I travel to to my ST in the North Upper from Manchester every gameday – it’s me time, I listen to podcasts on the way down and swear at 606 on the way back. Winning helps but isn’t imperative, the club and the game is a release and a positive activity that allows me to forget everything and enjoy football. It’s got easier recently though!
My mental health also has Tyrone Mings at the heart, a layer of defence mopping things up and pushing things away. If they do get in behind a last minute stop or the odd goal conceded is ok, because the defence is solid again moments later.
Jack Miller (@jackmiller81) – Villa Fan
When I was 14 I lost my mom due to cancer on her lungs which ended up spreading to her brain. I’m 18 years old and still to this day I still feel the same pain and guilt.
Anon- Villa Fan
I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since 1999, still have off days/weeks but with the love of family/friends and amazing Godchildren i get through it and it will get better.
There’s been many times where I wish I wasn’t here but it does get better, It’s a long journey and if you have a bad day don’t beat yourself up over it. Not ashamed to admit theres been plenty of times I’ve cried infront of people, but it’s part of the healing process. As stupid as it might sound in your head, if it’s worrying you, talk to someone about it. Don’t bottle it up. Simple little things like going for a walk with the dogs has always helped, even going to work interacting with people. I know it can be tough to get out of bed sometimes but again family/friends, dogs even, are so important for you to get better.
Stu (@E74Stu) – Villa Fan
If this resonates with only one person then it will have been worth me putting in excessive energy to write without some “Clare” word, insult, profanity or pure nonsense!
I had my first panic attack at 8 on a Sunday evening. I remember it like yesterday, my child brain had over thought the notion of eternity until I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I flew downstairs into Dad’s arms. And so began a lifetime battle with anxiety and high functioning chronic depression. Life events weren’t kind over my formative years. In the early 80’s childhood mental health issues simply didn’t exist. It was no fault of my parents. I won’t bore with details of years between 8 and 19 , they are perhaps for another time. At 18 I was already like some vulnerable, emotional ‘survivor’ (ish) and in no small part , on reflection, thanks to my Dad. He saved my life so many times over the years and I didn’t know it. At 18 a man walked into my life, my first boyfriend…my hero, my Prince. The man who could turn my life around. Well holy hell there’s getting it wrong and then what I did, by marrying him. 23 years later and four utterly amazing boys later it was all over. Again a story for another time.
By the time my 2nd bright, funny, adorable son turned 8 I’d begun to notice worrying signs he may be suffering with a depression. He was and is one of the most caring, empathetic people I have ever met. From aged 3 he cared deeply, almost too deeply. He was a deep thinker but such a character and still is. People warm to him instantly. He’s the class clown and just the best of humanity. Oh yes, I acknowledge my own bias here. He was, however and continues to suffer with severe anxiety, depression and has had several episodes of disassociation. His description “It’s like watching events from up above them Mom. You can see what’s happening but you can’t control it”. He will be 21 next month, he has had 4 breakdowns and several suicide attempts. It seems cold just writing the words in such a matter of fact way. There was and is not an ounce of cold. It’s a searing , physical pain as a mother watching your child suffer so much and being utterly unable to help.
The divorce had the most unpredictable and terrible impact on my sons. On all of them in very different ways. My 3rd son has struggled to manage with his emotions and a depression he refuses to seek or accept help for to this day. With love and consistency from me and his brothers he’s getting there. My eldest son , where do I begin , he took on a role no 15 year old should have to. And did it without a second thought or complaint. 18 months later his best friend, who we all adored, finished his final GCSE , walked to the nearest flyover and jumped. He lived for 15 mins. I still don’t have the words. It was only 2 years later, 6 weeks before he was due to sit his A levels that he cracked. I sent him home to Mom and Dad and my sister’s. It took a further two years until I really saw my son back to “normal”.
These are just brief outlines. Lord, I maybe do need to write this book as I’m constantly nagged to. There is so, so much more. Throughout these past 36 years there has been one constant; Aston Villa. To those who don’t love football this will seem completely nuts! No matter how dark times have gotten, however desperate our club has been there. Win, lose, draw, relegation, promotion…always there. It’s home. To all 5 of us. It’s more than the stadium, the results, it’s the people, the shared love, it’s almost a safety, the one thing that won’t leave. I’m waffling now and probably not making much sense to any one else!
The other thing I’d add is for those of us who suffer with any mental health problem or live with a loved one who does, I truly believe our good days, our happy moments, events are treasured and appreciated on a totally different level to those who have never suffered. It teaches us or we learn to experience joy in a way others can’t .It’s like our reward almost. I’ve had the best days of my life in the past 10 years and the worst. But my God those best days feed me. They say it’s the hope that kills you, but what are any of us without hope? Some days the sun shines so very bright that the dark clouds of depression and anxiety are almost beyond sight. Others those clouds cover the sun, but I’ve learned now the sun never disappears, it’s there waiting to break through. ALL things pass. ALL of them. Every new day is a chance for the sun to shine even a little
“ This raging world can get so overwhelming…It’s not always as we planned it we grow stronger when we break”
Much love. Wishing you peace x
Clare – Villa Fan
I’d like to extend a big thank you to those who contributed for sharing their experiences and, in doing so, are helping others to realise that contrary to popular belief; they are not alone. Mental health was the reason I started this blog, and I’d like to bring it back to the forefront.