But Men dont get depression…

I was asked by the Mental Health Foundation to write something for them as it is “Men’s Health Week” see more on their Facebook page here

 

It always struck me as strange that woman are so much more open about discussing their mental health illnesses than men are. Often we are more worried about how we are perceived by our friends and family to actually admit that we have an issue. This comes long before we find the strength to seek help and speak about depression with our GP.
The stigma attached to depression often forces men to simply deny they have any issues because we don’t want to be seen as weak, <insert cave man voice here> “ug man strong”.

This was one of my main reasons for wanting to branch into the blogging world and share my experiences with others, men in particular, to dispel the myth of weakness and depression being linked. Going to my GP and breaking down in tears as I explained my problems and feelings to him didn’t scare me half as much as announcing it to friends and family let alone social media but I was determined to show that even though I suffer with depression I have the strength to tackle it head on whilst trying to help others in the process.
There are a lot of men out there still too proud to talk about depression with partner/children but for me I have never tried to hide it from them (once diagnosed of course). It helps to talk about how your struggling because it gets it all off your chest.

One of the things I have come to realise is that the weight of keeping everything inside is a lot more than the weight of people thinking I am weak because I have depression.
I cannot emphasis enough that the best way to deal with depression is to talk about it with loved ones or friends. The more people we have talking about depression will only decrease the stigma we feel about it, and by you speaking out it not only helps you but could help others as well. From my own experience I can tell you that people really appreciate knowing others are talking about mental health because it makes things easier for them.
As for me, I battle daily with my demons but I always have an ear for someone who wants to talk about depression, sometimes that’s all people with depression require….

India Knight and the Twitter Fight

Ok so it was not much of a fight but it did rhyme and makes for a catchier title.

Head over to twitter and do a search for India Knight, a journalist who “writes columns for The Sunday Times”

She published an article this weekend entitled “Just when you thought misery lit had crawled back into its dark cellar …”

And suddenly all hell broke loose on twitter with people sending abuse her way based on comments from celebrities, not based on the fact that they had read the article.

The problem as I saw is was that there were 2 articles published in the past few days about depression that did not show it in a positive note, the first was India Knights and the second was in The Sun see here for my take on The Sun’s story.

I have finally managed to track down India’s piece and in all honesty she makes SOME valid points, I say some because there are points in it that to me are completely wrong and ill informed (in my opinion anyway)

The main argument of of her article was how there appears to be a glut of celebrities recently “coming out” with their stories about suffering with mental health illnesses in books, perfectly timed for the Christmas market to increase sales.

I am all for celebrities speaking out but as I have said before, and on other peoples blogs on the matter it is usually timed to coincide with an autobiography, new film/ TV show and seems to be more about the product they are pushing than helping to raise awareness of mental health issues. Once the book or show has been released that celebrity seems to move on to the next project without maintaining their stance on mental health and publicising it.

Perhaps Stephen Fry is an exception to this rule more than most.

The following was the opening of her article

Are there people left standing who still believe that depression is “taboo”, and that by speaking about their own they are bravely shining a light – “just a little beam, but I do what I can” – into the darkness?

I ask because in the past six weeks alone a slew of autobiographies – the blockbuster ones published to coincide with the fat, money-spinning Christmas market – have put depression at the centre of their narratives.

From David Walliams to Antonio Carluccio, from Victoria Pendleton to Jack Straw (never mind the politics; where’s the crying?), via Edna O’Brien and Pamela Stephenson . . . the list goes on and on.

Where depression isn’t central to the plot, and where the book is a novel, the author’s struggles with mental health are revisited for publicity purposes, as with JK Rowling, who to promote her new book has spoken yet again about the depression she has endured in the past.

I understand: depression is debilitating. It is an illness. Carluccio says he has attempted suicide six times, which is not a thing I or anybody else should make light of. But there I was happily dancing a cancan to celebrate the demise of the misery memoir – everybody suddenly remembered being locked in a cupboard as a child: grimness guaranteed, no detail too grotesque or traumatic, £14.99, ideal gift – when I realised that my delight was premature. All that’s happened is that depression has replaced child abuse as the go-to, sales-boosting topic.”

 

Now if we take away the statement of taboo, which clearly is an issue but for a non sufferer she would not understand, she does make a point.

Is “depression the new go-to sales-boosting topic”?

It does appear that suddenly more and more famous people are telling the world about their issues and whilst this is a good thing in general is it a case of watering down the seriousness of the illness that depression is?

Yes the more people that speak out about it the more we can educate and inform but does all this celebrity book selling make it harder for normal people like me to get a fair judgement.

And she continues..

The thing is, whereas you could argue – I wouldn’t, but you could – that misery memoirs did indeed shine a light on a taboo subject and, by doing so, removed some of the shame or stigma that victims of child abuse often feel throughout their lives, the same simply isn’t true of depression. There is no stigma.

It is true that, long ago, depression was perhaps viewed with suspicion, or not taken as seriously as it might have been: certainly I remember Stephen Fry having a meltdown in 1995, walking out of a West End play he was starring in and disappearing to Belgium, and I remember that people thought he was just an actor having some sort of hissy fit. This was not the case: Fry was ill – and has been volubly explicit about the illness since.

I’m sorry for them, just as I’m sorry for anyone depressed, but, really, do they want a medal? But not only has the light been shone; it has become a blinding ray. We know. We understand. There can be few people reading this who haven’t either suffered from depression or had a friend or family member who has.

and this is where she lets herself down because there is obviously a stigma attached to people with depression and other mental health illnesses. The trouble is unless you have experienced the stigma, people avoiding you because your ill, the trauma of the workplace gossip for example, then you really shouldn’t write about it. One of the principles I hold dear when writing my blog is that if I have no experience of it I will not write about it and it is a shame that someone who is clearly respected as a writer did not think of this aspect. I can’t write about India and her possible PMT symptoms for example as I do not know a thing about them and I would not be brave enough to attempt to say she turns into some sort of emotional junk food eating monster on a monthly basis. It may be the case but I don’t know that so wouldn’t suggest it.

The problem with her article was that it started so well but then descended into a kind of stigmatic idiocy that cause many of us who do suffer to do so in silence. Had it stuck simply with the original context it may not have had the reaction it did.

Some more examples of outlandish comments are here

Few people think those who suffer depression are weirdos or oversensitive flowers, or just need to pull their socks up and get a grip.

But we don’t say this. We are so well trained, so adept at respecting depression, that we say, “Oh dear, poor thing – the illness, you know.”

Where my sympathy wavers is when depression is used as bait, or as the gilt on the lily. I get this too, at one level: the publishing industry is in such dire straits that telling your story is no longer enough. There needs to be a journey, a trajectory, and as much darkness as possible amid the light, so that you come across as a normal person.

Everybody gets depressed, and one person’s depression is not a million miles from another’s

What irritates me is the idea that by “speaking out”, celebrity autobiographers are being heroically honest and somehow doing us all a favour. They’re not merely celebrities telling their stories; they’re now campaigners, if you please – brave pioneers in the battle to smash the taboos surrounding mental health. But there are no taboos in this context.

Taboos exist, certainly, but they concern people who are eating from bins and shouting at pigeons. They do not concern privileged, talented people who are depressed in the considerable comfort of their own home, with the best drugs regime that money can buy. I’m sorry for them, just as I’m sorry for anyone depressed, but, really, do they want a medal? Going on and on about depression can seem an awful lot like narcissism: “I’m so interesting that even my illness is fascinating.” You long for someone to say: “I felt like crap for two years and then I got over it.” Which is, by the way, what normal people do.

The whole point of her article though was about celebrities exploiting their fame by using whatever is the current in style.

The article was an attack on celebrities it was not about average Joe Public but why should celebrities not deserve the same sympathy?

Do people really think that those with money cannot suffer from any form of mental health illness?

Based on some of the responses on twitter regarding this and the the article in The Sun that really appears to be the case.

Unfortunately for India she was suddenly under mob siege from people who over-reacted and probably a lot of the fury directed at her was meant for the sun and it did nothing to show people with mental health illnesses in a positive light. There was no thought out argument from people just abuse which really was a shame because lets face it, whether we agree with her article or not she has actually written about mental health in a national newspaper.

How is this different from a celebrity serialising parts of their new book in the same medium? It is no different expect she spoke out against the culture of biographies from famous people.

Even then was it the biographies or the way they are advertising them? probably the latter and for me she has a case.

She more than harmed her own case though with some rather derogatory remarks but I understand why she suddenly went on the defensive based on the abuse she received and I am sure she would, although not publicly, regret some of the things she said. But who hasn’t said things in the heat of the moment when under attack.

If more people judged her on what she actually wrote and not on the hearsay of celebrities (and Charities for that matter)  there would have been hardly a mention of it. Though surely the positive is that it got people talking about mental health and that, after all, is what we strive for. If it takes a few negative comments in a post to get the ball rolling then so be it but please if you have to respond do so in a way that educates not agitates, abusing someone for having an opinion on mental health is not going to change the way they feel about it.

Everyone has an opinion and be it right or wrong we have to respect them for having one, if we disagree that is perfectly fine but we should feel like we have to force our views onto others through abuse.

As for India she done her job didn’t she? surely her role as a journalist is to get people talking about something she has written and that was certainly the case yesterday. Maybe she learned that mental health is more taboo than she previously though.

I am hoping India gets to read this because I would like to point out I too have a book on depression but I am not famous so can she please clarify that it is ok for me to continue to publicise it :D

One Little Moose but One Big Voice

I am just one person speaking out about depression, hardly enough to cause even a ripple in the sea of people who suffer with this illness. Note the word illness not condition, not state of mind. Depression is an illness!

Some illnesses evoke sympathy in other people, some make people afraid.

“Man flu” is more commonly recognised and understood in some peoples mindset than depression.

Man in street sneezes “oh no, I have man flu”

The same man has displayed depression symptoms for months and done nothing about it, ” I’m not depressed, that means I am weak and I do not need any help”

That man is me! or more appropriately WAS me.

Then I changed my mindset, looked a things differently and decided that I could make a difference. Not just in my life, but in the lives of other men, or women, suffering from depression but either unaware of the symptoms or simply afraid of the repercussions that being known as someone having depression can bring.

Repercussions may seem a strong word but there is truth in it. Having depression and being open about it can cause more drama for people. The way others deal with you and treat you can be changed because of the stigmas of Mental Health Illnesses, not just depression. This is why some people keep depression hidden away like it is a dirty secret, why people are scared to ask for help and why in some cases people take their own lives.

What I did was walked into a phone box, checking beforehand that it was not damaged, and no one had urinated in it as is usually the case and I changed into..

 

Well yes maybe it is a slight exaggeration. Super Moose maybe goes to far but have you even seen a comic based on “slightly better than average” Man?

If I can speak up and help one person in their battle with depression then I can be extremely proud. If than one person then helps someone, and so on and so on imagine the wave we have created.

That is the aim of my blog, besides the help it gives me, and the hope is one day someone who needed help sought it after reading my words.

Today my tiny little corner of the blogging world hit 10,000 readers. Ten thousand! I didn’t expect ten would read it.

Now if those 10,000 readers wouldn’t mind buying my book I would be a happy chappy :-)

I like to celebrate the little milestones as they come because they show me that there is a place for me as a blogger, and when I forget these little events on my bad days I can come back here and know that people like you inspire me to keep going and helping others.

To the people who have sent me messages of support, messages thanking me for my blog your kindness and bravery in reaching out to me keep me going.

I may be a little moose but my voice is big because I am speaking on behalf of those not yet ready, or unable, to speak for themselves.

That is my motivation, that is the reason for my dedication to the blog and book ideas. Spreading the word a day at a time that depression will not go away simply by pretending it does not exist.

Challenging the Stigma of Mental Health

The stigma that surrounds Mental Health Illnesses hangs in the air like a bad smell.

Fear of being ostracised by peers, colleagues and society in general is what drives so many sufferers underground, to keep their illnesses hidden away like it is a dirty little secret. The shame and embarrassment attached to having a mental health illness brings with it further complications for those who suffer in silence.

It is hard for people dealing with having an illness without the problems that comes from having to pretend everything is OK on a daily basis, but is there a realistic alternative out there?

The time has hardly come for me to walk down the street with “I have depression” plastered across my T-shirt and yet I live in hope that having depression will not mean the end of how I live my life. There is no fear of becoming an outcast because I am bigger than depression, I suffer with depression but it does not define me as a person.

When I started this blog I had to decide if I wanted to write anonymously or as myself, forget the moose alter ego because it is not something I hide behind to cover my identity.  I made the decision to reveal as much about me as possible because I wanted to be known as a “normal” person who suffers and for others to see that there was someone in the same situation as them. In particular I wanted to be known as a man who has depression, to be an example to other men that it is OK to speak about depression and how it makes me feel.

I am secure in myself enough to happily let people know that I was so low I wanted to kill myself, that it is not a sign of weakness that I have sat around in tears sobbing uncontrollably at my situation. I have opened myself up to ridicule, negativity and anything else hidden in Pandora’s Box in the name of breaking down some walls to help challenge the stigma of mental health.

It was important to me that I was open and honest from the start, and it is still important now. I want people to see my posts on the good days and the days when I feel low because it shows how up and down the life of a depression sufferer really is. To only post when I am in a good mood would never do justice to the real me and my feelings and I ensure that there is a balance of good days and bad when I post. Naturally it doesn’t always turn out that way but that is the intention.

Sharing my feelings and, more importantly, generating discussion on depression is my way of fighting back against the stigma. Receiving messages from strangers who reach out to me shows that there is a need for people like me who are able to express what others are feeling but are unable to say.

Don’t get me wrong I am not appointing myself as the commander of the stigma fighting army,  I am after all just one person in a community of many other bloggers who feel strongly enough to write about their illnesses, who share their own battles and all for the same cause.

The problem is that there are so many obstacles in the way, in my journey and in changing peoples view of mental health.

There are lots of celebrities out there who are using their fame to speak about mental health illnesses, Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax are particularly vocal, but I am always dubious of celebrities and their real intentions. Self promotion is a wonderful trait that exists in the celebrity world and there always seems to be a book release, a new show or something else that will earn money just around the corner when the stories of mental health are released. Or maybe that’s just the cynic in me talking.

I guess anyone famous who generates headlines talking about mental health is better than no one talking about it!

And yet there are still many hurdles that having depression will need to be overcome.

I have been out of work now for 2 years. Put yourself in the shoes of someone interview me for a job, looking down at my CV and seeing a gap of 2 years since my last job.

The first question you’re going to ask me is likely to be “why have you been out of work for so long?”

My response would be “I have been battling depression and it made me unable to work”

What is going to happen? Short of the words “NEXT!!!!” being screamed out it is likely that there will be no job offer and that is down to the stigma we face.

People are reluctant to tell their bosses or HR departments about having a mental health illness because they worry about the reaction, that they will end up being forced out of their jobs because of having told the truth and this is something that makes me feel unemployable. I would have to be honest about my depression because otherwise I would be given tasks that I would be unable to handle, that the stress of them would make me ill but by being honest I would not get the job in the first place.

I know of lots of people who have not yet “come out the closet”, a phrase borrowed from HelloSailor, and revealed their illnesses to people at work and I completely understand why they haven’t done so. But what a shame in this day and age that we are still in this situation.

So how can we tackle the stigma?

By talking about it and getting the world to stand up and take notice that the number of people with mental health illnesses is increasing all the time and that only by putting this issue more and more into the public domain are we going to be able to improve the knowledge of others.

As is usually the case until people are educated on subjects their perception of them are driven by a fear of the unknown.  Together we can show that just because someone has a mental health illness it does not mean that we are going to go on a rampage fueled by medication and drugs, that actually we are more alike than you would think.

The difference between those who judge me and I is that I had the strength to acknowledge my problems and tackle them head on, you are still hiding them in the belief that they are not there!

It will take a lot of time and lot of effort, from better people than myself, before the stigma of mental health illnesses is addressed and consigned to the past, but the sooner it happens the better for me and many other people.

All I can do in my tiny corner of the internet is to continue to do my part and spread the word. A reminder to you all that I have published a book while battling depression so if I can accomplish this then anything is possible if we allow ourselves to at least try!

 

 

 

Poetry Book Update

The book of poems that I am hoping to publish is beginning to take shape thanks to people who have kindly submitted their work. See here for more details

I have started putting these into a word document and formatting ready to be uploaded once I get more poems.

So far I have 28 poems but I am looking for a lot more before I go live with it! I am thinking a minimum of 50 poems but would like 100!

I need help coming up with a title and also someone who is artistic to come up with a front cover for the book, obviously I can’t get that done until a title is chosen.

I suggested “Tales from the Asylum” but some people may find the word Asylum comes with too much stigma, which we are trying to fight, so what suggestions can you make? Someone suggested “Tales from The Edge”

We need something catchy that will make people want to download this book.

What about The Depressed Moose presents “Poems from The Edge”?

Ideas needed friends!

Thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word please continue to send people to this blog, particularly here the more submissions the better the book and the more money we can raise for Mind!

 

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UPDATE 16TH AUGUST

Book title is

The Depressed Moose Presents “Stepping into the light – Poems from the Darkness”

 

So far I have had 24 people submit poems – Thank you everyone who has sent me a poem!

The deadline for submissions is now 30th August as I intend to get this edited, formatted and published online on 1st September

Keep spreading the word and get involved!

Dear Depression….Love Garry – My Open Letter for you!

Dear Depression,

I wanted to write a letter to you in the hope we can come to some sort of agreement as to where we both go from here.  I have written to you many times before in days of despair and days of hope, today is one of my good days when I can find the strength from within to speak to you forcefully, concisely, from the head and from the heart. If need be I can also speak to you aggressively just to enforce my point, but seeing as we are now old friends I shall try to remain diplomatic at all times.

Let me start by complimenting you on the wonderful public relations team you have working for you. How you manage to cause so much pain and heartache to so many people and not get a negative reaction in the press is a testament to the work they do on your behalf. How you get away with creating a stigma against those of us who suffer is nothing short of remarkable, when we are on better terms perhaps you can tell me how they do it.

Exactly how is it that you manage to turn the tables on people so that they are seen as weak, hopeless, worthless and even on the verge of taking their lives because you wont let them breathe? How comes your still not seen as the major illness you are when so many people suffer because of you. Despite all of this people still do not talk about you, like there is a fear about you. Almost reminiscent of the film “Candyman” where people are afraid to mention you in case you appear in their lives. When I am ready your team can work for me and help promote my blog and then we will see how you cope with the tables being turned on you for a change, how the changing of the guard in terms of how people see you and react to you when the truth comes out makes you feel.

I saw first hand how you destroy someone with no regard, no remorse just a relentless charge through someone’s persona. Watching someone so vibrant, loving, outgoing and confident become a shadow of that person that I loved. To make someone change in such a way and, worse of all, to do it over a long period of time so that they are not aware of it. This is not the actions of something that is perceived so lightly by others, especially those who have never been “blessed” with your touch. Like a cold hand on a warm day your touch comes as a shock at first and yet you embrace those unable to fight you off like a familiar face, suppressing the evil laughter that no doubt exists as you claim a new follower.

You came to me over a 2 to 3 year time span, I knew you were there but I was not ready to acknowledge your existence. Unaware of the strength I needed to halt you on the path of destruction that was intended for my life, I allowed you to control me and my feelings until that day when you almost beat me. I use the word ALMOST because you had the chance to do exactly that and beat me, big mistake Mr because when you had me on the canvas you did not go in for the kill. You allowed me to take the 8 count and instead of finishing me off you chose to dance around the ring, toying with me.

The truth of the matter is that I was a beaten man but I did not want you to claim me as another victim and from within I found hidden strength, through the love of my wife and children, to rise up and fight back. I am lucky in that sense but others are not as fortunate as me, more susceptible to your uncanny knack of pinpointing someones weakness and going straight for it.

The good news for me, and bad for you, is that our time together has not always been so advantageous in your favour.  Without you I would not be writing, something I had a passion for as a young boy in school, YOU stirred my creative juices and made my mind awash with ways in which I can defeat you. You helped me! Guess it is fair to say that it was not your intention but unlike you toying around with me when I was down I have taken my opportunity and I am ready for you. I am ready to help others defeat you and most of all I am ready to show others how the weakness comes from you not themselves.

I am starting a revolution and will unite all “Depressionistas” from all walks of life in my battle. Are you ready for us this time my friend? We may be weak as single entities but as a force we are strong and we will not be defeated even if it takes us a lifetime. Your days of chaining us to shackles will soon be over.

Try putting a positive spin on that!

Love Garry