Welcome to our first installment of “My Story”.
We’d like to introduce you to Jonathon, he’s been battling with depression for many years, here is his story…
‘Everyone’ should accept that ‘anyone’ can suffer from mental ill health.
Tell us a little about yourself? Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Jonathon Middleton, and I’m from Sheffield. I’m a father to three amazing children. I have a lovely partner, Becky. I’m a fully qualified nurse and teacher with a combined experience of 20 years. I’m a sports fan, follow Sheffield Wednesday (Football) and Rotherham Titans (Rugby). Historically I’ve also been a keen golfer enjoying a degree of success playing in competition. I advocate for mental health awareness by speaking openly about my own battle, and I hope in doing so this encourages others to reach out and seek support. I have featured live in the studio on BBC local radio three times, on television and in addition the press. I hope this helps others.
When were you first diagnosed with depression?
I was first formally diagnosed aged 20 following a series of stressful life events; 4 bereavements in under 12 months, pressure of studying nursing at university (exams, assignments, placements (shifts) and being involved in extremely challenging situations for the first time, stressful family circumstances secondary to a bereavement (also this sudden death of a grandparent I was first on scene and performed CPR for the first time, although unsuccessfully).
How did you feel when you were diagnosed with depression?
This has varied depending on which occurrence of depression.
The first time, I was worried about how this would be perceived by others; what other people would think, however at the same time, it validated my own worries and feelings – I had a cause, a reason, and with that, in a way, some hope that this will go away, I can be helped, I can be treated and soon, I will be fine.
The other times, I felt upset, that this had returned and, somewhat in denial at this point.
The most recent time; I’ve become accustomed to this now; It’s ok to have depression. It’s ok not to be ok. I’m who I am and I can’t help who I am and how I think and feel. This will probably never go away, but I am and can continue to learn to live with it, live through it, and be the best I can be.
How was your life growing up with depression? Perhaps this was pre-diagnosis? When did you first realise you were struggling?
In retrospect I now know I had symptoms of anxiety and depression, dating back to almost as far as I can remember.
I remember feeling ‘not worthy’ of love, attention, positivity from peers, and somewhat humbled when I received love, attention. In relation to school life I was comfortable on the periphery. I was hesitant to get involved in team sports, and at any point should I be put at the centre of attention I merely froze. I recall, experiencing flight and freeze responses being part of my daily routine.
This continued throughout my teens. It became me and I became my emotions – they ran my life, in hindsight, controlled my thoughts and spelled my future.
I first ‘realised’ I was ‘struggling’ as such (recognised what this was, or might be) when I realised, in my early twenties, something isn’t right. I realised in ways I was different to other people. I wasn’t engaging in healthy ways, responding to certain situations like others did – I was anxious on a daily basis, becoming low more frequently, socially less comfortable, avoiding situations more, having warped perceptions of reality (almost out of body experiences), and having more negative associations with most things (e.g, something positive like going on holiday, although booked, it’ll not happen, something will happen instead and take it away). Relationships (with a girlfriend) – something will end it, she doesn’t like me really, I’m being used, she would rather be with someone else. As a result I began to isolate myself more, and abandon relationships.
How do you deal with your depression on a daily basis?
I talk (if I can) – I tell someone what’s on my mind, why it’s on my mind.
I listen (if I can talk) – to what the other person says – and try not to disregard it – if its supportive and sound advice I try to embrace it positively.
I focus on the positives; this is always my kids – what’s not to love, what’s not to look forward to?!
I try to be realistic with my own capabilities; I’ve historically spread myself too thinly. I’ve historically put other people’s needs before mine. If before I have ever put my needs first (rarely) I felt guilt, but now I “tell” myself;
“Its ok to do something for you;
You can’t fix people
You don’t have to suffer toxic people or situations
Do you have any advice for anyone going through a similar experience?
Don’t ignore your feelings. Ask yourself “What do you feel”, “What do you notice?”. For example, you may feel ‘upset’ and a feeling of ‘unfairness’ when someone disregards your feelings over and over (e.g. might be boss at work), and feel you’re being taken advantage of.
If you feel this, you are feeling it for a reason. Don’t ignore it.
Talk about your feelings (if you can). If you can’t talk to someone who ‘know’ then theres lots of support services and people willing to listen.
Make time for yourself – do something you enjoy, and it’s ok. If you feel someone is making you feel guilty for doing something you enjoy, tell yourself, that’s their issue, and regardless, you are going to enjoy your (e.g. long bath, game of golf, few hours on XBox, a beer with friends, cuddle time with kids). Ever heard “You take too long in bath, what you doing?” Or “Xbox is for geeks and you should be out with your friends”, or “You don’t have time or money to go for a beer”… Any of these sounds familiar..? Ignore the negative perceptions anyone has about you – that’s their issue, not yours, and you enjoy doing what you enjoy.
Don’t feel stigmatised; It’s ok to have mental ill health. It’s ok to feel alone, vulnerable, sad, fearful etc – they’re all normal emotions – even on your birthday, Christmas day, day of going on holiday, (you know, days when you’re ‘expected’ to ‘be happy’). Never feel guilt for having these emotions. Feel them, know its ok, and make the healthy steps to do what you need to do, for you, to begin recovering from these feelings.
How do you feel about mental health first aid training? Do you wish they’d had this in previous work places? Have you ever taken part in the training?
Essential! We can pop a plaster on a wound in all workplaces, but we aren’t equipped to prevent people from ‘bleeding emotionally’ . This should be a requirement of all workplaces to have trained personnel to perform mental health first aid, in addition to having people trained for physical emergencies.
Give us your final thoughts…
Talking groups are on the up, and are very helpful. I attend one called MATT (Men actively talking together) every week. They have made a difference to me.
Talking therapy is helpful. It comes in many forms. If you are referred for this, embrace it, give it chance, it is possible it may take a few visits to form a relationship with your therapist. It’s usual to sometimes think ‘What am I doing here’, but try to bear with it, and of course, be open with your therapist if you don’t feel it is working for you. If you were in a dentist chair and you felt a sharp pain when he started drilling, you would ask them to stop and explain it hurts.. You can do the same in therapy sessions.
Mind Health Solutions would like to thank Jonathon for his honest and open responses to this interview.
If you would like to follow Jonathon, you can find him on Twitter at ( @jonrobmid )