Matthew is an architect and Associate Director at PDP Architects, and mental health advocate.
I have depression and have contemplated ending my life.
Since being diagnosed with depression 8 years ago I've kept this part of me very private, having only shared it with a handful of people. But now, I’ve shared it with you. This may come as a surprise, but I trust you take this in the manner it was intended. An open and honest message to share my experience and to show support to others who may be dealing with similar issues.
Before I was diagnosed with depression I didn't understand what was going on with me. Sometimes I would find that I just couldn't feel emotions. I could 'see' why something would be funny or sad, exciting or thrilling - but I didn't feel it - my emotions were just, well, flat. When depressed I was incapable of being in the moment and to feel that sense of elation or happiness. I often felt detached from what was going on around me and because of this I often felt alone. Even though I was surrounded by loving family or friends, I felt alone. It is a terrible thing to be in a room full of your friends and family, to see them laughing and having fun and for your body to just not respond, to be numb to it all, to have no emotion, to be a black hole sucking in the emotions but not letting any out. At my lowest point, I went through some particularly dark periods and it was during this time that I considered ending my life.
Despite it affecting 1 in 4 of us - be it body dysmorphic disorder, eating problems, depression or stress to name but a few; there is still a taboo about mental health.
Eventually I accepted that I needed help. I went through a course of counselling and thankfully that, together with the support of friends and charities like Mind, dramatically changed things for me. I still have depression; I don't think it will ever fully disappear. But, now I feel like depression is just another part of my make up, but a part that no longer cripples my enjoyment of life. I'm now aware of certain triggers that can make my emotions 'flat line', but moreover I am aware of what helps me keep the 'darkness' away. I no longer feel defined by depression. I am able to enjoy life. To sit and laugh with friends and family and to truly feel those emotions.
Depression is just one of the many mental health problems that can affect anyone of us. Yet mental health problems still seem to be met with silence or be seen as something that we can simply 'choose' to resolve. For me, writing this was a massive decision. I wondered how my family, friends, colleagues would react. I worried about how you would react. Would you think less of me, think I'm incapable of working, think I'm a weak person? But then I realised that this is part of the issue with mental health, we don't talk about it enough for everyone to understand what these issues actually mean.
Despite it affecting 1 in 4 of us - be it body dysmorphic disorder, eating problems, depression or stress to name but a few; there is still a taboo about mental health. And yet, it can prevent anyone one of us from reaching our full potential as the wonderfully brilliant, individual and beautiful people we are.
We need to change this.
We need to master mental health.