At the turn of the Millennium, I completed a project under the Mind-Millennium Award Scheme.
My project – the Lifelines Project – involved collecting and publishing poems, pictures and self-help strategies from other people who, like me, had suffered from enduring and debilitating depression.
I had not met many of the contributors, and was amazed – honoured – that they trusted me with their personal expressions, all because of the underlying intention of reaching out in the hope of helping others.
If you, yourself, are suffering with depression, I would like to wish you well and tell you that you are not alone.”
Since then, there’s been increased awareness about mental health and how it can be improved. While there remains much to be done in society from the ‘prevent’ and ‘promote’ perspectives, being able to – and even encouraged – to talk about mental health difficulties more openly represents a start.
In my own experience, I eventually got fed up of talking – I’ve never been much good at it anyway. I knew that I needed to take action, to find ways of turning my life around, however difficult or painful that might be. And I knew it would be difficult and painful, to rebuild from a below zero level when I was in my forties.
From somewhere, somehow, I found the resolve to put my head down, prioritise, and push myself through. For a long time I concentrated on work and on developing my internal resilience. Just before I turned 60 I decided to take the plunge and commit to a relationship. I now have a much fuller and richer life than I have ever had before and I’m thankful for that.
Even so, life continues to be difficult and I still take antidepressants – probably always will. But I have other coping skills and strategies, and have also been able to recently retire, taking away work pressures that I could no longer deal with.
I wasn’t able to keep in touch with all the people who contributed to the Lifelines Project but they’ve always remained in my thoughts and I hope that they too have been able to find a way through; a way that works for each of them:
I thought it was fitting to include a poem by one of the Project contributors – Mark:
The night has been terror:
depression, cold, confusion.
– Ears scream.
Grey – the morning in my front-room.
A tear on my cheek and
a child’s grizzle
for a few seconds
– From my adult form.
A small rebellion
– The beginning of action.
A tiny sunbeam through the window
– Doing again.