This piece was sent to me by a dear friend of mine, Leo McGuinn. It’s a very personal piece and it took great strength for him to write it. There’s immense power in vulnerability and hopefully this piece from Leo can help those who need it. It’s okay to not be okay. If you want to get in contact with Leo, you can find him on Instagram: @leomcguinn. LW

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On 24th December 2019 I came very close to killing myself.

This is the first time I have ever fully admitted this to anyone, even myself. I have alluded to it but I’ve still never written it down. It’s a really hard thing to admit, and has taken me a while to do it.

I’m not 100% sure why I’m writing this. In fact, I’m almost certain that this will never be seen by anyone except for me. I’m ok with that, I’m hoping that this can be cathartic and allow me to release some stuff I have had pent up for a while.

I wanted to say let’s go back to the start but I’m not really sure when that is.

To be totally honest with you, I don’t actually know when I realised, I have depression. I think I was maybe 16 when I first realised that there was something wrong with me. When I was 18 I realised it was depression.

It made sense. Several people in my family have suffered from depression during their life. It’s something I never admitted to anyone, most importantly myself. I always told myself I was just feeling down but it wasn’t real depression. I told myself that I just wanted attention, and I feared people wouldn’t believe me or would see me differently if I admitted it.

I always felt I had to be on around my friends, entertaining, being funny, not showing any signs of anything affecting me. And for years that worked fine, when I hung about with friends I never felt down, it was only when I’d come home my mood would dip and I’d spend time alone in my room, in the grips of an awful illness.

Everything changed two years ago. I moved abroad, far away, with a group of friends. It was hands down, the most brilliant two years of my life, but it brought challenges I hadn’t planned for.

Suddenly I was with my friends 24/7, I couldn’t be on in front of them and then go home and sit in a dark room. They were at home, they would notice.

The feelings I so desperately repressed, as if otherwise they’d come spewing out like a faulty fire hydrant, began to grow. It became harder and harder to hide a genuine mental illness, both from others and myself.

Christmas Eve came along, I was doing ok. Great friends, decent job, personal life fine. There was five of us living in the house and three were away for the festive period just leaving me and one of my friends there. We drank and watched a movie and had a nice time.

Lying in bed that night was the most desolate I have ever felt. I didn’t want to be there, and in truth, I didn’t want to be anywhere. I felt an overwhelming need to talk to someone, otherwise I might do something I would later regret, something that there is no way back from. I googled numbers and online chats, searching for someone I could share this feeling of dread growing within me.

It was Christmas Eve, well it had technically ticked over into Christmas Day now, there was no one to talk to, of course there wasn’t. I suddenly felt very alone. Looking back now and knowing what I know that is an incredibly stupid thing to think, of course I wasn’t alone.

In my mind, all other options had been exhausted, and there was only one, extremely final option left. I started to think about the area where I lived, where could I go? It was too late for trains, and besides I didn’t want to have that on someone’s conscience. For some reason my brain kept on going back to a reserve near where I was living. I thought about turning on the light and putting some clothes on. I can tell you now I am so glad I didn’t. I genuinely believe that had I made that small step I probably wouldn’t be here to write this today.

Through pure mental exhaustion I fell asleep. At this point I think it’s so important to stress two things. This is my experience and unique to me, people will experience things differently and some of the ‘solutions’ I talk about might not help anybody, but if they make one person think or talk or do something about how they’re feeling, then it’s worth it. Secondly, I want to point out that my experience on Christmas Eve was a moment, a fleeting moment of pure stupidity. I didn’t feel like this all the time, it was just an overwhelming feeling in that moment that I am so thankful I did not act on.

Anyway, I woke up on Christmas Day and I was still miserable but I did the worst thing possible. I rationalised how I had felt the night before. This is what I always did and how I managed to never admit to my depression. “I just had a bad day” or “I guess I’m just homesick” were the sort of excuses I would use. Despite coming very close to doing something unthinkable I did the worst thing I possibly could. I did nothing.

I had a nice New Year, went camping with friends, swam, drank and laughed. No-one would think this was a man in a battle for his life.

The festive period came and went, I went back to work and the mundane nature of every day life. That was until one day in late January. I remember sitting at my desk at work and just wanting to break down. I could barely work and somehow managed to hide my true feelings from my colleagues.

Walking home it took every ounce of energy not to just lie down on the street and start sobbing. I got back to the house and put on a feeble smile as I excused myself from my housemates and headed straight to my room.

Luckily, I have great friends. They clearly noticed I was off. My best friend, knocked on my door. She looked worried. One sentence “Are you ok?” was enough, I broke down. The tears flowed and it took a long time for them to stop. I told her everything, and I admitted that I really wasn’t ok.

She listened to me, and was clearly surprised by my revelations but comforted me and spent a long time with me. She encouraged me to ring my mum back home, which I did and which was the best thing I could have possibly done.

She told me to go to the doctor, explained that this wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s an illness, it just happens you can’t see it.

The moment I talked about it, I felt better. I’m not going to sit here and tell you talking about it fixes everything, it doesn’t, it’s still there but it’s the start of getting better. A huge weight that I had been carrying for as long as I could remember.

I got put on medication, and just the act of doing something made me feel better. I’m not going to lie and say everything has been brilliant since then, I’ve had a couple of really tough moments.

I’ve also done some stupid things, I moved back from abroad and my medication ran out. I decided I would be ok. You’re probably thinking how incredibly stupid this is and you would be completely right.

Later that week I had a bad day, I mean, a really bad day. I remember standing waiting for a train and I didn’t feel emotional at all, it was strange. It just suddenly made complete sense how removing myself from this life would be better for everyone. Luckily I admitted to my mum I wasn’t feeling great and she insisted I ring the doctor immediately and take medication again, which I did.

I’m going to have more bad days, I know that. But when you admit a problem, and you do something about it, and you talk. That’s when there will be more good days than bad.

I’m writing this on the 23rd December 2020, almost exactly a year after I came very close to making an awful decision that would mean I wasn’t writing these words right now.

I am so glad that I got lucky. I got lucky that I have great friends. I got lucky that I have great family. I got lucky.

I’m now in a good place. Living in a good city and have started a new adventure.

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this, I haven’t decided what to do with this yet. If I decide to to put this somewhere and it is read by one or two people, then I hope this rambling pile of words makes some sort of sense.

I know it’s self-indulgent, but to be honest I’m mainly writing this for myself. But, if someone does read this, and it helps them in even the smallest way possible. If they make a small step of opening up and just talking to someone, anyone, then it is absolutely worth it.

You’re not alone, not now, not ever.