The response to my blog—my admission, disclosure, call it what you will—was totally unexpected. I was humbled both by the sheer number of positive messages I received, and also the fact that a few friends felt able to mention their own personal struggles, long hidden from the outside world.
My own life had changed so much since the belated realisation and acceptance that I needed help; and the even harder step of actually asking for help. That was back in 2004 and a decade later I felt ready to use my story to try and somehow “make a difference”.
I didn’t (don’t and never will) have a public profile, nor do I possess any particular talent or skill that would make me stand out, but I had the idea (in almost Archimedean circumstances… don’t try and picture the scene) to set myself a series of “challenges”, and it would be through the planning, preparation and (hopeful) completion of the various tasks that I would draw parallels and show just what can be achieved by asking for help.
I wasn’t offering any sort of magic cure… I don’t believe there is one; but for me, medication brought the objective clarity to prevent certain situations and feelings becoming overwhelming, and when the really bad days came, I was so lucky that Elaine’s love, understanding and support were always there—she is amazing xx
2014 was devoted to the charity Mind, and since then I have been working with Time to Change, for which I registered as a “Champion” (as in the Wonder Horse). My first involvement with the programme was to write a blog for their website, in which I tried to explain the effects of my condition; how it made me feel… and how much stronger I have ultimately become. The article received a few replies and comments; this was one: “Richard, your story really did strike me in a way that other pieces of writing haven't before.
“It describes so much for me in terms of being told it would be best if I see a doctor even though I was scared to. It took a year until I eventually sought help. I remember the feelings of that doctor’s visit… getting upset when speaking to my GP.
“My family didn't know anything about my depression until I had to be forced to tell them. I tried counselling but it didn't work for me; I'm now on antidepressants and they are working as they're helping me fight back and giving me a way of coping with these feelings I'm experiencing, but also helping me help myself a little bit more. This story brings me hope that I can still have a life and depression doesn't have to control me. I do still struggle but I'm finding a way to live my life. Lots of love Dionne x”
I don’t know anything about Dionne, but to have perhaps made a small difference to a total stranger meant such a lot, and justified everything about talking so openly and honestly about a subject some are still more comfortable avoiding.
To look at me, I don’t think anyone would necessarily guess I have had a chronic (albeit thankfully mild) condition for almost as long as I can remember. Equally, I suppose no one would guess I’m left-handed… nor would they guess I am deaf in my right ear—but I am, and I am (in that order). But dysthymia is part of me; it will always be a part of me… and in a sense it’s only because of a condition (that still impacts on every single day of my life), that I have met some genuinely inspirational people, I’ve had some fantastic experiences, learned a lot about myself; but most importantly of all, I’ve tried my best to make a difference.
I may not succeed—just like I haven’t succeeded in taking a leg off the BDO world no.1 Glen Durrant (definitely one of those “inspirational people”)—but I have to keep trying… because one day, you just never know.