John, Client with SHP Westminster Mental Health Service

John, a client at out Westminster Mental Health Community Support Service, lived with his mental health problems for most of his adult life until he finally sought help. This mental Health Awareness Week, he has blogged about why it’s always OK to ask for help.

At the age of 52, I finally admitted that I have mental health issues. I found myself in a mental health hospital, where I spent seven months coming to terms with feelings that I have had my entire adult life – I had chosen to ignore them, because this kind of thing happens to other people, not me. Right?

Looking back, it all started in my childhood. I was totally scared of my mother, who used to beat me. I was disappointed in my father, who I love dearly, as he did nothing to come to my aid.

In my mother's eyes I could do no right. No matter how many prizes I won at school, I always could have done better, even when I won the top prize in my final year at primary school. At 16, I wanted to stay at school and get qualifications to go to university. But my mother said no, and told me that I had to get a job and contribute to the household. I challenged her for the first time, so she threw me out and I headed off to London.

I lied about my age to get a job as a Barman in a pub which offered accommodation. I could now relax, save some money and get on with my life.

I always found it difficult to share details about me.

Two years later I shared the flat with two friends who always had lots of money, and drove fancy sports cars. They worked as self-employed salesmen, and I thought to myself ‘This must be easy!’, so I managed to get an interview and was offered the job. I worked my way up, and became a sales director, and I got my fancy car.

Even though on the surface it looked as if I was living the life, I always found it difficult to share details about me. I was jealous of my friends who had come from a ‘normal’ family background, and were supported by their wives, girlfriends and parents.

I threw myself into work

I didn’t ever feel happy – so I threw myself into work. My default mode was to work seven days a week, traveling the length and breadth of the country, often working 12 to 15 hour days. I’d then find a bar to drink myself silly in, so that I could fall asleep.

I didn’t have time to acknowledge my fears or anxiety, or my past. I was trying to escape, and using alcohol and my busy working life as a crutch. I continued to live this way for years.

I lost my job in December 2011, and found myself homeless. I hit rock bottom, and the only way I could see out was suicide. It was during a conversation with a nurse at the homeless shelter where I was living, that I started to talk about my feelings and I admitted that I was contemplating suicide. That’s when I learnt that it’s OK to talk, it’s OK to ask for help.

A revelation

They referred me to a crisis team, and I started to get intense therapy on a daily basis. I needed help with coping with daily life, which is when I met my SHP support worker who has been a revelation.

Looking back I truly believe that this was the start of my second recovery. Pure and simply because I asked for help. And now I'm starting to believe that there is a future for me after all. I now have a safe and secure platform to begin my recovery.

Just reach out and ask for help

So I have a long way to go, but from the moment I asked for help the darkness starting to lift, and my life was made just more than bearable. One thing that I would say to anybody going through any sort of mental health crisis is however hard it may be, just reach out and ask for help, and I promise you that you will be surprised by just how many people and organisations will be willing to come to your aid.

If you need to ask for help with your mental health, The Mental Health Foundation has lots of advice and information.