When it comes to advice on how to overcome depression, who should we listen to?
I write a lot about making changes if you think you have depression; being fat and depressed is what I talk about mostly as I am in the fitness and weight loss industry. I’m not an expert of the mind. I don’t have qualifications in psychology, psychotherapy, counselling or anything else related to matters of mental health – none whatsoever.
I write and talk about the subject though because of what I see on a daily basis. I write about it because I know how to overcome depression and I consider myself a success story.
I write about it because I believe it is my duty and obligation.
Working as a personal fitness trainer and health coach I often get to see people at rock bottom and sometimes I get to see them progress into being the very best versions of themselves. Not always, I don’t have 100% success and anyone in my industry who tells you they do is lying but I do see a lot of success and when people are succeeding I always ask them for their number one tip.
We can read all sorts of articles on the “best” exercise for this or the “best” food for that but if you ask someone who has succeeded then there is no better evidence than the advice given from a champion. That’s why I sometimes give advice on depression and the mental health of someone who is struggling because I think I’m a champion!
There are many who see me as being unsympathetic, as someone who takes a hard line because I use language like “just get on with it, man up, do it, crack on, tick tock, it won’t happen by itself” etc and I can understand why it may appear that I don’t have empathy.
“Oh it’s alright for him, he’s super fit, does all his sport, goes on a nice holiday and does cool stuff. It’s not that easy for me. I hate my job but can’t leave cos the money is good. I hate the way I look because I’m fat but I’ve tried to change but I’m useless and have no will power. I hate my home. I don’t love my partner anymore. I would change but I can’t.”
Sound familiar? Do you speak about me like that or do you speak of others like that?
You know something – it’s true! I am so happy right now it’s unreal. I have amazing health, I’m super fit, I love my sport, I love my family, I love my girlfriend, I have all their love in return, I love my job, I love my weekends, I love almost every minute of every day. I’ve never had it so good. The question then is HOW has this life of mine come about?
Am I lucky because I enjoy my life?
Am I like Forest Gump and I just keep having a series of fortunate events happening to me every month?
Will I win the lottery next week?
Will I continue to get faster times with my rowing and cycling?
Will my business start growing incredibly?
WHY am I so damn happy?
Well what you don’t see, what I don’t talk about, what you don’t know is what came before I was so damn happy!
I’m 47 years old at time of writing but this sudden upsurge in social media activity, my 30% increase in personal coaching, my increased happiness has only been around for the last 4 years. In fact it’s safe to say that from the age of around 15 to 43 I have been and regularly experienced varying levels of depression. I’ll even say that if there were a Top Trumps of depression I’d beat many of those hating on me hands down.
I spent my latter teenage years in turmoil not understanding where I was going in life. I had no guidance, no direction and the only people I had who I thought I could rely on were in the same mess as me getting wasted every weekend on whatever we could get our hands on. My single parent mum wanted me out of the house, I had crap jobs with no future, no girlfriend, no ambition, nothing.
On reflection I understand now that they were huge cries for help: but I had three major suicide attempts resulting in stays in hospital.
After marrying a mother figure who spent our ten years together looking after me, we divorced and I went on to a succession of failed relationships with women who I thought it would work with. When it didn’t work I blamed them. I thought they were the unreasonable ones for dumping me. I blamed them for my unhappiness. If only they loved me life would be so amazing….
Each time a relationship ended I spent weekends for years with my head at the bottom of a bottle of vodka and loathed every second of it. I hated myself and if it wasn’t for the fact I was a father and would no way ditch my daughters I know I would have considered suicide again. I now know that I was so desperately unhappy most of my adult life and you know what?
I thought that was normal. I thought that was the way it was for many and that I should just accept it. Life’s a bitch and then you die!
Now we all have problems and I’m not saying that mine are any greater than anyone else’s but what I am saying is that I know what depression is and I know how hard it is to get out of that situation. I KNOW. I don’t theorise or learn it from books, I KNOW because I have lived it.
So why am I not depressed anymore? Why am I so damn happy? Why is life so bloody amazing for me?
Because one day I decided that the pain was so unbearable I could no longer live the way I was living. Enough was enough and I was taking charge of my life and come hell or high water I was going to be happy as a pig in shit from that day forth. So what happened?
Well like I’m always saying – I TOOK ACTION.
I decided to go and see a counsellor and ask for help. I wailed like a baby on that lady’s floor begging for her to help. I’ve never cried so much in my adult life and I was desperate. The first few sessions were spent with me blaming other people for my unhappiness and stating that only if this or that were to happen then I would be happy but that wasn’t the real reason I was unhappy and she knew it. She carefully picked away at my life, steadily unlocking pieces bit by bit until eventually the penny dropped.
Everything that was happening in my life I was in control of and I could either accept it or change it. The relief was incredible and I seriously owe my life to that woman.
Everything began to appear clear all of a sudden.
My girlfriends left me because once the initial fun was over I became needy. I needed them to love me instead of me being strong and reliable for them.
I didn’t value myself.
I thought I wasn’t worthy – still do in many ways!
I thought success wasn’t for people like me.
I thought happiness wasn’t for people like me.
I would accept defeat.
I was satisfied simply going through life and accepting whatever happened.
I lived my life that way until I woke up and understood it didn’t have to be. It’s not supposed to be. It damn well won’t be!
My counsellor gave me the “tools to facilitate my own outcome” and I worked as hard as I could to make my outcome the way I wanted it to be. I could be as happy as I wanted to be. I could do whatever I wanted to do. I could travel here, there and everywhere and do whatever I wanted when I got there. I could speak to who I wanted to, read what I wanted to and keep working to be who I wanted to be. It was amazing. Every moment of every day I grew.
The neediness I had for women was the most significant thing to go. Where I used to constantly scroll through dating sites and ask friends if they had friends who would go out with me (so I could be loved again) I completely sacked off and in the four years from 2013 to 2017 I barely had 10 dates. I wasn’t interested in chasing anymore. I enjoyed my own company more than anyone else’s. I went to the cinema on my own, for walks on my own, holidayed on my own and it was ace and from not caring about myself I began to love myself again. Brilliant!
What happened as a result of all that? I became interesting again.
Where women could see desperation and anger in me they now saw someone who was fun to be around. I became busier with work too. I radiated positivity and continue to do so.
Making the change from someone who was unhappy to the way I am now was hard and it was lonely and it was far from easy. It was a struggle many times to keep myself from being upset but I cracked on with it because I knew that even if it was two steps forward and one back at times, life was ultimately moving in the direction I wanted it to move.
Things may go wrong again by the way. I’m not saying I’ve got it sorted. I’ve still got a good few years left of my life and I expect to deal with some hardship of which I might struggle very badly with but I KNOW how to get out of any difficult situation I may encounter and that is by TAKING ACTION.
So do I know about depression and how to overcome it? Yes I do, and I’ll dismiss anyone who tells me otherwise no matter how many letters they have after their name.
I’ll never tell you it’s easy to make yourself happy if you are in the depths of despair but I will tell you it’s possible, no matter what your situation or what has happened to you in the past. It is very possible but you have to TAKE ACTION and you will only take action once your current pain becomes so unbearable you decide to no longer allow it in your life.