Why does Lifting the Stigma exist?
In January 2016, I was admitted to hospital after a suicide attempt, I stayed as an in-patient for 3 months and was then discharged. A few weeks later, I returned after a second suicide attempt. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, something that it’s taken me a long time to understand. I’d hear the term ‘’manic-depressive’’ banded about but never took time to think about what it meant.
The root of my mental health illness started with the loss of a close friend whilst in the Army – a topic that I won’t discuss publicly as he’s no longer here to put his thoughts out here, but it is something I will discuss on a one to one basis. I didn’t realise I was struggling, I thought my behaviour was normal, I didn’t realise that I was alienating those close to me and destroying relationships without intent. With my diagnosis did not come immediate relief and recovery.
It took me until August this year to fully understand my diagnosis; to comprehend how much I would have to make changes to my lifestyle in order to successfully manage my treatment and medication. I did this on my own, even though I could have asked for support … I was stubborn. The key turning point in my life was when I went to a Help For Heroes Powerlifting training camp. I found there was a lot of like-minded people who had all battled their own demons and managed to put them aside and on focus on the sport they were doing. By engaging with training programs, focusing on getting into the gym each day, I feel that I’ve made a huge turn in my life. I no longer drink alcohol to excess, I have solid relationships with my family, I’m debt free and able to enjoy each and every day.
I still struggle, the medication takes it’s toll on me on each day and it’s not the easiest. But, I know I can turn to anyone I’ve found in this sport that I absolutely love and ask for some help if I need it. My lightbulb moment came in the gym, when I realised I had various coaching and instructor qualifications that I wasn’t putting to use. I also realised that when training with a group of blokes, we were all a lot more open about the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Sit an average man down in a room and ask him to talk about his feelings and chances are you’re not going to get a full and frank response. But throw him under a 100kg bench press and get him talking and you’d be surprised what comes out. I’m now in a position to help others, to offer them assistance and guide them through the minefield of a mental health diagnosis. But I’m also there to be a friendly ear to anyone who is just having a rough time, to be there as counsel and offer some guidance and support as needed.
Lifting The Stigma will always be here to help anyone, any time, any place. The hardest thing you’ll ever do is ask for help, but once you have done, everything gets easier. It may sound like rhetoric you’ve heard a thousand times over, but trust me, things do get easier.