It took a long time for Tom to find the right support and he still battles with his mental health today – here he tells his story.
My mental health problems first started when I was 16 – but it wouldn’t be until I was 28 that I finally got the right medication and a diagnosis that made sense.
That’s 12 years. 12 years… If doctors were able to give me the right support earlier, it could have been life-changing.
Research can help us understand why mental illnesses occur and how best we can treat it. At the moment, the options are so limited.
In my teens, the idea of mental illness was completely alien to me. I was referred to CAHMS at 16 but the session made me feel like I was in trouble. I used to try and be as polite as possible to the counsellor, rather than telling her how I was truly feeling.
I was just trying to deal with it all on my own.
At university, the depression really took a grip on me and ultimately prevented me from completing my degree. The pressure of deadlines left me crippled by dark days in my room.
In my final year, I got to a point where I couldn’t actually move – the anxiety and depression swirled together, paralysing me. I made the decision to return home.
My mum has battled depression for many years. She’s been amazing and understood what I was going through and wanted to get me help.
Once I got home I spoke with my GP who prescribed me anti-depressants. I self-referred to counselling, it took several months to guarantee a few sessions, and ultimately it didn’t help much.
The pressure began to build again when I moved in with my girlfriend and her three-year-old son. The combination of starting a new job, doing my part to provide for a home with a child and coping with a friend’s diagnosis of cancer led to a complete psychological breakdown.
I became manic and remained so for several months. I was, unknown to me, completely delusional. My mum and girlfriend took me to a psychiatric facility, where I stayed for two weeks in February. I was washed with delusion, thinking I was staying at a hotel.
When I was released I was still dipping in and out of psychosis. One day I just erratically drove miles away and arrived on my Uncle’s doorstep. I left behind a flat that needed paying for, a girlfriend and child I had responsibilities to, and a job I had just begun. I gave no warning.
I arrived in Kent to an Uncle alarmed and concerned. He set up daily mental health care and I was put on medication. I came out of the cloud of psychosis after a few weeks, but then spiralled down into a deep depression. It led to two suicide attempts and another stay in a psychiatric facility, this time for 8 weeks.
But when I came out of hospital, things weren’t easy. My relationship had ended, I had lost my job and had huge debt due to my delusional spending.
I was homeless and my only option was the YMCA. I felt isolated and hopeless, expressing my frustration through self-harm. Yet soon, it was here that I had my turning point. The social workers and counsellors got me back on my feet. I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and who corrected my medication.
I now have my own place and I feel more balanced psychologically. I have been doing volunteer work and recently helped refugees in France. Returning to play football, has improved my exercise routine, and given me confidence to rebuild social bridges. I’m fortunate to still have a supportive and important friend in my ex- girlfriend.
I continue to understand and battle bipolar and I hope to return to work soon.
Everyone needs to feel more in touch with what mental health is, its importance and how we can all keep healthy, because ultimately, we are all at risk.
If we can all become better at managing stress, low mood and anxiety, it won’t bubble up until it explodes.
MQ’s plan to focus on young people focuses on the problem where it begins; understanding which young people need support is crucial to being able to reduce mental illness in the long-term.
Last updated: 1 December 2017