My name is Christopher Stephens, I am 39 years old. I have suffered with Depression and Anxiety all my life, although its only been in the last 4 years that I have actively working towards helping myself after a breakdown in 2013. I have also tried to raise awareness towards mental health and trying to remove the stigma that surrounds this awful illness. I also volunteer for a local charity RSVP West Midlands (formally known as Rape Crisis) after they helped me, when I came forward that I was sexual abused at the age of 11.
Q1. Tell me a little about your mental illness and if you have sort help?
My depression can be debilitating, I have no desire to move, talk or interact. When I do interact, I’m irritable, often rude, I won’t eat and I mostly sleep a lot.
My Anxiety kicks in all the time whether I have a good day or not. Example, I have a best friend of 15years, we can discuss to go for a meal and drinks, however on the day of said meal, I have every urge not to go. I can think of millions of excuses and start fretting about all the horrible things that can happen on this meal out. Yet deep down I know that its with my best friend and that the likelihood is, that I will have fun and be home safe.
I have sort help by doctors, many hours of counselling, CBT and medication and attended a low mood group. After my breakdown in 2013 I found the courage to discuss my childhood, bullying, sexual abuse and a bad relationship with my mum and family. This was never easy to talk about, however the charity RSVP helped me with everything, the sexual abuse, my depression and anxiety and taught me self worth and coping strategies.
Q2. Have you taken antidepressants? If so what affect did they have on you? What advice
would you give to someone starting a course of antidepressants?
I am currently on antidepressants (Fluoxetine) I originally started on 20mg they had an effect on me on mainly morning as I would take them at night. I had vivid dream for a few months and struggled with my libido. These symptoms have now deteriorated even after recently upping my medication to 40mg.
My advice would be to give them a chance they can and do work, people associate these pills as a bad thing, yet take paracetamol for a headache. If you had diabetes you would need insulin, would that be such a problem? Yet there is a stigma taking anti-depressants, you have an illness which you may need to take medication for, no different to diabetes or a headache.
Q3. What coping strategies do you use on a bad day?
My wife is a wonderful coping strategy, I listen to music, go for walks and most importantly to be patient with myself. This has taken a very long time to learn. on very bad days it can take a long time for the strategies to work, however years ago it would have taken weeks to come out of my bad days, now with the help I have received and with antidepressants, my bad days are just that……. Days 😊
Q4. What effect do you think social media has had on your mental health? What affect do
you think it has on other people’s mental health?
Social media can be a strain for me, especially Facebook. I can take things the wrong way, make up my own bad thoughts, which could be the complete opposite. Then I feel sad and then act sad which can spiral to a bad day or days, I think that my anxiety doesn’t help with this either.
How it may affect others, in my opinion, Most people only post good things about themselves, a person with a mental illness may look at this as a negative and believe that their lives are not so important or in any way good. Reality is that the person posting, may also be struggling but the person with mental illness wouldn’t recognise this and my affect there whole day due to one post.
Q5. What changes would you like to see in raising awareness for mental health going
forward? What would you do? How do you think we can reduce the stigma surrounding it?
I strongly believe that the whole area of mental health should be taught in schools, teaching our children that they have self worth and teaching coping strategies in the young would improve awareness and our young can develop tools which they maybe able to use on others in the long run the next generation would be better prepared.
The problem with society is that there will always be people out there that would disagree with how mental health is seen. Even now we struggle with racism, homophobia and equality. These topics are often widely talked about, yet we still see these awful things happening in the world. The only way to reduce the stigma is to talk openly about it, such as we do regarding racism ect. I am not saying that they are the same in any way I am merely using it as a reference for my point and hope that I have not offended anyone. I talk openly about having Depression and anxiety and most are shocked when I explain how I get, my usual reaction is “ I would never have guessed, you always seem so bubbly” but just cos you cant see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Q6. Have you ever experienced stigma yourself? How did you deal with this?
I have not experienced the stigma personally. I have read comments online or overheard others talk about mental illness in an awful manner. I mainly try to ignore the comments, these people are just ignorant and unless it has happened to them then they wont understand it.
Q7. Finally, yay! I hear you say.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling in silence with their mental
Please don’t!! there is help out there and unfortunately so many people in similar circumstances as yourself. It will take some time but there is light at the end, when you feel like your at the bottom there is only one way you can go and that’s up!
In CBT one expression has always stuck with “if you always do, what you have always done…. You will always get, what you have always got”
You are worth, you have worth, you deserve better
Thank you so much for taking part Chris and sharing your personal experiences suffering with a mental illness.
Thank you for also sharing your advice to help others. 💚
You can find Chris here:
If you are suffering with a mental illness please don’t hesitate to seek help. There are some fantastic charities out there. Please see below:
Mental Health Hour on a Sunday evening uk time 9pm on twitter.