A guest post from Andy Salkeld, author of Life is a Four-Letter Word (out 14 May).
Medium really is a defining word of my life right now.
It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just in the middle.
I have a feeling many people will be feeling like this a lot of the time right now. We’re living in completely unprecedented and uncertain times. None of us know how this will all play out and from time to time that uncertainty can all get a little too much.
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with depression.
Four years ago, I almost took my own life.
Two years ago, I finally accepted what had happened and shared it with the world.
My life since that point has very much been one of rebuilding. Everything about me has changed in that time. I came into 2020 feeling comfortable in my life. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It was just comfortable. I hoped that 2020 might be the year that I could maybe, just maybe, find some happiness again.
And then there was a global pandemic.
Everything I had worked so hard to find again could all be lost in a heartbeat. It almost was. There was a point at the beginning of lockdown where I rationalised suicide again. Some days I still do. But as I faced my greatest boss battle, loneliness and isolation, I thought to myself “I have to at least try. Not necessarily for me, but for all those people who have supported me on my journey.”
And that is a defining theme of my life since my ‘almost end’.
There are others out there who have far more interesting and inspiring stories. I’m ‘just another guy’ from Yorkshire. What I have to say probably isn’t that important. So why do I keep saying it and keep sharing it? Well, at my ‘almost end’, it wasn’t that people didn’t care about me or didn’t want to be there for me. No. It was that they didn’t know. They didn’t know how much I was struggling or even what I was struggling with. And it wasn’t because they weren’t paying attention or weren’t caring. It was because I hid it away in shame and never spoke of it for the fear of what it could mean.
There are countless out there struggling with their mental health. The statistics we hear all the time are that one in four of us will struggle at some point each year. We know suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 42. I share my story for them, for the countless many who struggle through in silence. I share my story and what’s happened in my life to hopefully give them confidence that they’re not alone in how they’re feeling or struggling. I do it so they can have hope that there are ways through the darkness.
Mental health has very much become my life, my passion and my soul.
Since lockdown has begun here in the UK, countless people and organisations have asked me for comment on how best to support their people are their mental health during these times. This is a conversation that has been waiting to happen for years and only now has it been brought to the forefront of conversation.
Now really is a time for all of us; employers, employees, businesses and individuals to stop, pause and review. We can choose to build a brighter tomorrow and we can choose to not just return to ‘normal’. We can take elements from the old normal sure, take elements that we’ve learned from lockdown and we can shape them all into something that can enable us all to flourish and be happy. We all have that choice!
I will be having a very open and honest conversation with Alison Jones of Practical Inspiration Publishing on Wednesday 13 May where we will be talking about all things mental health. I’ll be sharing thoughts — and feelings! — from my life now and also my upcoming book Life is a Four-Letter Word.
Please feel free to join Alison and I as we grapple with the question, ‘How Are You?’: register here.
just another guy
Life is a Four-Letter Word: A mental health survival guide for professionals, is available from 14 May 2020 ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week. Life is a Four-Letter Word tells Andy’s full story and is a straight-talking, searingly honest, no bullsh!t, yet humour-filled account of what it’s like to struggle with depression, plan your suicide and then step back. It’s only 99p for preorder on Kindle until 14 May 2020.