My battle with depression: 'I have gone to sleep at night hoping I do not wake up the following morning'
In a deeply moving and candid article, Stuart Hughes (23), from Lisburn, a trainee associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers and member of the UUP, writes about how he has been battling depression since his schooldays
This is probably one of the most difficult pieces I have ever had to write. But it is one that I feel I must write, in the hope that my experiences will help someone, somewhere even if just momentarily.
I have, for around the past seven years now, suffered with depression.
Many of you will be thinking, how exactly is that possible? The nice middle-class boy who went to Friends Grammar School in Lisburn, has all the nice holidays and lives in suburbia - how can he suffer from a mental illness?
Well, it is possible, it can affect any of us, and this is my story.
In writing this piece I am conscious of the fact that people will question my motivations. Some will think that I am simply doing it for attention; others will, I am sure, be surprised. Let me just say that my motivations for writing this piece are mixed.
On the one hand I want to show those out there who are having similar problems that it is time to talk. On the other hand, rather selfishly, I feel like I need to get this off my chest and that I can stop lying to so many people.
Mental health is a complex area and I am no expert.
What I do know is that too many of us are suffering and too many of us are suffering in silence. In Northern Ireland the problem is particularly acute and I am not convinced that it is being taken seriously enough by the right people.
My own experience with poor mental health began when I was still in school and it stemmed mostly from a lack of self-esteem and self-worth.
A confidence to speak up in class and particularly on the political issues of the day was not matched by a confidence to speak up in a social circumstance.
This is something that I still struggle with to this day, particularly with women.
I am not ashamed to say this, it is the way I am and anyone who knows me will have noticed it.
I have been in tears in my bed, in bars, in places of education and many other places. I have gone to sleep hoping I do not wake up in the morning.
Why have I felt this way? I don't know and I probably never will.
I just wanted to be the same as every other person growing up that I knew, with the girlfriend, the degree and everything else that is expected of us.
I have achieved none of those things, despite having opportunities that others could only dream of.
The pain that I have gone through over the past number of years is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. It is a pain that continues to this day.
I have dealt with it in many different ways. Alcohol being one.
Do I drink too much? Probably not.
Do I drink to forget about things that play on my mind? Yes. I still do now.
To be able to feel relaxed and not worry about why someone says something, why somebody doesn't reply to my message and why they ignore someone on a night out requires alcohol for me.
I'm not ashamed of this. It is just the reality of the way my mind operates.
I've been on and off medication as well and sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't.
What has helped is talking. Talking with friends has helped me understand my problems and also realise that I was never alone, despite at times feeling incredibly lonely.
I have been incredibly lucky to be blessed with some very good friends. Suffering from a mental illness helps you work out who your true friends are very quickly and those who will stand by you no matter what.
My great interests in life are politics and cricket.
Politics is a blood sport, there is no doubt about that.
I can honestly say that there are very few people I trust in it.
I am, however, proud to be a member of a party with a leader who seriously wants to tackle the mental health problem in this country and Mike Nesbitt should be applauded for his stance on these issues.
The pain continues until this day and has become particularly acute over the past number of weeks for a variety of reasons.
Being alone is definitely one of those.
Feeling isolated and frustrated at personal circumstance can affect anyone as I've found out.
I hope by writing this piece I will encourage others to come forward and deal with the problems that they may face.
I am not perfect, I have made many mistakes and hurt many people along the way and for that I will always be sorry.
But I do believe we cannot deal with our problems unless we first admit that we have one.
I am hopeful one day that I won't feel the way I do now.
But that is for the future.
For now it is simply about dealing with one day at a time.
If you are affected by any issues in this article, contact Lifeline on 0808 8088000 or The Samaritans on 08457 909090