Mark's Story

Mental ill health is always something that happens to someone else right? I’d never really thought about how it might affect me as I had genuinely thought I’d never experience it first-hand. I’d always been the rock for other people – I couldn’t suffer, could I?

How things can change in the blink of an eye. I was in a job I frankly hated – it came along and swept me up, but I’d never stopped to think if it was actually the right position for me. I had been burying my emotions for far too long in the British male tradition of ‘man-up’ – things could only get better. But they didn’t, they got worse. I’d promised myself I would leave before things got too bad for me, but I never did. How I wish I had listened to my heart earlier. I’d been through a tough few years outside of work, lots of ‘big stuff’ had happened around me, none of which I suppose I had processed properly, least of all shared and talked through. It had all been building up behind an emotional dam I think – that was ready to burst.

I was incredibly lonely in my work, surrounded by people who I didn’t know, and who I felt didn’t want to know me. I was in a leadership position, and as often happens, people around you think you are super human – and somehow built differently emotionally to everyone else. I was becoming increasingly unhappy and felt trapped – unable to influence my present or future. It was toxic, and yet I continued to bury my feelings, hoping desperately that something would change for the better, but nothing did.

Eventually, after a particularly bad stretch in the office, with confrontations all around me I broke in spectacular fashion. The dam failed and I didn’t see it coming, I couldn’t prepare for it, an outpouring of raw emotion just erupted. I had cracked, then splintered into a hundred pieces and it was terrifying. I didn’t know what to do, or how to carry on. I suddenly felt vulnerable, emotional, lonely and lost – almost useless overnight. How had this happened? I’d never felt so overwhelmed and didn’t know which way was up.

When I needed them most, I was fortunate to find Architect’s Benevolent Society and they were the safety net I previously didn’t know existed. I was thankfully ushered into some valuable emergency counselling – which brought me back from the emotional precipice I felt I was standing on through a lot of tears and talking. The freedom to talk openly and emotionally was essential and allowed me to fully appreciate the chemistry and physical effects of what had happened to me. It could have been very different. Fundamentally though I realised I had to stop. Stop everything and allow my brain some time to spin down from the extreme place it had ventured to. I was lucky to be supported by ABS to allow me to spend some time re-evaluating and away from the office. This time has been vital – I couldn’t carry on as I was and now I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve had a few early hiccups along the way – stressful situations can still be a challenge. I feel somehow emotionally supercharged if that makes sense? It is either highs or lows – but the frequency and extremes feel like they have subsided which is reassuring. I have learnt how to re-organise my thoughts and regain some sort of perspective. At the middle of this though is the realisation that things had got way, way out of control. It wasn’t my fault even though it felt like it was, but I needed to realise that before things could improve.

Slowly I feel like I have rebuilt my life – in a new direction, I hope. I’ve had to slow everything down and re-prioritise many things. There is still a long way to go – there has been lots of talking and re-aligning of my emotions and thoughts to allow me to get back to where I was before this all came crashing down around me. I feel like I have emerged from a long and essential reboot and looking forward to the completion of this process. I’m certainly ready for a change for the better.

I’m optimistic that a new direction and alignment of life’s priorities has helped – along with the fantastic love and support from my wife, family and friends that has seen me through along with the valuable support and resources of Architects Benevolent Society.

Remember to be gentle to yourself and if it doesn’t feel right – talk to someone about it before it’s too late. I’ve learnt that there is always a way through this complex thing we call life even though at times it felt like there was no way out.  It may take a lot of effort to find the path, but it’s worth fighting for.

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