Josh talks mental health
Social media is a funny thing. We can openly post our happy holiday photographs, our food, our days out with friends and our selfies when we look our best. We show people a side of us, through filters and 101 deleted photos that didn’t make the cut - but we hide the real us, creating a false perspective. So how would anyone know if we weren’t okay?
One evening about a year ago, I was scrolling through all my ‘happy posts’ and realised something was missing. So, I got typing on my Facebook page. I posted reality, from the true me. I’d never spoken about the true me for fear of how I would be perceived, what people would think of me, how different people may act around me. I felt sick to my stomach before I posted my message. I re-read what I’d typed many times, doubting whether I ought to send it… but eventually I did.
So back to my life story and what led me to that point just over 12 months ago…
My name is Josh, I’m an emergency gas engineer from Westbury. I’m 26 and have battled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. I used to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless.
I remember being 13, a happy, but very quiet child, pretending to be sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school – and probably be put in a bin…again. The fear I felt was paralysing; around every corner. It was unbearable. I needed an out and it was around this time, I first thought, I’ll give it a try. So, one night I got home, I shut myself in the bathroom, I got a razor blade, and I cut myself…and it hurt. And this became my way of coping with the really bad days… until it didn’t hurt any more. I wanted someone to stop me, but I also didn’t want anyone to know.
10 years went by, I still didn’t know where I fitted in. I had my good days, I had my bad. I still worried about what was around every corner. I would sit for hours doing nothing, feeling nothing at all, just emptiness. I was told I had nothing to be depressed about, and it was ‘just a phase.’ I bottled up my problems for 10 years. 10 years of carrying around pain and suffering, not telling anyone, hoping they would disappear, panic attack after panic attack, drink after drink. I found distractions and coping methods, but never faced it head on. Until I reached the point when I couldn’t face it anymore. For the first time in a long time, I crashed, and I hit an all-time low, I sat up all night pouring my heart out in a letter - and I knew I had a choice to make.
I made the right choice - to talk. I got professional help and support from my family and friends. For the first time in my life, I felt myself. I was happy. The weight was lifted from me, but that letter stays with me, and from time to time, I read it and I realise how far I have come.
From that day on, I made a promise to be open and honest about my issues. There are people that care, and that’s one thing I’ve learnt since being here. Wales & West Utilities is not just a job, it’s a family. No matter who you ring, I can promise you that people do genuinely care. We now have Wellbeing Champions and Mental Health First Aiders to help you through. And I’m proud to be one of them. Our contact numbers are readily available on our intranet, and on posters in our Depots if anyone ever needs support.
So Mental Health Awareness Week is really important to me. A chance for people – anybody, big burly gas engineers included, to feel safe, to talk about their mental health, to listen and to change lives. Please do not suffer in silence. I did for too long – and it was only by talking that I found myself again.