One of Belfast’s most forward thinking DJ’s and co-founder of the highly regarded, long running Belfast club night Twitch! took to his personal Facebook page yesterday to offer a heartfelt and honest summary of his life and mental health.
Phil Lucas posted a thought provoking, honest and inspiring story of his battle with mental health.
We believe that people of influence and respect in all walks of life should use that power to spread the message that its ok to talk about your personal struggles as it may help others to face challenges that they may also be going through.
Below is Phil’s story…
This week is mental health awareness week and I wanted to share my story of the last year and a half or so in regards to mental health in the hope that it helps someone going through something similar to me. Every person is different, every situation is different and sadly there is no all-encompassing answer for what will make you feel better if you are going through a difficult time.
I have always been a positive person and would always take the good from even difficult situations. Even though I’d had a few completely shite things happen to me during my teens, my dad passed away when I was 13, I got held up at gunpoint and pistol whipped and I also got bullied pretty badly at school after my Dad’s death, some shitty things that I always felt overcoming attributed to my general positivity as an adult.
All of a sudden, mainly in work, I started to suffer from a real lack of confidence that got worse over time and affected my mood. I started suffering from depression and my lack of confidence started to leak into other areas of my life, running Twitch and DJing, driving, being a dad, being a husband, everything, I felt suffocated by it.
Depression clouded my judgement, I lost the ability to see and recognise the good things in my life. To me I was a shit dad, a shit employee, a shit husband and my overthinking and catastrophizing everything meant that I was having more issues in each of these roles. I became really difficult to deal with, mainly at home and I am very grateful to have a very understanding wife who put up with me in a really shitty, bad place in my life.
Areas in which I was previously confident now crippled me. Financial stress, thoughts of losing my Dad, feeling like my family and work would be better off without me, I was in a really low place, I thought if I drove into a lamp post and died the world would be better off.
This wasn’t true.
These feelings came at a time when as a Dad I had 2 brilliant kids who love me to bits, as a husband I had a wife who even though I was moody, difficult to deal with and impatient still loved me and was patient and understanding, as a DJ I played the Boiler Room, as a promoter I was arranging some of the biggest shows I’d been involved with, in work I was part of a really high performing team, but I couldn’t see it like that. I saw the financial stress of promoting, the nerves of DJing, the thought of being the weak link at work, the fear I was a poor father and husband, none of these were rational.
I needed help, I took action, I spoke to the doctor, I was lucky to have support from my job and was able to get access to CBT which helped massively for me, I felt like I was wrestling my way out of depression. I spoke to my wife, I spoke to my family about how I was feeling and it lifted a huge weight off me. Depression had made me really insular emotionally and talking to people broke me out of it. I was never brave enough to put a proper post up about it but commented with my experiences under any other posts I saw where people were having issues. I had a few people say that knowing someone else is going through something similar is assuring and that’s what I hope people take from this post.
So between CBT and eventually accepting medication from the doctor I was back on track. I worked really hard to challenge my confidence issues in all these areas of my life and felt after a few months that I wasn’t just back on top of things, I felt like I was back to my best, my confidence went through the roof.
It took one thing to knock my confidence, again work related, and this time it wasn’t depression that hit me, it was anxiety. It started in the evenings, where I was once uncomfortable I now felt like I was having a heart attack, tight chested, uncomfortable and incapable of sleeping at night. I was tired all day, sleeping in small 2 hour amounts, usually just after I got home from work and from 4am to 6am after a night of lying awake.
I woke up one morning and didn’t go to work, I phoned work and said I needed a break. Shortly after this I had a pre-surgical examination that uncovered a potential heart issue, I instantly went from being anxious at night to being anxious most of the time, I felt broken. I was off work for an extended period and didn’t feel like I was getting better, I struggled in social situations, practically missing my daughter’s birthday party as I struggled among people and stayed in the kitchen keeping myself busy.
My Dad had died of a heart a attack and I thought this was what was wrong with me. I revisited what I had learnt in CBT but it wasn’t helping, I changed medication but was told this would be difficult and take time, I eventually tried counselling and this helped massively. I grew to really look forward to my phone sessions as a means to dissect how I was feeling and what might be causing anxiety. I learnt what was normal to be anxious about and where I was being unnecessarily worried about things.
I went off Facebook for a while, I avoided the news for a while, things that would sometimes trigger anxiety. I grew less anxious about the heart investigations knowing that yes I should be concerned but this was a good thing that it had been identified, it turned out to be nothing serious.
I now feel like I’m in a much better place, I’m not up and down, I’m balanced and I’m realistic that I will have things that test me and I need to be rational and level-headed to challenge them. I see how much those I know and love would miss me if I had done something stupid but something that seemed like an escape at the time. I see that there is so much good in my life and I have so much love, support and help on tap but at my worst I couldn’t see any of it.
Put yourself and your own mental health first and don’t worry about other people’s perception of you. For me putting myself first meant speaking out before I did something stupid, it meant accepting help (medicinal and psychological), it meant breaking out of the suffocation of depression.
Other people are going through it, please speak out, please do what you need to do to get better, please take time to focus on mental health issues before they get out of control, please don’t do anything stupid when crippled with depression or anxiety, more people than you know care. I’ve lost people I know to suicide and I can see how they felt, it’s an illness and one that is criminally under-supported in the UK. I’m not religious in any way, personally I feel like giving gratitude to a higher power would take away from my achievements in challenging this, so I thank myself and those who helped me out of where I was. I’m eternally grateful to my CBT therapist, to my counsellor, to my wife, my family, my friends, my workmates, even those who I barely know that helped me and I chatted with on Facebook. Some of you can’t even begin to imagine how important your concern and support was.
Anybody suffering the same or similar feelings, speak out, you’ll be surprised how many people genuinely care.
*sorry for the extremely long-winded post*
This is an important image to me, its from when Joel was born, he was born with a true knot in his cord and had to be resuscitated for almost 15 minutes, I needed an escape during this and saw this out the window, I took the photo and turned back to Joel who opened his eyes for the first time, it always reminds me how lucky we are to be here, never forget that.
*photo from Misfit / Thompsons Garage