In September two years ago I left my job half way through my shift. I’d had enough. Enough of giving everything, leaving home at 6.00am and not getting home until 11.00pm, enough of working nonstop in a job where whatever I did wasn’t enough and people applying pressure I couldn’t handle.
All this for a job that was destroying me inside and out. My head was ready to blow, my weight was spiralling out of control and I was suffering in silence. I would work all day and night and hardly speak a word to anyone. Days, weeks, months – it become a total blur until that day in September when I realised enough was enough. I sat on Tynemouth beach cold and alone, not knowing what was next.
I felt so alone, not wanting to talk, not having anyone I felt I could talk to about what was going through my mind. Part of me was scared of the reaction people would have, what they would think of me and I didn’t want to let the people closest to me down by being depressed.
A fake smile or a quick hello can mask everything amongst busy people but only we know our true feelings, and I was feeling empty and alone. I felt like I had no one I could speak to, no one to confide in because to me it wasn’t normal to feel the way I did. I had a nice car, I went on nice holidays but I was completely broken inside, and I was scared. I didn’t think people would understand what I was going through.
Recently I took part in Newcastle United Foundation’s 12th Man programme – which encourages men to explore their physical and mental wellbeing. This wasn’t a programme for people with mental health issues but normal blokes who could do with a bit of help in their life. I did things I hadn’t done for years, like boxing and cycling and met a great group of men who wanted to improve their overall health. It was great to talk about things that men sometimes find difficult to discuss. I became so much more confident and it really opened my eyes to things like mindfulness and managing stress. I was gutted when the programme finished but we have all kept in touch and kept the momentum going – which is fantastic.
Three years later I realise just how many men are going through what I did, struggling everyday with these demons in their head niggling away. I would have given my right arm for someone to speak to about my problems, not a family member but a friend who would understand me and not judge me. Now I know it’s okay to talk about mental health problems it’s no longer something to keep to yourself.
Battling it alone is 10 times harder than speaking. Now I know that statistically when I am sat in my seat at St. James’ Park there are likely to be another 12,000 fans around me facing similar struggles. If I had known that all those years ago I think I would have had the courage to speak up and not been embarrassed to tell my family.
Thankfully I am in a better state of mind now and I want to do as much as I can to help other people suffering alone.
Newcastle United Foundation is encouraging people to engage with the campaign across its social media channels:
Twitter: @NU_Foundation #BeAGameChanger
Facebook: @NewcastleUnitedFoundation #BeAGameChanger
For more information on Be a Game Changer and support please visit: https://nufoundation.org.uk/BeAGameChanger