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My Life With Depression and New Beginnings

Christopher Hopkins 

I find myself on a new journey, a new mission. New goals have been set, a new opportunity to realise a dream. This all started during the lock-down: I was dealing with the fact I had just lost my job due to the company's down turn and I was surplus to requirements.
At first, this hit me in a similar way to when I had previously found myself out of work. The self doubt crept in, I questioned my ability and self worth. This would then turn to self loathing and I would find myself on an internally destructive path. An emotional wreck who believes the world would be a better place without him, that my son would be better off without me.
My battle with mental illness started in my teens, again dealing with self hatred and feeling life was not going to go anywhere, so what was the point. I just couldn't find the energy to keep going. So one evening I got a razor blade and took it to both my wrists. Luckily my mom heard the tears coming from my room and was greeted by a bloody mess. For whatever reason, she decided that the best course of action was to strap my wrists up and then pretend it had never happened. Maybe if she had phoned for an ambulance or taken me to the hospital, I might have received the help I needed and I wouldn't have tried twice more to take my life.
The last time I came close to trying again was 2019. I had sunk back into depression, having panic attacks on the way to work. Again the self doubt had become prevalent in my thinking; I was questioning my self-worth and my ability to do my job. The dark cloud was overhead once more and was not moving any time soon.  It got to the point where I had to resign; I just could not cope.
As time went on and the longer I was out of work, the darker the cloud and the deeper the self doubt became. Then the thoughts of ending my life came back, thinking daily of ways to kill myself. Whether I would use a blade or swallow the pills I had in my home. Even daydreaming of a vehicle hitting me so the responsibility of my death was taken out of my hands.
For the first time I started to self harm. It's hard to describe the feeling of cutting yourself; there was no sensation of pain, more a release than anything else. After that I found the strength to talk to someone, a friend who happens to be a nurse. I think it was driven by the fear of what could happen next, that I could be so low to leave my son without a father. After speaking to my friend I started seeking professional help, went back on the pills and started CBT after waiting 3 months for an appointment.
After time, though still not great emotionally, I wasn't constantly fighting with thoughts of ending my life and eventually found a new job and went back to work. After a while I gave up on the CBT, but carried on taking the pills. 
Counselling just never clicked with me. I didn't find it helpful, even when I tried group therapy some years before it was the same - I just couldn't make it work for me. Now that doesn't mean it wouldn't work for you. Finding what is best for you in dealing with, and hopefully curing, your mental illness can be a bit of trial and error.
Mental illness does not come with a one size fits all cure and what works for me, may not work for you. I can be pretty sure of one thing though: doing nothing never works. The two hardest steps you can take are: one, admitting you have a problem and two, asking for help. Your journey to recovery really needs to start with a conversation, whether that is with close friends or family or a professional such as your GP. Once you have the support in place you can start looking at what works best for you.
As I stated earlier, losing my job during lock-down hit me hard, just like it had previously in 2019. That night I broke down, sobbing until the early hours. For some reason, when I woke the following morning I told myself: No! This time I was not going to be living under that dark cloud or falling into another dark hole. I was going to take control of my life.
The main drive was my son who, at the time of writing this, is going through his own turmoil, living with the fact his mom is battling cervical cancer. With her being in and out of hospital and with lock-down restrictions, he spends very little time with her. So he needed support and strength from me. Which I wouldn't be able to give him if I was sinking into depression.
I accepted the job loss was not my fault, I also had to accept the job market was pretty much non-existent. So I looked at what improvements I could make. The obvious one being my weight and my fitness. I was creeping closer to 19 stone (121 Kg) and at 5 ft 11 inch (180 cm) I was very much in the realms of obesity. 
The first thing was the change of diet and then introducing exercise back into my life. I created a Facebook group to share my journey. On the back of the group I started receiving messages of support and people telling me I had inspired them or encouraged them to start their own journey. The messages helped positivity grow within me and I felt if I could just help one person, it would all be worth it.
This got me thinking: what else could I do to help people and have a positive impact on people? What experience can I share that could help people? That has brought me to where I am today. Sharing my story on social media about living with a mental illness and the messages of support and others sharing their stories with me. It has made me realise more is required, more needs to be done to open up the conversation around mental illness. The conversation needs to be normalised and, especially in the workplace, it needs to be given the same respect and treatment as physical health.
That is why I set up S.I.T U.K. Ltd., to work with companies in educating employees on matters around mental health and to assist in changing working practices that may be negatively impacting their employees' mental health. Along with the campaign #iamstrong, the goal is that no one keeps their suffering within out of fear of discrimination.
Personally, I am still not 100% but I am getting there, through healthy eating and exercise and trying to use what has been such a negative part of my life in a positive way. Being completely open about my own struggles has been a massive help - somewhat cleansing and empowering.
If you are suffering with your mental health, your path is out there. It may not be clear at the moment, but it is there. Please start talking today and focus on how you can get over your mental illness or problems with your mental health.



Marie's Challenge 2021

John o' Groats to Lands End

1000 mile Bike Ride

Christopher Hopkins

2020 has been in the words of Queen Elizabeth II herself ANNUS HORRIBLIOUS.
It is ending with the News my son's mom's cancer is now terminal. The prognosis - months to live. This has obviously his all concerned very hard difficult & emotional times lay ahead.
The idea for Marie's Challenge comes from a need to turn a negative into a positive as best we can. For me it's about honoring the Woman who gave me the Greatest gift anyone could ever give, my son and to raise money for a couple of worthy Charities.
So under the banner #iamstrong the event will begin on the 25th of September 2021 09:00. This being the time and date I was informed of the fact Marie's cancer is now terminal. 
We will be raising money for SEED eating disorder support services and Christmas for CAMHS. Seed are doing vital work, working with families that are tackling the difficulties of having a loved one who is battling an eating disorder. Christmas for CAMHS are a charity that ensure children that are on CAMHS wards over the Christmas period have a present waiting for them Christmas Day.
Both charities are doing great work and need our support.
please check out their websites to see the work they do.
christmasforcamhs.org.uk
seedeatingdisorders.org.uk