‘Don’t hide it, don’t deny it’
Ian Green is 54, has a loving family around him and a full time job. Eleven months ago he was contemplating taking his own life.
‘I had meningitis when I was two years old,’ says Ian, ‘and after that I started to have epileptic fits. I have no warning when I am going to fit – some
people do, but I don’t – and that can make things a wee bit scary for me and people around me.
‘Sometimes I can go six months without a fit, and other times, in a bad week, I can have two or three. You just never know.
‘I wasn’t told that I had TSC until two years ago. But even with the fits, I was going along OK, OK, OK, and then just before last Christmas – suddenly, BANG!
‘Out of nowhere, I couldn’t settle, I couldn’t sleep, I was walking the streets at 3am in the morning, I was becoming depressed – and quickly it got so bad that I became suicidal.’
Ian, who lives with his mum, Joan, 76, in Belfast had reached the lowest point in his life.
‘I just felt terrible,’ he says. ‘And I couldn’t understand it. Some of it might have been to do with pressure at work, but really I just don’t know where it came from. I don’t know if being told I had TSC had anything to do with it because I’d been living with the epilepsy all my life.’
The turning point came after another sleepless night walking the streets, when Ian, by then exhausted and desperate, confided in his sister-in-law Laura, that he was feeling suicidal.
‘At first, my brother John told me It’s all in the head but it’s all very well saying that.
‘She was brilliant,’ says Ian, who works in dispatch for Coca Cola. ‘She talked me out of it. Don’t be doing that, she said to me. You’re a good uncle to the girls and Rhys, she told me. Then John took me to watch my niece play football later that day and that made me feel a wee bit better. It was nice to get other and see other people. It gave me something else to think about.
‘When I couldn’t sleep and was walking the streets again later that night I realized that actually, life is good. What was the sense in ending it all? It was a frosty night, I had a roof over my head, and I have seen a lot of people far worse than myself.
‘Suicide is not about you, it’s about the people you leave behind.
‘So the next day I went to my doctor to get professional help and that was the best thing I ever did.’
Ian’s GP, immediately recognizing the seriousness of the situation, prescribed diazepam to stabilize Ian in the short-term, signed him off work, and fast tracked him onto therapy and a counselling course, with an immediate start.
‘The therapy was the best,’ says Ian. ‘They came and picked me up every morning. I had a free lunch with them every day. I met lots of different people, some had ADHD some had OCD, and it gave you different things to think about every day. And nobody judged you.’
He also started to relax by colouring in. ‘This fella who I was going to therapy with told me about mindfulness, and these adult colouring books. So at night I do them now. They’re really good. They do take the stress off, finding the colours I want to use.’
After a few weeks Ian had recovered enough to go back to work at Coca Cola. ‘It helped because it gave me a focus,’ he says.
Now Ian has now been taken off the variable shift rota and put on regular 7am to 3pm shifts, which he also, says is helping him to stay well. ‘People hesitate to talk about mental health and mental health problems,’ says Ian, ‘but for a start, I’d like employers to be more open about the pressure being put on people. Let people get on and do their work and don’t put too much pressure on them because that stresses them out.’
Now Ian is passionate about encouraging others – especially middle aged men - who are feeling depressed, or suicidal, to seek tell others about how they are feeling and to seek professional help immediately – no matter what.
‘Go out there and get help,’ he says. ‘And to men I say this especially as men don’t talk like women do. There is no shame in talking about it. Don’t hide it, and don’t deny it.
‘If I can help one person by telling you what I have gone through, how much better I am now, and if that gives them the strength to go out there and get the help and support that they need then that will be enough for me.
‘I feel so much better now. I am back to work and have been on holiday with my mum. I have surprised myself by what I have been able to do, and you don’t know how many others there are out there who are like you until you start talking about it.’