“I thought I was coping with depression... evidently I wasn’t.”

Paul O'Neill

Paul O’Neill, an ex service user at Priory Hospital Altrincham, tells us about his recovery from depression.

Paul’s story...

Priory Hospital Altrincham - Depression treatment Paul O'NeillA few years ago I became increasingly unwell. I was waking up in the early hours unable to sleep; my mind racing with thoughts about work. Whilst driving to and from work I was totally miserable and the anxiety reached an unbearable peak just as I was walking in to the office.

My father had died a few months before and I thought I was coping... evidently I wasn’t

I would wake up each day feeling full of dread, like a huge weight pressing down on me. I didn’t want to go on and I began thinking of ways in which I might take my own life. This scared me because I had a very happy and stable home with a wife and two children who I did not want to leave behind...

I was unable to concentrate or remember anything at work and every work day was lived in utter terror of being discovered to be incompetent.

Dealing with depression – the next steps

I approached my HR representative who suggested that I contact the company health helpline about how I was feeling.  I was directed to The Priory as my company had a contract with them; I needed a GP referral letter which I was able to get but I found asking for it almost impossible.

Starting treatment

At the time I was ill enough to warrant inpatient care, however the assessing psychiatrist at The Priory Hospital Altrincham determined that two days a week of day care would suit me better... and it did. So I attended a programme of treatment which consisted of several elements. Some of these were in groups and others were done on a one to one basis. We covered a variety of topics including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss and change
  • Problem solving and self esteem

I took part in group work first of all, this helped me to gain understanding and support from other people. The one to one work came later and was much more intense for me. This was because it was just me and I could no longer hide in a group, however in this space I was able to talk about a lot of deeply personal matters in a safe environment where I didn’t feel judged.

“Often we can assume that talking about something has no apparent value. This is not true. Telling your story to someone who knows how to listen is massively important and necessary to healing...”

A moment of clarity

There was one important moment which occurred at my very first appointment. The consultant assessed me and my condition and was able to spot the nature of my difficulties very quickly.

The consultant asked if I had rebelled as a teenager, I said “no... that was never allowed.” And she said, “well, maybe it’s time you did.”

It was the first time that I felt that someone had given me permission to be myself instead of what was expected of me by others. This set the context for the work that followed.

There were a series of smaller key moments which gradually got me through. Some weeks were better than others so the journey was bumpy, and I often thought to myself “this is taking me far too long!” But my therapist repeatedly reassured me when times were difficult.

What I learned from my experience of therapy is that it is vitally important to have someone you trust alongside you, who can offer hope and reassurance for the future.

A silver lining

Since I left Priory Hospital Altrincham, I retrained as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and now work for blueSCI, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Trafford, Manchester. I realised I was in the wrong career during my time at Priory.

I chose to move to a career in mental health because of the treatment I received at Priory and also because I’d had a long held interest in why people behave the way they do. I love working in mental health... I have found a purpose.

Three things to consider if you have depression

  1. Don’t suffer in silence. Tell someone that you trust how you are feeling.
  2. Get yourself to a good GP and tell them how you are feeling and how it is affecting you.
  3. Under no circumstances should you regard struggling with mental health as a weakness. Often it is a product of being a very strong person and giving too much of yourself – i.e. the opposite of weakness. Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

BlueSCI has three centres in Trafford where people can attend to engage in all manner of wellbeing and creative activies. It is a free Arts and Wellbeing service for anyone over the age of 16 in Trafford or with a Trafford based GP. blueSCI prides itself on inclusion of anyone regardless of race, colour, sexual orientation, gender or any form of disability.

If you would like to know more about how Priory Hospitals can help if you have concerns about depression, please contact: 0845 277 4679 or click here to make an enquiry.