Colin McNicol. Colin tells the case study himself, as he hopes it will help others to seek support in the same way.
Mindspace - Peer Support Hub
I was beginning to feel ill. I had really loved getting up early and going to work, but I stopped enjoying that, I stopped enjoying hobbies, I just wanted to lock myself in the house. I now realise this had happened over a number of years.
I went to the doctor, who did blood tests but couldn’t find anything wrong. One Friday he gave me antidepressants. The following week I tried twice to take my own life – the second time, a friend happened to come and visit, saw the state of where I was, and phoned an ambulance. I got rushed into PRI and I was there for four days, then I had to go to Murray Royal [Psychiatric Hospital]. I thought, why am I going there? I was expecting just to go home! I sat for an hour and a half with the psychiatrist, who wanted my life history right back as far as I could remember, right up to date. At the end of that conversation she said, “You’ve got MDD – Major Depressive Disorder – and it’s curable.” And I was stunned. I thought, “I nearly killed myself because I have an illness?” I honestly thought I’d got old overnight and my life was finished.
I remember saying to my kids, “For god’s sake, don’t tell anybody I’m at Murray Royal – nobody will ever want to know me or speak to me again.” I felt so ashamed, so embarrassed. But when I realised it was an illness that was curable, I said to my kids, “You can tell the world. If they want to judge me because I’ve got an illness, that’s their problem, not mine.”
I was in Murray Royal for four weeks. The funny thing was, I didn’t want to go in there, but after four weeks I didn’t want to come out and face the world again. I had to go and live with my son as I wasn’t allowed to live on my own. I thought I’d be there for a couple of weeks, then get back to work and back to normal. Three months later, I was still there. I couldn’t believe how hard I had to try to do things. But I just kept trying, taking small steps. Eventually I was allowed to go back to my own flat and stay on my own, with support from Murray Royal.
I got home, and I was glad, because I like my independence. But even in my own house, I could feel that prison again, scared to go out of the door. My daughter said, “Dad, I think I’ve found something that will do you good, and it’s in Perth as well, it’s called Mindspace. Go and see what you think.” So I made an appointment and came in, and they said they did a meditation session which is free to anybody that comes in, and I thought, “Will I need to grow my hair long again?!” That’s the only meditation I know! But I came in, sat and listened to what they said, and something they said sticks in my mind to this day: “In here we teach you how to run your brain, rather than your brain run you.” I thought, “They’re going to have their work cut out with me.” But I couldn’t believe it – after the first meditation session I went out of that door and I felt I’d left a weight off my shoulders back in that room. It was just amazing. And I thought, “There is something in this.” Meditation is all about clearing your mind, getting a calm place. The next day I was just back to feeling the same, but I kept coming to the sessions – it’s been a year past December – and now it gives me a boost every time I come in, because you cannot meditate enough. You get to be aware of the automatic habits you’re in, you do things unconsciously, it’s all about learning about that.
At the same time I started going to Andy’s Man Club. It gives you a safe environment to sit and speak, and it’s the same with Mindspace. They give you that healthy environment where you can sit and talk to guys. And I think talking is good. As I said, medication has its place, but talking to people can often be a lot better.
As well as the meditation at the Peer Support Hub, I also got one-to-one Peer Support for 8 weeks. You’re talking to somebody who understands how you’re feeling because they’ve been through it themselves. I find that very useful. I also had a counsellor in the beginning for 8 weeks.
I had tried to get back to work and I was lasting half a day every time, I was just completely drained. And it was just light work compared to what I normally did. So I thought, I’m just going to forget about work right now, and just work on myself until I get stronger, so that’s why I did various courses here and I’m going to do some more courses. For example, I fancy doing the PDA (Professional Development Award) in Mental Health Peer Support. It’s a 22-week course that trains you to be a peer worker. I think I could sign up for that, not just to help other people, but you’re also helping yourself and getting a great understanding about the whole thing.
You’re sharing with other people that have the same problem, but at different levels or for different reasons. We’ve all got different reasons for being here, but it’s the same illness. I like when new people come in, and you can see they’ve got the weight of the world on their shoulders, and you can see it in their face that they’re really wanting to talk – they’re in their own wee space. And there’s nothing more satisfying than when that same person comes back next time and you just see them lightening up. And that’s just sitting talking.
And the fact that the people here have been through it as well is useful, without a doubt.
I’m back at work part-time. I can have good days.
I also love music, and I used to go to this pub for Open Mic every Sunday. After coming out of hospital I went with my sons, and immediately I got a pain in my arm and my chest. I thought, “I’ve just got to get over this.” I had one drink, then I said to them, “I’ve got to get out of here, I can’t handle this. I don’t know why.” It was social anxiety, I know that now. I had problems with that for a while, but I just kept trying, and going out and meeting people. I was up at a music festival in Inverness last year, it was my sister-in-law’s birthday and a band that I love was playing, in the Ironworks. And we went in and it was great banter, and I realised that I’m standing in the middle of a crowd of about 1,000 people. And it just dawned on me: “I couldn’t have done this last year.”
Don’t be ashamed. There’s a big stigma out there about mental health, and I suppose I had been as guilty as anybody of thinking people are born like that or whatever. But now, I’ve been through it.
When I go to Andy’s Man Club and talk to people, then I come into Mindspace on the Wednesday and I do meditations, it seems to lift me for the rest of the week. These two things are more important to me than work ever was.
So don’t be afraid to come out and talk. When I went to Murray Royal I felt really embarrassed and ashamed. I look back on it now – why did I feel like that? Because I didn’t understand it. Now I do. So the stigma about mental health has got to go. You’ve got to encourage people to talk. I would hate for anybody to go through what I went through for about 15 years. That’s obviously eaten a lot of my life away, just for the sake of coming in and talking to somebody.