Depression does not define who you are

Published 19 May 2017

In this interview Phil tells us about his life with depression and how Carenity helps him. Phil is a loving father who battles against depression thanks to determination, strength and the help of others.

Depression does not define who you are

Hello Phil, could you introduce yourself in a few lines?

My name is Phil, I’m a 46 year old single father of two wonderful teenage girls. We currently live in the Lake District after a long stint of city life and are now enjoying the quiet life in the countryside.

How did you hear about Carenity and what motivated you to subscribe?

I came across Carenity a few months ago whilst searching for help regarding my depression and anxiety. The internet is full of so called "helpful" sites, I often found that a lot of other sites can be very judgmental and critical of opinions but find Carenity is different. There isn`t any competition to see who has the worst condition etc, it is a friendly atmosphere where opinions are shared and help is offered based on experience by fellow sufferers.

When was your depression diagnosed?

I was originally diagnosed with depression about 14 years ago following a session of grief counselling after the death of my father. It had been a long struggle with cancer and affected the whole family but as I began to open up it was found that my problems were a lot more involved than first thought.

The diagnosis was initially quite quick but it has been a long road since then.

Do you have other conditions? Which ones?

I also suffer from extreme anxiety, which to brutally honest is the worst part of it all. It is such a complex yet simple condition to deal with. I am in therapy at the moment and we are looking at a further diagnosis of PTSD.

This goes a long way to explaining the depression and anxiety.

Has it been easy for you to cope with your condition(s)? Has it changed something in your relationship with your family?

This is the Easiest question to answer but the hardest to understand for others. Short answer is no definitely not easy to cope with as it just doesn’t make sense.

My conditions went a long way to cause the end of my 19 year marriage and also the only relationship I have had since then. But on the plus side it has helped me to find out who really cares and my children have shown me how proud I am of them. They are so resilient and understanding.

What has been the most challenging thing you have to go through because of these conditions?

I imagine as a lot of others find with an invisible illness, the most challenging part of the conditions I suffer from are the misunderstanding and judgments made by people that don`t understand. The Stigma attached to mental health in general together with how I am perceived by others plays a major role in my lack of control of the depression. I constantly have to explain why I can’t just "cheer up" and to have to re live the very reasons that cause my conditions in the first place it doesn't allow me to forget.

PTSD is all about the constant reminder of past trauma I try so hard to hide from and just because someone can’t take me at my word, I have to unlock that door and let out the horrors of my past. To re-live childhood abuse, domestic abuse and suicide attempts makes it a constant cycle of ups and downs.

Without trying to get into political and ethical debates how can I explain that my disability has been used against me even by the very services that are there to support and help. 

Depression is a very lonely condition and to have to fight on your own just makes it that little bit harder.

As for today, what medication or treatment you think has worked best for your depression?

Luckily I have had the help of some very understanding GP`s who have allowed me to explore what I felt was needed to help. I am on anti-depression/anxiety medication that allows me to stay focused enough to remain in control, also beta-blockers that help with the very real physical symptoms and lastly tranquilizers should I find myself unable to cope. For me, the medication isn’t an answer to my problems, more of a helping hand so I can do things for myself.

The real help comes from talking, CBT therapy has helped greatly to deal with the effects of my illness and I am now receiving help trying to find a cause of it all so it makes a little bit of sense. I have embraced the fact that I have an illness like any other, I’m not mad (although my girls might disagree) I’m not unstable or a danger to anyone. I have just reached the point of not being able to hide from the past that’s all. It doesn`t define who I am. I love to laugh and smile and joke around. I ride a motorbike, have lots of tattoos and a shaven head but I am certainly not a thug, in fact I’m a complete pacifist, I don’t drink and my main concern in life is the health and wellbeing of my children.

What practical advice could you give to other people who live with several chronic conditions on how to cope in everyday life?

We are all different and cope in different ways, so do what is right for you. There isn’t a workshop manual on the human body we can go to for answers, so talk and surround yourself with people you trust who are willing to listen.

I have found that my conditions are all linked in some way, so achieving small goals can help in big ways, but do not try and self-diagnose. The brain is very good at lying to you especially when you are down in the deep dark hole. Don`t be afraid to ask for help or even advise.

Do you think Carenity has helped you in some way?

Most definitely, I have never been told what to do or what to take. I have been advised based on experience which allows me to make my own choices and to hear others telling similar tales of their struggles makes me think I’m actually not alone, that in itself is a great feeling.

What positive message would you like to share with our readers?

Just because you have an illness or a disability it doesn’t define the real you. Only you know what is happening to your body so don’t be afraid to talk and seek help.





on 10/08/2016

Good Morning Phil. 

Thanks for sharing your story. We have communicated along the way and it has always struck me with how strong you have been through what must have been/ can still be a very difficult, frightening place at times. Accepting that you need help and embracing it is the first step on to the road of recovery/healing.

I totally agree, medication doesn't solve your problems, but it does enable your brain to become less frantic and chaotic enabling you to work on issues little by little, day by day.

Trying to be positive is a challenge in itself in times of self doubt and frustration.

You have proved exactly what I feel that I have achieved and that is; that there is light at the end of the tunnel and life can and will be a wonderful experience ..in time.

Talking is a very under rated tool in recovery; the best thing is that it is free.

Have a great week.

Julie x

on 10/08/2016

Thankyou Julie,

Its nice to hear somebody agree with how i feel. Depression is so very personal and differs in so many ways and it affects people in so many ways too but the one constant is the need to talk. I can honestly see a way out of this and i am a stronger person because of it.

all the best


on 13/08/2016

Hi Phil,

I agree that the medication is good to help you become more rested and think a bit clearer, so that you can work on the techniques and tools to make you a stronger person. 

I was a member of another forum which I left after some of the members just wanted to talk and argue about politics. It end up with them being unkind to the volunteer admin team who deleted the posts and reminded them it was a health forum.

I just didn't like how horrible they were and wanted to find somewhere a bit more pro-active where I can talk to like minded people when I am having a tough day, or share in the good days and new things I have found.

You are right about it being different for different people my Dad is in his late 60s and just doesn't get that I can be fine one day and then the next I just want to hide and not see anyone. 

People don't realise how hard it is and how much your self-esteem and self-confidence can be effected.

I had to give up my sporting club because of the way some of the other members who I thought we're good friends were treating me. They just couldn't see how thier reactions were affecting me. I know I was not the same bubbly person they had known previously, but so hadn't expected the lack of respect they showed me, especially since I had home out of my way to explain I was I'll with anxiety and depression and that if I acted out of character then I was sorry. It was sad I had to leave but I realised it was right for me at the time.

I have managed to reduce my tablets to a minimum leave for me to cope with at the moment and hope all being well to reduce them again in a few months.

I decided that if I was going to go through all this pain and heartache I was going to ensure I was a better person at the end of it. :-)

My family and close friends have already noticed that I am different but in a good way and that on my good days which are getting to be more than the bad days  that I am back to my bubbly self.

Still not sure why it all happened but it seems a mystery virus I got on holiday was the final straw and something just broke in me.

Over a year and a half after my diagnosis I am getting a divorce, living on my own and struggling to get a job after my break from work, but I am definitely a lot happier than I was 2 years ago. 

People think some of my coping mechanisms are funny, but I don't mind they work for me.

The funniest I guess is the inflatable punch tower that is in the corner  if the livingroom . It is for those  times when I just want to scream and release the tension inside me , because I get so frustrated at myself at times. So I put on some rock music and punch the tower until I feel better or I am knackered. :-) It works for me. :-D

I hope you are all keeping well at the moment.

on 13/08/2016

Thankyou Hazel,

                      It sounds like you have a really positive outlook on things. The turning point for me was when i came to terms with the fact that i had an actual illness just like any other and concentrated more on recovery than pleasing other people or trying to make them understand, that just causes frustration !!!

Pretty soon you will open your eyes and see that the people around you offering you help are the people that are supposed to be around you. Dont be afraid to use them.

Have you tried volunteering? it doesnt have to be much and can open up so many doors and beside helping somebody else you are helping yourself too. If somebody just smiles and says a heartfelt thankyou it lifts my whole day and makes me feel that i am not worthless, pointless or any other lie my head has been telling me.

Love the punchbag idea. Perhaps i should get one too :0)

keep in touch


on 14/08/2016

Volunteering is a great tool to aid you in your recovery. It not only helps to re build you self esteem but  it makes to realize that compared to others , your life could be a lot worse. I found it to be a humbling experience working with adults with learning difficulties/mental illness. They just get on with life.

As Phil stated, doors could well open for you, just as it did for me.

20voices; Life will get better, the good days will eventually increase and the low days decrease. Everyone has a breaking point and something so simple may result in you reaching the tipping point.

Going through divorce is a horrible situation but life will get better as it appears that it maybe for you.

Happiness is vital in life. 

Looking back on my 30 year marriage, I hadn't realized how controlling my now ex had been. 

I am now in a wonderful place in my life, something that I never ever thought that i would experience again.

Little by little, day by day is the best approach. This is your life so live it how you wish it , not how others expect you to live.

Big hugs wrapped with love.


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