'Being able to be vulnerable is a strength' - Why I am no longer hiding behind being 'fine' 

It takes a certain amount of stubbornness - or perhaps expert level avoidance -  to be sat in a hospital bed and insisting you're fine.

I was freshly admitted to the ward. My bloods had been taken and I was still taking in the seven strangers who had just become my new roommates. Old and young; man and woman; some wearing paper smiles, others too tired for the pretence. Eight people from many different walks of life but united by a shared experience.

The nurses around me were frowning, full of questions, but in a weird way I felt better than I had in weeks. 

I had just been admitted - brought in by ambulance - for taking an overdose of prescription medication.

But, remember, I was fine.

I didn't know how to talk then and even in hospital I wasn’t able to admit I needed help.

I hadn't been able to express how I felt in the weeks leading up to the overdose. I was overwhelmed and afraid to show any vulnerability in case it exposed me to something worse. 

I forced it down. I let my mental health fester until something broke and I looked desperately for a reprieve.

In the weeks and months that followed I kept “I’m fine” on speed dial even though I was anything but.

It took a long time for me to even admit I wasn't okay and that I needed help.

When I eventually did reach out, and start to talk about what was going on in my head, it didn’t help straight away. In fact, I hated it - and in many ways I still do. I still have to force myself to talk knowing that the end point is worth it. 

Reaching out was, in that first instance, only the start of a process that would take years for me to finish.

But ultimately I found a way back from a place I never thought I'd leave. 

This never would have happened if I hadn’t found the courage to talk, the trust to embrace vulnerability and the hope to believe that things could get better.

The overdose was my sliding doors moment. 

It was a moment where a destructive path felt more manageable than an exposed one - talking seemed the more painful option.

But it is also a moment that signaled a change in my life. The beginning of better. A low point where the only option was to climb back up.

Ten years on and my life is unrecognisable.

I’m happily married, I’ve found faith, and I’ve built a career as a broadcast journalist working in busy local and national newsrooms. 

I find joy in the day-to-day - I’m overly attached to my cat, and one day my wife and I will start a family.

I’ve even trained as a mental health first aider so I can help the people around me and signpost them to support I didn’t know was available when I was at my lowest. 

If I hadn’t learnt to talk about how I was feeling, and put my trust in other people, I might not have any of these things.

My mental health challenges have never really gone away and during the pandemic they feel that little bit bigger. 

But now I’m able to talk about it; I can unload to family, friends, and even helplines if I need to. 

I no longer hide behind “I’m fine” and even when I fall into that old habit I’m not usually trapped behind it for long. 

If you take anything from reading this let it be that it is always worth reaching out and talking to somebody. It’s hard but worth it. It’s not a quick fix but it’ll help you get to where you need to be. Talking can be painful but it leads to healing.

Being able to be vulnerable is a strength and looking after yourself when you need it is never selfish.

While this has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever written, I hope it’ll help someone to choose to talk and believe in better.

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.