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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Column: 'Everybody else seemed to 'get' life. I was lost, so lost, and tired of not feeling okay'

If someone hadn’t noticed me, I would not be writing these words today, writes Neil Kelders.

Neil Kelders Personal trainer and See Change ambassador

A MAJOR FAUX pas, as someone battling depression and anxiety, I didn’t talk. I didn’t share. I didn’t confide.

You may ask why? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. Probably partly due to my lack of understanding of my problems and what I was actually going through, partly not wanting to remove my mask.

I am Neil, the “funny”, confident, outgoing, sporty guy. I have no troubles whatsoever.

Christmas memories

It is Christmas 1984. I am five and buzzing for Santa. We were staying in a hotel in Galway for Christmas. I know, right?

I think if I had any more excitement I would have peed my Liverpool FC pyjamas. So, here I am on Christmas day, decked out in my new Liverpool FC kit and racing around the hotel, terrorising guests on my new plastic race car.

Exhausted from the day’s activity I hit the sack. Next thing I know, I’m awake. “Mom, mom, mom, mom, moooooom, mmmooooom,” I shouted. But there was no response.

This was not a familiar feeling. This was strange and I didn’t like it. I got out of bed and moved to next room. My family were not there. I panicked. A babysitter entered. I was upset but Mom came to the rescue. She Usain-Bolted it upstairs and I felt safe, nestled in her arms until I settled back to sleep.

Is it normal for an adult to feel like this?

This is something, I think, we can all relate to as a child, being upset, maybe feeling alone, a little lost, but all is set right by the power of Mom and the love of family and friends. And I have always had this love in abundance. It is okay for a child to feel and react this way. It is normal. You could say it is expected.

Is it normal for an adult to act and feel this way? To feel alone, lost, unable to cope? Are we expected to act differently, and if so, when did this expectation shift?

Welcome to my world. For over 21 years, from the first moment I contemplated suicide at 15 years of age, I was lost, so alone, an outsider. Everybody else seemed to “get” it. They all knew the direction they were heading.

I felt so alone. I was lost and tired, exhausted from trying to fight this constant battle alone. I was sick and tired of not being okay. I look back now on some of the thoughts I had at that time.

19th October 2014

I curl up in bed, in the darkness, stillness, clutching my duvet over my head, phone off, headphones on to dull out the noise of the world, to escape reality and the constant stream of negative thoughts.

12th December 2014

I press “post” and there it is, my first blog post on my very own blog. There’s no hiding. I am exposed now, my mask is off. For the first time in 21 years, this is me Neil, the real Neil Kelders. Hi, I’m Neil Kelders and I battle depression and anxiety.

13th December 2014

I am overcome with anxiety, my body is physically shaking. You idiot. You have just irreversibly ruined your life. Eh, remember how you wanted to, maybe, get back playing team sports, well you can kiss that goodbye, no team, in their right mind would touch you. Oh you want a girlfriend is it? Oh yeah, all any girl needs is a “head the ball” like you hanging off her. And what about your business, you dope, you think people looking for someone to motivate them to achieve fitness goals, is going to hire you? Think again. You will have no money, no friends, and, now even less of a future.

I was so low at that point. However, I summoned up the courage to check my blog. No way. I received comments, positive comments, missed calls from friends, messages of support from people I barely knew.

I can’t put into words how touched I was. That show of support was a very important step in my journey through depression, without it, hand on heart, I know I would never have recovered. I had built up such a case of internalised stigma.

That is why, for me, campaigns such as the See Change Green Ribbon Campaign are vital. If you wear a ribbon, you can save a life. The ribbon tells me you notice me, you are here for me, you are willing to support me. If someone hadn’t noticed me, I would not be writing these words today. I would be dead.

6th March 2014

The day that saved my life. Having chatted to my sister-in-law, she called my older brother. My anxiety was kicking in and I couldn’t face him. We came face to face and he did not say a word. He hugged me and something strange happened, I felt safe again. Things might actually be okay. I am not alone. Someone has noticed me.

My journey continues as I hope yours does.

Neil Kelders hails from Kerry and now runs Corefit, a Dublin based personal training service. You can follow his mental health journey and fitness advice on neilkelders.com and instagram @neilkels_corefitlife or visit corefit.ie. In May each year, See Change and its partner organisations run the Green Ribbon campaign to get Ireland talking about mental health. Visit www.greenribbon.ie for more information.

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About the author:

Neil Kelders  / Personal trainer and See Change ambassador

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