For World Suicide Prevention Day and as part of our Men’s Wellbeing Matters campaign, Sefik opens up about his depression and two suicide attempts, after which he decided to make drastic life changes to prioritise his mental health and rebuild his life.
Sefik is now a Sue Stone Foundation accredited empowerment coach with qualifications in Mental Health in the Workplace and a Mental Health 1st Aider as well as a mental health public speaker. He is also the author of “There’s No Shame” where he shares his journey to help others. “There’s No Shame” is now available via his website as well as Kindle Amazon and Audible.
“Poor mental health and the struggles of it is often spoken about today and forgotten about 24 hours later. If it happens to a celebrity it might remain in your thoughts for 48 hours. We know about it, we acknowledge it, but do we really do anything about it?
Do we speak about the ‘S’ word? You know the ‘S’ word. No not that one, the other one, Suicide! There you go I said it! It’s probably conjured up a load of unpleasant images and I know it’s a tough thing to address, unfortunately I know a huge number of people who have been directly affected by poor mental health and suicide.
So, I’m going to tell you about my story, my battle with depression and my own suicide attempts. This is my success story of overcoming and understanding what lead to such lows. How my experiences enabled me to help many others overcome the same feelings of helplessness and allowing them to talk openly and honestly.
I’m no one special, I’m just an ordinary husband and father working hard to provide for his family and like so many I was caught up in the mindset that I never had enough. I was always worrying about money and the lack of time I had at home. The glass was always half empty, and I felt I was on the hamster wheel of life.
I hid it so well from everyone. At occasions I’d always be the first to the bar to buy everyone else a round, put myself forward for promotions and portray this successful and happy individual. My place of work depended on this ‘Game Show Host’ type character, and I guess I played it really well.
But you can’t keep hiding and running because eventually it will catch up with you.
What will catch up with you? The toxic working environment, the 15-18 hour days, month after month, year after year. The 6-day weeks would result in lack of sleep, the constant worries and fears about money, never feeling like you ever had enough and judging yourself on what others had.
But crucially for me, it was feeling like I was failing! Failing professionally, financially and personally in all aspects of my life. It was slowly destroying me and yet no one could see what was happening to me!
Both of my suicide attempts were on Friday evenings after work. Both were snap decisions and although both were carried out, they failed, thankfully! I know now someone was looking over me saying “Sefik, no you can’t do this it’s not your time”!
My first attempt was in 2006 and my second in 2016. They happened after having stressful weeks and long tough horrible days. In 2006 I dropped from a ligature that was around my neck and in 2016 I drove at a central reservation at over 50mph! My conviction and desire to leave this pain and misery was absolute. I didn’t want my wife or children to endure anymore of this miserable, unhappy man. In my eyes I was a failure and a burden to them.
However, what was clear was that in 2016 I was still holding onto the disturbing memory of the 2006 attempt on my life. Over those 10 years when I had lows and challenging times, I would always think, “am I going to that dark place again, I’ve been here before”. And this always undermined my ability to say, “I don’t have a mental health condition, I don’t have the disposition to take the desperate action”.
What was so apparent was that I hadn’t addressed or spoken about my feelings, my thoughts or, clearly in my case, moved away from a toxic environment that only ramped up the pressure and exacerbated my condition.
I had surrounded myself professionally with yes men, individuals like me who were fearful of change, worried about questioning the hours and roles and most importantly being made to feel that the 16/18 hour days were all they were good for and that pay cheque would make up for all their hardship.
I was never going to get an answer that enabled me to think outside of the box because we were well and truly inside the box with the lid tightly on. I had played a large part in building that box and that life and for me to give it up would feel as though the career I had worked so hard build up for myself would be flushed down the toilet and I simply couldn’t do that.
So, you put up and shut up, month after month year after year and in essence you give up and lose faith in you and your ability to do something different and break free.
However, for me it was only after my second suicide attempt that I broke free! I spent around 16months getting better, 16 well spent months. I honestly thought it would take a few weeks maybe a month of rest to be back in my same role. But it didn’t. Sitting on the sofa I was now still and quiet and doped up on sertraline and metazepam. But this was the first time I was still and after around 6 months I would find myself focusing on things I’d taken for granted like bird song, running water from the pond, the seasons turning, and I was thinking consciously and not running on a subconscious thinking.
I had a very supportive GP and attended all the groups I could find available to me, Recovery College, Richmond Fellowship (they were fantastic) I saw a psychiatrist, had a private therapist and learnt about mindfulness, self-compassion, CBT and confidence.
The thing is, for anyone struggling, the magic turning point starts with you. Don’t doubt yourself and your ability to beat a mental health condition.
We have used the word depression so much over the years that it’s become watered down. Clinical depression is a completely different animal compared to feeling flat and tired. I’m not trivialising the feeling of exhaustion and feeling spent. But I’m saying that when everyone uses the word ‘depressed’ in everyday language, we can all lay claim to having an understanding and an opinion on a real condition when I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And therefore, it needs to be taken seriously on a case by case basis and not just dismissed as ‘having a bad day’.
The phrase, ‘just pull your socks up’ or ‘have a word with yourself and get over it’ or ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’, can all be immensely damaging to someone in the grips of clinical depression.
Always remember how amazing you are. Never lose sight on the miracle of life and how special you really are. I’m a huge advocate of backing yourself and remember that other people’s opinions of you are theirs and not yours. I believed for so many years that what other people thought of me mattered more than how I thought of myself and all it did was reduce my confidence and belief in myself. As I always say if you can’t back or believe in yourself then how can you expect others to.
So, what did I do to change my life and its direction in all aspects? Well, and crucially I moved away from that toxic environment.
I began to understand that other people’s opinion are theirs and not mine and they only have power over me if I let them.
I began to see myself in a new positive, upbeat and successful version. It’s too easy each day to focus on what you don’t want rather than what you do want.
Each day I started the day and continue too, to look for 5 things that am grateful for. My life, my children, day light, the air that I breathe the opportunities that can come my way and so on.
Obviously, this all takes time, but you must start from somewhere and it’s important to make a start and be consistent.
In my day-to-day life as a coach, speaker and author I remain consistent with my rituals and practices, as you must look after yourself even if you are in a good head space. I avoid confrontation, negative news and social media feeds and am mindful of the company I share. I look at obstacles and fails as, ‘what can I learn from this’, rather than beating myself up and always back myself 100%. I am fixed on an end result rather than the journey and these practices work extremely well with my clients.
I still to this day remind myself that when one door closes another will naturally open and you have to walk through it and see what’s on the other side. Never feel you are alone, there is always someone to hold your hand and walk you through.
In beating my mental health condition, it enabled me to have a resolve, confidence and belief in myself that I never thought I had. It has seen me through so many battles over a 24-month period that looking back now, I wonder how I earth I got through it and didn’t crumble again.
As I always say you have to ‘Believe to Succeed’ and ‘There’s No Shame’ and never ever give up because you do matter.”
If you’re facing extremely challenging emotions and are struggling to cope, you may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Talking to someone can provide reassurance and comfort. If you need or want to talk to someone about how you are feeling right now, we have all the mental health crisis support services available in Surrey listed on the Crisis Support page of our website. Don’t delay getting in touch, your mental health and wellbeing matter.
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