Thirty-three-year-old teacher Matt was convinced he wouldn’t live to see 25.
“The most important thing I hope people will realise is that it almost always gets better. My life’s not perfect, but what life is?”
Matt says his family has a history of alcoholism, addiction and undiagnosed mental illness.
“I was a really high achiever until I was about 14, then I started to withdraw. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I was diagnosed with depression.
“My Dad’s an ex SAS soldier and Vietnam war veteran. When he found out, he said to me ‘everyone gets depressed’. There was a definite level of ignorance from the people around me.”
Since his initial diagnosis, Mike has been in and out of hospital and respite care and has experienced alcoholism, severe anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder.
One of the defining moments in Matt’s life was when he got his first teaching job.
“It was a tough school. I couldn’t handle the stress, and became suicidal. I ended up in psychiatric respite. I was overwhelmed by the support of my colleagues – they kept in touch with me, came to see me and kept my job open for me. They gave me time to heal.”
Matt is currently living in Germany with his wife and young son.
“It’s been a bumpy ride. Before we left for Germany I hadn’t touched a drink in about six years. I had one in Thailand on the way over, which while not disastrous, wasn’t a good idea for an alcoholic.
“It was hard when we first arrived. I was the house-husband while my wife worked as a teacher. I didn’t know the language and felt really isolated.”
Things start to look brighter
Matt made the decision to stop drinking once more, which was no easy feat in ‘the land of Oktoberfest’. He got a tutoring job, learnt German and started doing some travel with his family. Things started to look brighter.
“Sure I still have bad days, and having BPD isn’t a walk in the park, but I’m largely symptom free, unless I get tired and stressed.”
Matt says staying away from alcohol, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise and his spiritual faith have all helped him recover.
“I also have to be careful with what I read and watch – when the black moods start coming I gravitate towards Joy Division and Nirvana.”
Another thing that has been a blessing for Matt was becoming a father.
“It’s been a saviour for me. It forced me to get myself together and it gives me a reason to stick around – I have to be there for my son. My wife is hugely supportive too. She has been my angel.”
Matt plans to stay in Germany for a couple more years and share his story to help other people. “I have battled chronic social anxiety but despite my fear I have gone through Toastmasters to build my confidence.”
“I want people to know that life gets better – then sometimes it gets worse again, but then it gets better again. You can survive, and most importantly you can thrive.”