NHS volunteer Danny Ward talks frankly about the desperation of depression, soppy films…and how life often mimics reality television.
I’m the laid back one. Up for anything, not easily hurt. But it was a mask. I’m good at bottling up my feelings, papering over the cracks.
I’m 35 married with three kids. During my 20s I’d lost my sister, my child and my beloved grandmother who was like a mum. Losing someone is still my greatest fear. I was diagnosed with depression two years ago but I think I’ve suffered a lot longer.
My life spiralled out of control, I hurt people I loved. I tried to end things but survived. I acted like nothing had happened. It took a second attempt for me to ask for help
The staff at Clock View Hospital were amazing; it was the thought of leaving that scared me most. They talked a lot about a thing called the Recovery College. They run courses… not ones where you’re nodding off half way through, but where everyone thinks and feels the same as you and the subject matter is something that will genuinely help you with your life. Oh and no-one cuts you off because they have a slide set to get through!
How could a movie make me better?
I did the Journeys through Film course but being honest I couldn’t see how watching a movie would help me get better. Nevertheless, I turned up at FACT cinema and waited for the lights to go down so I could kick off the shoes and put my feet up.
It was Christmas. The movie was It’s a Wonderful Life. I was hooked! I found other courses, comedy, drama. Courses to help you understand why you feel like you do. Run by people who understand you, who really care. It’s not a ‘bums on seats’ tick box exercise. There’s a raw honesty, they understand how you feel.
It was a revelation. To be able to be truly honest with a group of people and see the recognition in their faces. To hear their stories and to work together to make sense of it. I found my contributions actually helped people. I grew.
It’s been quite a journey. In X Factor terms I got through the audition, went to boot camp and judges’ homes - I won the live shows! I’m now a volunteer at the Life Rooms in Liverpool, running courses, talking to people about mental health - for the first time in my life I feel I’m making a difference. I’m still the clown but with confidence.
I’ve learnt self belief
Am I better? It’s a journey, but thanks to the Recovery College I recognise when things are going down, and how to cope. Where do I go from here? Hopefully forward helping others as they have helped me, and hopefully into paid employment. I’ve learned self belief, the value of family and the importance of asking for help. For the first time in a long time I’m looking to the future, and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.