A 35-year-old Intensive Care Flight Paramedic and Territory Manager for St John in Northland, Ben’s life fell apart when he was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and bipolar disorder in 2012.
“Being given a diagnosis was very hard to deal with initially. I had always been a very high-achieving person and I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I didn’t think I would ever work again.”
Luckily Ben has a very supportive family. “My family are the reason that I’m here today and doing so well. They are amazing.”
At his worst he struggled to get out of bed. One day, Ben’s wife found him contemplating taking his own life. Trying to manage a newborn and not sure what to do, she spoke to her mum who was staying with them at the time.
“I was in a pretty bad place,” Ben recalls. “My mother-in-law stormed into the bedroom and told me that she had had enough. She said I needed to get out of bed and start making some sort of an effort. So I got up and started what was to be my long, slow journey to recovery. By pushing me into more positive action, she saved my life – something I will always be eternally grateful for.”
Along the way, Ben’s wife, Liz, has become his source of strength. “When I lost my self-confidence and struggled to leave the house, she was there to reassure me. She did all this while still raising our three children.”
Ben now firmly believes that everyone can get back from the brink. Based on his own experience Ben advises others not to give up, but to take it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.
Keeping a diary to track his mood and progress aided Ben's recovery, and reading Sir John Kirwan's All Blacks Don't Cry helped him lose his fear of depression.
Regular exercise and meditation to relax were not only important elements of Ben's recovery, but also continue to be integral to his continued wellbeing. He is also grateful for the wonderful support he received from his community mental health team.
Ben advises others to hold on to hope and put one foot in front of the other. “Recovery is going to take time and it will be hard, but you must be patient because there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.”