A Clitheroe teenager who contemplated suicide due to his “crippling depression” has spoken of his anguish and struggles coming to terms with the disease.
2016 was an “unimaginably lonely and unforgiving” year for 18-year-old Lewis Baxter, a former pupil of Clitheroe Royal Grammar School. And although the journey to recovery is far from over, Lewis feels he can now speak about the condition and help other silent sufferers of depression. And he is absolute in his belief that the sooner anyone who faces such struggles seeks help, the better.
Lewis explains that even though his life appeared normal like every other teenager, he was far from happy. “Depression has been the burden of my life dragging me down these last 14 months,” said Lewis, who lives in Langho and works as a radio presenter for Ribble FM.
“I think there is a misconception that having depression is just being upset when something in your life goes wrong - when you break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend, you fail an exam or even when you lose a family member. Real depression isn’t being upset when something in your life goes wrong or takes the wrong path, but when everything in your life is going right.”
Recalling when he first discovered something was wrong, he said: “Things had been brewing for a while; I had always found it hard to balance school and social life and I was always a busy lad. I was also a student who got stressed at exams too.
“In the September, October and November of 2015 I never felt ‘right’. I felt miserable, sedate and generally lacked motivation. Weeks passed and I battled on, sleepless night after sleepless night. Through Christmas 2015 I left the house only once. Into early 2016 and I continued to refuse to see friends, family and colleague. People wanted to help, but I turned them away.
“It was in late February 2016 when my personal battle reached its peak. I was sitting on the end of my bed, where I had sat hundreds of times before, and I was suicidal. If people were to look at my life from the surface you wouldn’t see a guy who was suicidal, but a guy who played football, who presented radio, who made jokes in class and a guy who loved to talk. But I was sat by my bed, with a bottle of pills and also a pen and paper, thinking about ending my own, young life. I came seconds away from doing it.”
Lewis was so close to ending his life, but he didn’t. Instead, having spoken to his mum about his troubles, who immediately sought medical help, Lewis is on his way to recovery. His 2017 resolution is not only to continue getting better, but to reach out to other sufferers too.
“As soon as my mum found out how low I was feeling, she arranged an emergency doctors appointment and I was referred for counselling and diagnosed with having depression.
“The road to recovery is far from over but things are looking up and I want to use my experience to be a beacon of hope and attempt to remove the stigma attached to mental health and depression. The words ‘I suffer from depression’ will always stay with me. I am a better person because of my depression, and not embarrassed. It’s time to start looking at mental health in a different light, start discussing depression and mental health, arm-in-arm with other people.”
“Talk to people, get things off your chest. It’s alright to talk to people about mental health and depression.”
Looking ahead to 2017, Lewis is currently in year 12 at Ermysteds Grammar School, Skipton, where he is doing A-Levels, and he will also concentrate on volunteering opportunities to help people who may suffer from depression.
He said: ““In the next year I’d like to do some volunteering and fundraising for mental health awareness and depression, do talks to groups of students at schools.”
He concluded: “Don’t underestimate the severity of depression, whether it’s yourself or if it’s someone around you that is suffering. Four simple words ‘I suffer from depression’ will always stay with me.
“I am a better person because of my depression and it isn’t all doom and gloom. It’s time to start looking at mental health in a different light.”