Joshua Pollard is a HR Assistant working in digital.
Originally from Salisbury, he’s been living and working in Leeds for the past four years. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting Josh will notice the positive aura that surrounds him, his cheery determination and his general desire to brighten-up his colleagues’ day to day.
Josh is no stranger to the crippling effects of anxiety and depression, and the self-destructive behaviours that come with both.
In this story, Josh lets us in on his experiences, offering some solid words of wisdom to anyone who’s fighting a similar battle.
“I remember from a very young age realising that I saw the world in a different way” he starts.
“If everyone else sees the world face on, I saw it from a side view.
“I would get very panicked, and the thought of any social interaction was enough to leave me a jibbering mess. My mum would have to arrive some 30-40 minutes early for nursery to make sure I was one of the first kids there, otherwise I would refuse to go in and spend the whole day hiding under a table.
“This went on for years, and it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a cute story to tell, or that I was just shy, but that I really had difficulty in dealing with the world around me.”
Moving forward, Josh goes on to explain how this difficulty in fitting in with the outside world worsened as he progressed through school, exacerbated by horrific bouts of bullying.
“All through this time I had questions about myself: Why do I hate myself? Why do I hate how I look? Why do I believe people are always judging me? Why do I feel alone when I’m with all my friends?”
Adding to this, at nine years old Josh started to realise a new dimension to his feelings: “I started to realise that I didn’t like girls and that I liked boys”, he explains.
“This didn’t help the delicate state of my mind as I knew this wasn’t “normal”, and although nothing was taught about it at school, you knew deep down, that you were wrong and that it was not the way things were meant to be. But I buried it with everything else and tried to act as normal as I could.”
As time went on, things didn’t lighten up. In fact, they soon got even darker.
Having to portray a conflicting persona so different to his true self weighed heavier and heavier, all at the young age of thirteen.
It was around this time that Josh fell into what he describes as a deep depression, made worse due to his parent’s destructive divorce and the consequent loss of familiar comforts such as his home and personal belongings.
Despite receiving counselling from the local authority over the course of the next seven years, Josh’s depression grew deeper still.
“I suffered with an alcohol addiction at an early age, which I used as an escape from all my thoughts and over-thinking”
“Alcohol allowed me to feel numb for a time and to not worry about anything. This was something I had never expected to find, as much as it hurt the morning after, it was worth it for the peace in my mind.
“The next step was self-harm, which I found as an outlet for all my anger and self-loathing. It was like cutting the bad out of me. Allowing the relief to flood over me.”
For Josh, the self-destructive, albeit temporary, relief these crutches provided lead him down a darker, more harmful path.
“The crushing pressure of hating myself and worrying what people thought of me, coupled with my amazing ability to over-analyze any situation lead me to attempt to take my life when I was 19.
“It was a September, it was cold and wet and I remember very vividly deciding that morning that it would be my last day alive. There was no thought process, no worry, no guilt. I knew it was that day.
“I carried on as normal and, for the most part, felt a huge weight had been lifted off of me.
“I made sure that my internet history was deleted and I had written a post on Myspace that was vague enough that should I not do it, it would be just another ‘Josh’ post.
“I waited for my mum to leave for work and took a massive overdose of sleeping tablets and anything else I could lay my hands on. For good measure, I rinsed it all down with vodka and wine.
“I don’t remember a lot after that. But somehow I ended up in hospital and stayed there for nearly three days.
“The first thing I remember coming to in the hospital and seeing my mum looking down on me with a massive bar of chocolate. I didn’t recall anything, I remembered being in my room and then I woke in the hospital. My mum filled me in and we headed home on the longest, most silent trip of my life.
“When we got in, she hugged me and told me that she loved me no matter what. She then, in her usual joking tone, told me if I even thought about doing something like that again I wouldn’t need to do it myself, she’d off me!”
For Josh, depression and anxiety is something he’s now aware there’s no quick fix for. After visiting the GP, having counselling and medication, Josh talks about how this is something he’s going to have to manage for the rest of his life.
“I have managed to get a good number of coping mechanisms in place to help me, but with both professional and medical help I still have a lot to deal with. Hopefully it will get easier for me.
"I have always said that I will try to not let my mental health stop me from living my life - I want to win.
“However, this is not always as easy as it sounds, but I have already been involved with an LGBT charity with a focus on stopping youth suicide. This is something I’d love to continue and think that if my experiences can help someone, then sharing them is the least I can do.
“Long term, I’d love to progress in my career in HR and help as many people as I can do their day-to-day job with no issues. Supporting those who struggle.
“Even though this is something I will have to deal with all my life, I want to make my life work the way I want it to, and to not let my self-hatred, anxiety and depression push people away.
Having worked in the marketing industry for four years, Josh discusses whether he feels this has had any kind of effect on his mental health:
“I don’t think that the industry has had a negative or positive impact on my mental health. This is a difficult one to comment on.
“In a creative industry you do find a varied type of person. You get the somewhat more introverted people and then the outgoing ones. So in general, I think it’s a great industry to be in as you are going to find “your people” whoever they might be!”
After everything Josh has been through, his advice to those going through a difficult time stands solid:
“Speak up! Never be shy to say you are suffering as suffering in silence on your own is so much worse. There are always people around you who care and will help you as best they can. Not all heroes wear capes!
“Take baby steps – you can’t fix everything and anxiety makes that hard to accept. When you want to be liked but are too afraid to put yourself out there, or too worried about what would happen if you just let go and be you – people will like you for you.
“Don’t be someone you’re not – that becomes hard to maintain.”