‘Tackle it and you'll be sorted’: Facing depression head on
There was a precise moment when party boy Neil Singleton realised he’d been swallowed whole by depression. When asked a straight-forward question by his psychologist, everything went grey like a foggy mist. He couldn’t remember what she’d asked, let alone answer it.
It was a year of mixed experiences for Singleton. In 2013, he was made redundant from not one, but two jobs; made a hard decision to break up with a long term partner and felt the physical distance of his family in the UK just when he needed them most.
In contrast, he won the DJ competition at the Imperial and his new DJ career as ‘Dirty Nelly’ was starting to take off. “It was going up, but everything else was going down,” he says.
Singleton’s first redundancy happened in March, when he lost a job he’d had for two and a half years. He started a new job three months later, but was again made redundant and this time was forced to endure a second, more punishing stretch of unemployment.
“I thought, ‘Shit, this is number two – what next? I’m back at the beginning again’.”
Singleton took daily morning walks with a friend to maintain a healthy routine, but by mid- morning each day he’d find himself alone in his apartment where he’d spend the rest of the day.
“I had no routine, I wasn’t interacting with people,” he says. “I’d have panic attacks, but the overwhelming feeling was of sadness and darkness.”
This was a new experience for someone whose previous day job required him to be assertive.
“I’d always been on the go, work then socialising at night, a partner – all these different things. But I got to the point where some really core fundamental things were being taken away from me.”
A lack of success finding a job in a downturned market chipped away at Singleton, who had previously been successful, and by October he decided he needed to go and see a psychologist.
By their third session when he couldn’t even answer a simple question, it was clear that Singleton needed medication for depression.
His serotonin levels started stabilising by the next month - but he still had a way to go. His sister sent an SMS with a photo of his nephew, prompting him to hastily call his then-boyfriend to say he was returning to the UK that day. It took a fortnight to arrange, however, and the ten-day, back-to-basics trip was just what he needed.
Above: Neil Singleton. Photos: Reg Domingo
Aside from spending quality time with his nieces and nephews, he had some real-time talking with his family to do. “You need to identify what is an issue for you. I guess I’ve got reoccurring issues about how I feel about myself, about not feeling love and self-worth,” he says. ”And I wasn’t coping very well with not finding work. I didn’t want my parents to know I was taking anti-depressants, because that would stress them, but I wanted to let them know that something wasn’t right.”
The bubbly Gemini admits that some straight talking from his younger sister also helped provide a cap on the excesses of his personality: “She said, ‘"You can’t take people on this journey, you need to make some decisions,” he says.
A month after returning to Australia, Singleton took on a more junior role than he’d hoped for just to get back into employment, then was offered a chance to go back to the company that had made him redundant in the first place.
Around that time, TV personality Charlotte Dawson committed suicide after a long battle with depression. After witnessing the public response to her death, Singleton took the bold step of publically coming out about his own depression on Facebook, a medium Dawson used regularly. The response was overwhelmingly one of surprise and support. One friend commented, “Depression is a major killer in my family. I lost two family members to suicide last year. You never know who has depression and you must keep a close eye on everyone.”
A significant number also admitted to experiencing depression themselves and showed that, once again, mental health issues are a particularly prolific in the GLBTI community, and that discussing the blues – even on social media – will help.
Now halfway through his year-long course of anti-depressants, the up & coming DJ has heeded his mum’s advice to put the corporate world on hold for six months and to see the world with his new boyfriend.
He says that he hopes that by opening up about his experience that he will help encourage others to do the same, particularly to their GP’s, who can prescribe six to ten sessions with a psychologist per year, free through Medicare.
“Tackle it and you’ll be sorted,” says Singleton. “I denied the fact for probably a year that there was something wrong with me, but there’s no stupid question to ask – right? Your brain is the most powerful part of your body. If it’s not in good knick, it will have an impact on everything else.”
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14 or QLife 1800 184 527.
Men’s Health Week runs from June 9-15. Go to www.menshealthweek.org.au.