Growing up was a constant daily challenge for me – I was bullied from the age of nine, right through to the age of 16, I witnessed my parents split, I moved houses multiple times and the friends I did have were all taken from me when I moved school. Gaming became a safe haven for me, an escape – my N64 was one of the most wonderful experiences of my gaming life, still to this day I hold this as my favourite console I have ever owned. I do put this down to multiple reasons, the most important one being the ability it gave me to detach myself from reality; from exploring the magical and enchanting worlds created in such games as Banjo-Kazooie, to the excitement I
felt whilst playing some of my favourite wrestling games to-date.
Fast-forward to 2009 and I suffered a violent attack whilst walking home after work that left me on crutches. By this time I had been working as a radio presenter for three years, I had also recently been made redundant from Kerrang Radio and moved over to BRMB (You may know this as Free Radio). During the transition I had a lot of time with my thoughts, realising how much the industry I was in love with, had a deep effect on my mental health. At first I wasn’t sure if this was just my mind overthinking, or being bitter about the fact I had been let go from my dream job. Then I sat with a friend who taught psychology at a local university and without me knowing at the time, he was testing me with various methods and questions – he then asked me for my mobile phone, where he typed out what he believed I valued in life, none of which were my own personal wellbeing.
At that point I burst into tears, realising that I was suffering from more than just frustration of moving radio stations, it was much deeper than that.
This is where my whole life changed. I suffered with depression and horrific bursts of anxiety, which for someone who’s job it was to speak to thousands of people every day live on national radio – wasn’t ideal. I remember at the time going into my local GAME store and whilst checking the charts, I saw that ‘Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ had released on PS3, I remember having a fantastic experience with the first game so I took my chances on the sequel.
And oh boy, what an enthralling, wondrous adventure I was taking. During my spare-time I would sit and play this game over and over, once again detaching myself from the struggles of reality. I felt a real connection with the lead character Nathan Drake, as someone who was always chasing his dreams, battling his way through unexpected scenarios just to be considered as somewhat successful in the field he had chosen to pursue a life in. During my experience with Uncharted 2, I was taught a valuable lesson from Drake; despite all the obstacles that you have to overcome in life and despite watching your dreams crumbling to dust around you, all that matters are the people that help, support and guide you through those struggles to become a stronger person for surviving those moments in life, where it all seems like there is nothing left to give.
I’m not sitting here typing this and saying everything I was suffering just magically went away – I still suffer with my mental health now. I have good days and I have days where all I want to do is wrap myself up in a blanket and be invisible to the world. However, with that said, I have very strong people around me and I am lucky enough to be given incredible opportunities as a TV/ stage presenter within the gaming industry, that allows me to express myself and showcase my passion for this beautiful medium.
I may have only scratched the surface here, but I want everyone who reads this to know that you aren’t alone and there is help available. If my story helps one person – then sitting on the edge of my sofa telling my story to you has been worth it. Mental health is a very difficult subject to speak about and whilst typing this I have had to wipe a few tears from my keyboard. The first step is acknowledging that what you are going through isn’t “okay” and this action in itself shows strength and courage. For me, I have found a way to turn my ‘lost cause’ in to ‘treasure trophies’ and you can too… Find your Nathan Drake, find your one small thing a day that will put a little smile on your face, because YOU are important and so is your well-being.