Jack’s Story

Jack Nolan's portrait. The Open Shutters Project by Lisa Marie Gee of Studio G Photography, Oldham.
Jack Nolan

Jack Nolan, a published author in his early twenties, tells his story to the Open Shutters project in the video below.



If you, or anyone you know, would like to take part in the Open Shutters Project, please email openshutters@studiog-oldham.co.uk. The project will be exhibited at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10, 2018. A book will be published to coincide with the exhibition.

Charlotte’s Story



My journey with mental health probably started a lot earlier than I care to admit. I know when it became apparent and when it truly affected me. But I didn’t listen to the warning signs. I didn’t talk.

I have always been and always will be a planner. Organised to the point of obsession, a perfectionist and a control freak. In 2012 when I lost control, I lost everything. I lost my purpose, my reason and my plan. I had always dreamed of becoming a teacher. Everything I had done in life was to support my goal. I had it all chosen; the course, the university, the school I would work at, the house, the marriage – the perfect life. The ‘5 year plan’.

However after 2 years of university – I had to admit I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t for me. But how do you admit that you were wrong about your dream, about your life plan. How do you say to your family that you failed, that all the support they had provided was for no reason. I was the first person in my family to go to university and I had failed it.

This was the hardest thing I ever did – I struggled in silence. Shutting myself off from the world – comforting myself in my own denial. I struggled through, rejecting my own knowledge, pretending I was ok. Suffering in silence, crying myself to sleep. I had gone from having my life planned out, from being in control and having it outlined – to nothing. My whole purpose and existence crumbled in front of me; and I couldn’t stop it. I quit, moved back home with my mum and dad and shut myself away. For weeks I buried myself into bed, only surfacing for water to replenish stock for the tears landing on my pillow.

After 3 weeks, my Dad stood at the end of my bed and gave me the reality check I needed. Told me to get up, stand up and fight back. That is exactly what I did. I went back to planning ways. But this time started planning in smaller steps. Writing each goal down in my notepad. Goals started off as inviting a friend round, arranging to go for a coffee, and gradually built up. I built up to getting a part time job, getting a better job too gaining a career. Buying my first car, loosing weight, joining the gym, get a tattoo, saving for a house. I wrote them all down; all the small goals, the large goals and anything in between. Anything that was a milestone for me in my personal journey.

Without my goal setting I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be in a happy and loving relationship, living in my own home, content. A new puppy and a baby on the way. I would still be hibernating in my own self pity. Now I am more determined than ever to succeed. I still panic when I am not in control, when I feel life slipping. But I have learnt to say it is OK. That I don’t have to be in control 100% – that actually it isn’t possible to be 100% in control. That I can’t protect everyone around me. But when I do have a bad day- I still have my notepad to look back at. I look back over all the pages and look at where I have come from, to where I am. I am confident I will never return to that point, but if I do, I know I can arise from the darkness of the ashes again, to spread my wings in the brightness of the flames of life.

But to anyone who is struggling, that does feel low, out of control or lost, talk to someone; I learnt the hard way – mental health isn’t a weakness; we all have breaking points some people’s are lower than others. Talking about how I felt earlier possible wouldn’t have prevented me from my depression or anxiety but I may have tackled it and acknowledged it earlier. However, I don’t regret it, my mental health doesn’t define me as a person; it is part of who I am and I don’t think I will be 100% ‘normal’ – I will always be a little bit ‘pyscho’ or ‘crazy’. My journey and battle made me stronger and hand on heart it made me a better person.

Chris’ Story

I’m too much of a scaredy cat to do a video post so I said I’d write a post instead…. I am a father of three (Lanky, Brains and Boo) and I am presently working in IT. I’ve worked in IT for nigh on 20-odd years (I lose count) and prior to that I worked in Mental Health which is where I met my wife, Amanda.

In terms of mental health issues, I have in the past suffered greatly with depression. I also have fairly massive anxiety issues as well (the two often go hand in hand). About four years ago I had what is commonly described as a breakdown. At that time, I honestly knew (and couldn’t be convinced otherwise) that I was of no use to anyone. I was a failure as a husband, a father and a friend. I knew that everyone would be better off if I weren’t around. As a result, I did that classic thing where I started to cut people out so they didn’t have to suffer my uselessness or see me.

I thought I was somehow doing them a favour. Being depressed isn’t feeling sad. It’s feeling everything without any barriers or protection and at the same time being unable to show how you are feeling. It’s like being in a suit of armour growing every tighter and closer until you can’t breathe. It’s screaming inside yourself for help but being absolutely unable to say the words. It’s knowing with absolute certainty that you’re almost not real, that you don’t think or feel like normal people, that you are somehow terribly wrong. It’s despairing that no one can see it; that no one hears the screams.

Now though… I’m way better. I still panic about pretty much everything but I’ve coping mechanisms in place. I’m with my family and that gives me worth. I took tablets and I went to counselling. One good thing to come out of all the above is that I have realised how wonderful my circle of friends are. There are people out there who never gave up on me; who persevered with me when I was unable to give a thing back. They are people who, when I felt like an astronaut cut free from his tether, grabbed hold and pulled me in. They don’t even know they did it.

In my picture I am holding a photo of Amanda, Sam, Thomas and my Boo. They are my why and my how. When things ever get on top of me, I think of them and it somehow gets easier.

If anyone reading this thinks their friend or relation is depressed then trust me, they know they’re of no worth. You won’t convince them otherwise. What you must do though is just keep plugging away. Tell them what you see. When they come around, they’ll remember that. They’ll remember every kindness you did them. It will help.

And if you think that in some tiny way you might be depressed then, trust me, you are. If you’re cutting people or places out and making your world smaller, then you are. If even walking down stairs is a heroic effort, then you are. Go to see your doctor. Let your friends mither you. Allow yourself to fall. Somewhere, somehow, someone will catch you.

Laura’s Story


“Bloody hell… I wish she’d cheer up! There are people in far worse situations!”

I walked out of the coffee shop, exasperated and annoyed. I’d met an old friend for coffee and a chat only to end up being used as an emotional dumping ground. I knew she suffered from depression (and had done for several years) but she appeared to have suddenly hit an all-time low – and, to be honest, I didn’t get it.

She was smart, relatively healthy, had a job, had a large circle of friends… how could she possibly be so miserable? As far as I was concerned, she didn’t have the right to be depressed. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just lighten up! I honestly believed that she was actively choosing to feel like this, to view life in a negative way, and her problems could be fixed by a simple change in attitude.

Looking back, I’m disgusted with myself – and thankful that I never voiced those ignorant thoughts.

I was in my early twenties when the aforementioned meeting took place and, less than five years later, I would learn the harsh realities of depression for myself.

* * *

I attribute my experiences with depression to a fantastically shite (excuse my French) series of events that took place between 2011 and 2012. I was made redundant from a fairly lucrative job, I was growing increasingly stressed due to the looming deadline of my master’s degree dissertation  and, the cherry on the cake, my beloved grandma passed away after a long battle with dementia.

I honestly don’t know when it started, whether the change crept in slowly and subtly over a period of time or whether it hit me suddenly like a dead weight… my memories from that time are hazy and shrouded in fog. All I remember is that I no longer felt like myself.

My emotions were volatile, to say the least. The hatred, anger, and rage I felt was so intense, it was frightening. I was also grieving and bitterly upset. Then, there was the feeling of numbness. In a way, that was the worst feeling of all – to feel absolutely nothing. Empty.

I slept all day and stayed awake all night. I lived in my pyjamas and went days without showering. I didn’t cook, clean, or do any of household chores. I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone. I had no energy. I retreated within myself. At my very worst, I was suicidal. I simply didn’t want to exist anymore.

Believe it or not, I lived this way for over two years.  Sure, some things changed – I found a new job, forced myself to socialise, and tried my best to appear ‘normal’ – but, inwardly, I was a wreck. I didn’t want to admit to having depression because it felt like admitting defeat. I was also terrified about the stigma attached with mental health issues. In time, the situation became so bad that I barely ate, couldn’t sleep, could hardly function, and was drinking wine every night after work just to take the edge off my nerves.

This was the point where I decided that enough was enough. I needed help.

* * *

As I write this, it’s May 2017. I have been depression free, and antidepressant free, for a good while now. I never thought it possible to feel human again, to get my mental and physical health back to how it was… yet here I am. Proof that, even at the end of the darkest tunnel, there is light.

If I could turn back the clock, I would never have waited so long to seek professional assistance. My doctor was wonderful, understanding, and gave me the help I so desperately needed. Within less than a month of taking antidepressant medication, I could feel a positive shift in my mood. My recovery was aided further by CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). It didn’t take long for my health to improve by leaps and bounds… yet I allowed myself, and my loved ones, to suffer for over two years. Two unnecessary years of suffering due to my pride and inability to accept my illness for what it truly was. Silly, right?

If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health issue, please don’t be a jerk, as I was during that coffee shop meeting all those years ago. Reach out to that person. Help them to help themselves. They need you far more than you know.

If you’re suffering from depression, or any other mental health issue, please don’t suffer in silence. Confide in a loved one. Talk to a professional. Don’t be scared or afraid of what people may think. You are not alone! There is help – and there is hope!

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.