The feedback was truly amazing; literally hundreds of emails, letters and calls thanking me for telling my story., and in doing so making it easier for others. A small number of people kept in touch, and even now (16 months later) I still receive the odd email from those who were helped in some small way.
Over the weekend I received the following email. Publishing my story was like throwing a pebble in a pool, but I never anticipated the ripples would be lapping the shoreline over a year later. It demonstrates how important it is for people who feel able to do so to tell their own story in their own way, as each human story breaks down the barriers and gives hope to others.
The following email (with certain omissions) is reproduced with the permission of its author.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Sat, Dec 6, 2014 at 8.22 AM
Subject: Thank you
To: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am writing to thank you for the role you played in helping me get over my depression. I was one of the many people given hope by your compassionate article on the blog last year about your own issues and how you dealt with them. I email-ed you at the time to thank you using a false name as I was too ashamed to confirm who I was. At that time I had not told my girlfriend, parents or my friends I had depression. I am sure you receive many emails about many matters so I felt and still feel guilty that in the two or three months following our initial contact I must have contacted you 10 times. If I irritated you then to your great credit you never allowed it to show, even when you replied in the early hour of the morning when I am sure you had more important matters on your mind such as sleeping. You were never judgemental and apart from one time when you said you me “change doesn’t happen by accident, if you want to make something change you have to initiate it yourself or else you will always be a passenger.” I thought at the time that was harsh but it was also true, and maybe more than anything else the realisation that I was allowing myself to be a passenger through my own life journey was the hard truth I needed to hear.
To cut a long story short I found the courage to go and see my doctor. Unlike you I did not feel I then had the strength to face my illness alone so I accepted her offer of anti-depressant medication and also began attending a support group. Six months later I went through a phased withdrawal of my medication and I am now back in control, though I still attend counselling as and when I need it. Finally, a few weeks ago I had the confidence and courage to put my name forward for selection in Xxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxx for a marginal council seat, unthinkable for me this time a year back.
I hope I would have perhaps found the courage to face this without reading your own story, but who can be sure? I do know that your honesty and the very fact you remained in your job and retained the loyalty of your colleagues gave me hope and courage. The fact that in that dark place late at night without the distractions of the day I was able to email someone who was real yet anonymous was huge comfort. Thank you.
I am afraid I have misled you. Above I referred to the fact that we have never met, but we have met without you knowing. In Birmingham early on day one, the Sunday, you and three colleagues were drinking coffee in Starbucks in the ICC at about 9.30 in the morning. I approached the table and asked if you were Andrew Kennedy and told you how much I enjoyed your blog. You thanked me and we shook hands. I thought briefly that perhaps I should tell you but you were busy and distracted and I did not want to intrude. You probably will not remember, but I said “your writing makes a big difference to a lot of people”. You looked a bit taken aback, now I hope you know why I said it.
Thank you again.
(my real name this time)