In 2010, author, Rod Wood, was diagnosed with clinical depression. After finding that medication and counselling were not really working for him, he decided that the only person who could help him out of his depression was himself...
I guess most of my life I’ve always been a very shy, quiet, unconfident person. The only way I ever expressed myself to my potential was on the hockey pitch, but over the course of my career, I guess the real problem became lack of sleep and it was only really when I went to my doctor in 2010 after years of lack of sleep and a culmination of failing marriages, foot and mouth disease, working foot and mouth disease that I was heavily involved with, another failed relationship, it was only going to my doctor in the end that he said it was depression and not a sleep deprivation problem.
I think my Doctor put me on various tablets and things, which did no good at all. He tried counselling with me but I said, ‘I don’t talk to anybody so it won’t have any effect on me’. I actually went on a holiday in Egypt, just on a cruise, and I read in one of the magazines there a little poem which I just thought this is all about me really – it’s just trying to define what matters in life and what doesn’t. The poem is only thirty words probably and it just made me realise that I needed to change and Kilimanjaro was something that I wanted to achieve by the time I was fifty and I’d gone way past that and I guessed now was the time and some of my friends said ‘actually Rod, you’re going to do it.’
In 2012, I climbed Kilimanjaro and came down a completely changed person. Actually reaching the top, I think a lot of people would say you just feel too tired to take in what you’ve achieved but when we’d got down the following day and we were sitting having a beer in the grounds of a hotel – just looking up and seeing the snow-capped peak silhouetted against the sky and you think, ‘Yeah, 19,000 feet. I was up there yesterday.’ It’s just total elation.
I think most of my farmers would say that the person who came back from Africa was a completely different person from the person who set off a fortnight previously. I had so much more belief in myself, so much more confidence. Okay, I wasn’t over depression completely, but I felt I had achieved something and I was achieving a lot more in my battle against it. I’d gone a long way to overcoming it.
In 2017, I set out on another mission: to climb Mount Kenya. It was basically a promise to myself after I’d done Kilimanjaro. I’d always had a love of African wildlife, I promised myself that five years after doing Kilimanjaro, I would go back to Africa to see the wildlife and to see elephants in the wild which is something that I’d always wanted to do.
But this trip would prove more physically and emotionally difficult than I imagined. I didn’t get to the top. I had to make personal decisions, big decisions, about whether I went on or turned back. Being strongly driven and not having accepted failure since I did Kilimanjaro, it was hard to say ‘probably I’m not quite right so... I’m getting married in a couple of weeks and I want to see my kids and everything, so if there is an altitude sickness problem and I can’t take the porters any further and ask them to all turn round’... It was a big decision to say ‘no, I’m going to stop and I’m going to go back again’.
After climbing Kilimanjaro, I just thought I’d make a diary and when I got back I thought, ‘I’ll write a book and even if it’s only for me, then at least I’ve recorded something that I really wanted to do and something which has had such a big effect on my life’.
My new book is the follow up to that and I feel very proud to have finished the story about me, about my personal problems, about my battle against depression, but I think also it was a matter of turning over a new leaf, and being able to write about issues which have concerned me and I have been interested in all my life. Even from a myopic point of view – a two week visit to Kenya and two weeks to Tanzania five years beforehand – to actually be able to express my opinions and hope people will take notice of what I’ve seen on what are world issues.
I think depression, stress and mental illness are becoming more and more common. I think probably the hardest battle is accepting that you have it and even more of a problem then is accepting that probably the person who can do most about it is yourself. I think that’s the biggest battle. I found a solution. I could afford to go and climb a mountain but that doesn’t apply to everybody, but if you’ve got something you want to do, the reward you get from achieving your ambition – the success, the self-belief, the confidence you get is more than half the battle to overcoming your depression.
Learn more about Rod's story in Kenya: A Mountain to Climb available now on Amazon.