Anxiety’s calling in my head

Panic.

It’s a word in common language, used everyday. By all of us. By me. But I’d never really had a proper panic attack before last week. Now I know the meaning.

I was having a shower, odd place for a panic attack I know but stick with me here. I tilted my head a bit too far back, and took on a bit too much water in my nose and eyes.

This is when the panic set in. Hyperventilation. Sweating (I didn’t know I could sweat in the shower). All in a matter of seconds. My fragile mind transported back twenty odd years to when I nearly drowned. I say drowned. Someone tried to drown me. A swimming instructor.

So I never learnt to swim properly until I was 21, taught after I finished my degree on my post-university holiday. All because of fear. Anxiety. Panic. I’m still not a strong swimmer because this latent fear sits in the back of my mind. So please don’t expect me to jump in to save you if you’re struggling. I’ll try but I can’t promise anything.

So here I was. In the shower. Trying to catch my breath. Water still gushing out. Trying to get a sense of my surroundings again so I can calm myself down. Easier said than done.

Panic.

Where am I? I can’t breath. I’m definitely going to die. God it’s wet. It’s hot. I’m hot. Oh my god. I’m going to pass out. In my shower. Alone. And it’ll use up all the hot water. Then I’ll be in trouble.

So I sat down. Don’t ask me why. I just did. I was closer to the taps. I could survive. I will survive. The waters stopped. Why am I still breathing like I’ve just sprinted an uphill marathon?

Calm down.

I can’t.

Then slooooooowly. A old lesson came back to me. I briefly revisited a meditation exercise I learnt from the big breakfast in the 90s. Closed my eyes. Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. Within what felt like an hour but was probably a minute I was back to myself.

Back to normal. Well as normal as I can be.

So I have reflected on this experience in the last week. It has taught me that I can overcome fears, be that fear of open water by using the help of friends or overcoming a small panic by utilising old skills.

I can do this. You can do this. We all carry round baggage. Fears. Beliefs. Disbeliefs. Thoughts. Keep on top of them. Let them out from time to time. Talk to each other. Start a conversation. Embrace each other and respect our differences.

Be beautiful to one another

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A Vicious Cycle (minus the lycra)

Ever wake up in a bad mood? For no apparent reason? No idea what’s causing it but nothing helps?

Well this has been me for the last few days. Stuck in a high level of grump. Every little thing annoying me. Snapping at family and friends when they’ve done nothing wrong.

And this is where my vicious cycle kicks in.

So I’m grumpy. I hate it. I’m largely a happy go lucky chap. Keep smiling. Keep calm. Carry on kind of exterior. But this is rubbish. I snap. I feel worse. I grump. I feel worse. I then end up feeling down because I’ve upset (or feel like I’ve upset people). 

So how does it stop? At the moment? I have no idea but i don’t like where it’s heading. But knowing this is happening, and knowing its not all me but a large part of it is out of my control provides a crumb of comfort.

Trying to snap out of it? Easier said than done. Depression has some powerful weapons in it’s armoury. It’s ability to isolate me is huge. Because when I feel like this, i feel i want to be alone, but that doesn’t help. 

And thus my vicious cycle continues until something changes. But what is that something and when will it come? Perhaps It’s a bereavement reaction to events of the last week? Who knows.

I wish i knew

Looking into the mirror and reflecting

I woke up this morning not unlike any other day. But the realisation of today’s date hit me.

15 years ago. I woke up in the middle of my summer holidays after finishing my GCSEs and ecperienced the worst day of my life. One that has shaped my personality, character, values and self ever since. That was the day i lost my dad. 15 years old. 5 days before my 16th birthday.

The 13th of August has plagued me ever since. Like a grim reminder of life’s cruel twists. For me, this event has no doubt been the trigger for the crippling depression i have battled for half of my life. From the dizzy highs to rock bottom. There is a cause. 

But in recent years, i found myself infinitely more reflect about the hand life has dealt me so far.

So this morning. I took a long hard look in the mirror and refused to allow this date to ruin my day and weekend. I stood. Quietly taking stock of what was looking back at me. Sure the greys are coming through thicker by the week. And I’m not in the best of shape. But all of those external things i am very aware of.

It’s time that shown me my internal struggles. Through several, and i mean several, therapists, i am now at a much reflective point in my life that allows me to look in the mirror and not hate myself. And not cry. And not despair.

Yes. I would took give a limb to have my dad back by my side. But i am quickly turning into him. And I’m ok with that. His influence on the person (some would say man but i still feel like a kid) i have become. I utilise humour. All the time. I love food and cooking. I love my family, and being a good dad is key to me. The list could go on but my hand is getting tired.

So, where do we go from here? I would usually raise a glass to my dad, but I’m taking a break from alcohol. So I’m going to put on some old punk, and look in the mirror. Grateful for those who have made me who i am.

Semi-Mental/Senti-Mental

So here in my mental health lab, I have been making some small adjustments following what i wouldn’t quite call a relapse but a bad day.

I have been nicely settled on my antidepressants for a little while now, nothing really of note happening mentally but almost ignoring the physical side of things.

Here’s where the lab comes in. What does a good lab do? Tests. So i did some research. 

The type of antidepressants i take MAY increase estrogen and decrease testosterone which may account for my weight gain. Whuch started me thinking about testosterone and its affect on my memtal health.

Some interesting stuff out there. The first thing i did after whinging about my weight was to change the type of pants i wear. Keeping everything snug can decrease testosterone which may have been the root of some of physical issues. 

I’ve also cut put alcohol completely. 2 weeks sober and counting. My aim is to get near to 100 days to see if i feel a benefit. I’ve also had a bit of a word with my diet.

So 2 weeks in, and have all the test tubes and bunsen burners been worth it? Well. Yes. But. What’s caused the change? Cleaner living? Looser pants? Medication actually working withput being suppressed by alcohol?

Who knows. But I’m happier than I’ve been in a while. Do i change my pills? Do i just keep up everything im doing? Somewhere in between? I definitely feel better. And that’s what it’s about really. 

Am i getting sentimental about my illness or am i actually recovering to a level of semi mental?

My demons had put on weight. It was time to exorcise them

So. We all have memories associated with different things, places, smells, objects, tastes, songs, films – the list is endless but for me, one song in particular has always, well, I suppose, had a hold over me emotionally.

When I was younger, I’d walked out of bars and parties because it had been played. Fighting back tears because of the memories. But the old cliche says time is a great healer.

So a couple of weeks ago, I went away on stag weekend with a few friends to Liverpool – my old stomping ground, memories galore. The weekend itself was incredible but that’s a tale for another day. One of our evenings culminated in a karaoke bar – where unbeknownst to me, that song came back to haunt me.

The song was played at my late father’s funeral, and i genuinely thought I would never be able to listen to again – for obvious reasons. But in a room full of friends with a belly full of alcohol, one friend belted out said song and it blew away 15 years worth of demons. Just like that. Friends. Laughter. Time. Change the setting and context and i was able to relive a very difficult situation with new eyes and ears.

It’s odd. Because since then, my mood seems to have levelled out. I really think i have put something to rest within myself. Something has shifted within me, and I like it. Nay. I love it. I never thought such a life altering experience would or could happen on a stag weekend.

Here is the song. Please enjoy it. Hug each other. Smile. Be kind to people. Smile. Laugh. 

Aerosmith – I don’t wanna miss a thing

World Mental Health Day 2016

So another World Mental Health Day has almost passed us by but it’s so positive to see this day receiving the attention that it does.

Traditionally, Mental health is ignored or at best avoided in the public eye, with only scaremongering stories finding our front pages. But there appears to have been a cultural shift in recent years – and this I think is largely to Celebrity culture.

Allow me to explain. Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax to name but 2 huge advocates for mental health issues have talked openly about their difficulties and the challenges they continue to face. The modern public is enthralled by celebrity, and in this case is a great thing. It has helped find a level of acceptance and understanding, people are seemingly more open to discussion now.

We’ve come a long way but there is still plenty of ground to be broken. If we all open ourselves up to the idea that we can all struggle at times. What may seem minor to one person can be a huge issue for the next. But the worry is – “what do i say?” 

What do you say? You listen. You be there. In that moment for your friend or loved one. Just being there, is the start if acceptance. Having a mental health problem is not a sign of weakness, its often the curse of being too strong for too long. Please. I beg you. If you struggle, speak out. Take that 1st step. I believe in you.

I’ve had my fair share of issues over the last 15 years or so but I’m on the mend, though that would suggest i am/was broken. I have managed to build myself up to a place where i feel confident enough to say when things are getting tough. But when the going getting tough, the tough ask for help.

Please. Speak out. Reach out. Don’t act out. Be there. Smile, hug and love one another

Give me Therapy

So. I’ve been thinking about how Americans talk about seeing their therapist or psychiatrist as openly as we talk about going for a pint. Feel this is another stigma I want to chat about.

After a tough couple of months, I’ve started seeing a new therapist. I think i’m now in double figures for them so I get a feeling for how useful it will be. 

After years of battling, beating and re-battling depression I have developed anxiety. I didn’t even notice. I began worrying that I had nothing to worry about. So rather than let my own mental health drag me down again, I sought help at the first possible juncture.

Anxiety is new to me. From my first session I felt immediately better. Knowing I needed to open myself up to the process. For this I needed to be honest and open. It felt good to let all this worry out. 

With the combination of medication and 3 sessions in I can feel a palpable change. It feels easy to talk about being back in therapy, but why won’t people talk about it? Is it still too British to admit defeat? To say we are struggling? 

It’s time to change. Talk. Have a cup of tea with an old friend. Be there. Be present. Be strong.