It’s another one of those days. Sat with my head in my hands, worrying constantly about what my future holds. Scratching my fingers through my hair, biting my nails to the point of bleeding. Feeling like I’m drowning in an ocean of self-doubt, unsure what the hell I can do to dig myself out of my hopeless situation. The cause? Someone has said one bad thing to me.
There is an alarming habit among males in the North East of England and probably the whole world: the idea of “manning up” and getting on with life whenever you’re down. Unfortunately, this attitude masks the real pain that many people in this region feel inside their minds. It is Mental Health Awareness week, and I feel compelled to spill a little bit of truth about depression and anxiety to hopefully encourage anyone suffering in silence to find help.
I know that my blog is public, so I’m prepared to bare my soul a little bit to try to explain what suffering from anxiety and bouts of depression is really like. I have a lot of friends who have heard me out in the past but haven’t been able to understand, which is totally fine. But I feel like if I can get through to anyone reading this who also suffers, it’ll be worth it.
Anxiety for me started in school. I was bullied verbally every day, and made to feel insecure and inferior by girls and other boys alike. I was never the real victim of the school, there were other kids who had it far worse. However, the foundation of constant unease that this daily abuse caused has lived with me ever since. If someone says something negative to me, I think about it relentlessly. I expand on the situation in my head, going over and over until it reaches a scenario where the imagined version of me has to kill himself to escape. Over and over again, day after day, I think like this. Every scenario becomes a doomsday situation.
Depression is the natural result of this anxiety. When your worry reaches critical mass, your mood dips. You begin to sink. For a long time, depression was the constant for me. I spent my younger teenage years buried in video games to escape the sheer apathy for life I felt. Nothing anyone can say will lift you out of depression. “There’s always someone worse off.” “Cheer up it’s not that bad.” “You’ve got it good compared to others.” All of these phrases fall on deaf ears. I felt like I was drowning and I couldn’t get my head above water. Another problem is that you almost welcome it. You stop going to see friends, you stop attending events, you withdraw into your own misery.
Thankfully, forcing myself into activity helped. Parkour and then Mixed Martial Arts let me distract me from myself. Diving into these physical pursuits helped lift my spirits and give me the tools to fight back from depression. I’d recommend anyone who suffers to take up a sport, even if it’s a bit of gentle exercise in the home.
Unfortunately, during my last job I reached what I felt was my lowest point. I was living away from home, in a job that felt like it was going nowhere and worrying about everything possible. Was I going to lose my job at any point because they could ‘tell’ I was so worried? Would my girlfriend leave me because of my anxiety? Would I harm myself? These are all the sort of questions that fly through your brain when you’re anxious. Even when you’re out in public, you’re constantly guessing what others think of you or what they might do.
Thankfully, I sought help. I’ve recently completed a course of Cognitive behaviour therapy and couldn’t feel happier. I’ve found a new job full of great people, with great prospects. I’m the best I’ve ever been – but I know fine well it could strike again. So I continue to exercise, spend time socialising and generally do what I can to recognise any negative thoughts I might be having and stop them in my track. Positive thinking has never worked for me, but thankfully CBT helps you recognise your own thoughts and combat them. It’s practical, even for a sceptic like myself.
If you struggle in silence, find help. There is a silent pain that rages in your mind and it will never go away unless you deal with it head-on. It’s easier to hide from it, or to wallow in your own pity – but it won’t get you anywhere. Mental health is a battle and you have to fight it. Even when fighting is the hardest thing to do – don’t let anyone tell you that your problems aren’t huge because they can’t see the wound in your soul like they could see a broken arm or leg.
Remember: we all have a right to be happy. Life is too beautiful to waste.