“I’m not good enough’’
‘’I will fail’’
‘’I feel like a burden’’
These were some of the statements my self talk repeated to me over and over and over. I could only escape them at the weekends where a double vodka and coke would be my medicine.
But lets go back to where it all began, from as far back as I can remember I’ve always been a worrier, I had a wild imagination and if ever I was faced with a task or a problem I would think of a million possible outcomes. I knew that I was a little different and I knew that my imagination and ability to overthink had a detrimental effect on me. School exams made me sick with panic, the night before and morning of a rugby game would cripple me with anxiety to the point where I was physically sick, I could hardly eat or sleep and don’t even get me started on job interviews. But why did I feel like this? Why me and most importantly why didn’t I speak up and tell anyone?
As you get older you get a little wiser and this happens through making mistakes and learning from them. In my case I had the ability to recognise I was struggling, however I made poor choices, I put in short term fixes for big problems. As I went into my mid-twenties, I knew I suffered with depression, however my answer to resolving this issue was alcohol and drugs. I worked out that at the weekends I could become someone else. I could be the life and soul of the party and I could escape my depression and how it consumed my mind. I became a master of disguise; my mask became heavier and heavier and the constant cycle of drink and drugs, every weekend became a cycle I could not continue with.
I am not going to into detail of my journey from where I was six years ago to now, all I will tell you was that it took lots of courageous conversations, many hours of counselling, journaling and changing my coping strategies. The hardest thing about my mental health journey was the initial conversation. I had many preconceived ideas about how that conversation would happen and how it would be received by my friends and family. Would I be laughed at? Would I be seen as weak? Would I be told to man up and would people’s opinion of me change, would I be judged? Now people may think those judgments may seem harsh and cynical but hiding your true feelings and emotions for a long time can cause havoc with your belief system. I grew up in an environment where men needed to be strong, tough and show no weakness. It was my belief that someone who had been diagnosed with a mental health illness would be medicated at an asylum and not someone like me.
When I was alone with my thoughts the emotional part of my brain became far more powerful than the logical part of my brain. Negative thoughts became magnetised and my decision making and judgement were impaired. I decided to isolate myself and suppress my feelings as much as I could, I most certainly wasn’t living, I was existing. I knew I had to make a choice; I knew I couldn’t carry on living this way.
I decided to muster all the strength and courage and tell someone of the pain and depression I was carrying alone. I had to be brave and let someone in. This conversation saved my life. It’s been a very long, hard and challenging journey but day by day things got better. So what is courage?
Courage - The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.
"she called on all her courage to face the ordeal"
strength in the face of pain or grief.
"he fought his illness with great courage"
My ability to recognise that I suffered with depression was never in question, the issue for me personally was to admit that I needed help, for many years I knew I had depression, but it was something I thought would pass, go away on its own and something that I didn’t need help with. Once I began to recognise that I could not do this alone and that I needed help, something clicked. Admitting I needed help was a huge turning point in my mental health journey. Swallowing my pride and coming to the realisation that I needed support was the foundation to rebuilding my life.
If you’re reading this and was in the same boat as I was then I know how hard it us to open up in fear of being judged. One thing that really shocked me when I created Brotectors was the number of messages from men who told me that they also suffer with their mental health. I didn’t feel so alone, I didn’t feel like the only one and most importantly we need to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.
Believe it or not the conversation which put me onto the road of getting support took place in a graveyard. If you are thinking of opening up to someone about your mental health, then these steps may be able to help you.
- Think about choosing a safe place to open up, being in a comfortable in environment which allows you to feel at ease. You may find it easier over the phone or sending a text.
- Give yourself lots of time, if you are meeting a friend or family member give yourself enough time to be able to communicate effectively without feeling rushed.
- It may be useful to write down your thoughts and feelings beforehand, journaling is a great way to reduce stress and to clarify thoughts and feelings. Knowing you are planning to open up to someone can trigger anxiety and stress.
- Choose your listener! Be mindful of you open up to, it's important to make sure they are a good listener, someone you trust and someone who is non-judgemental.
- Be honest, it’s important to be completely transparent when we are having a courageous conversation. In order for you get the right help and support you need to be open no matter how challenging that may be. Be open be transparent and be yourself. Being uncomfortable is part of the journey but it doesn’t last.
- Focus on the end goal! I know how tough and how daunting it can be to start the conversation which is going to make you feel uncomfortable. Its important to remember the end goal and not to focus on how difficult the conversation may be. The end goal is to offload and get the right support.
I hope these tips may come in handy if you are struggling or if you suspect someone else is struggling. Mental health is a journey, we need to educate and challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. We are a community who wish to support and empower men to talk about their feelings. Remember to follow @mesoamen and @brotectors to see our commitment in supporting men in the community and how we are breaking the stigma.
Repeat after me
‘’I am good enough’’
‘’I will succeed’’
‘’I am not a burden’’