As someone who has struggled with their mental health and still continues to do so, I have become very aware of the dangers in everyday life that threaten to trigger my mental health. If you continue to read on and think, wow, this sounds like me then great! If you also read on and think this doesn’t sound like me at all then that’s fine also. Mental health isn’t a one size fits all, what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. When I really struggle with my mental health my go to coping mechanism is a book or a podcast; ‘Make Your Bed’ is a really quick read and always motivates me. However, some people find it difficult to listen to podcasts or read books; the key here is understanding when you need to implement your own coping strategies. This leads me to my first danger, which is ignoring your self-talk.
This is something I’ve experienced since high school. It’s that little voice which tells you that you’re going to fail, it’s that voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough and that you shouldn’t go for the job, or that something will go wrong. The problem is, if you listen to it for so long and don’t challenge it then you start to believe it! You don’t go for the job, or you don’t take an opportunity in fear of failure. Having doubts and feeling anxious is something we all feel, but when this feeling begins to take over our decision making, we begin to believe it and it becomes the norm. This is when it’s time to take action. Notice your self-talk, get into the habit of catching it early and challenging it.
Comparing yourself to others - ‘’comparison is the thief of joy.’’
We are always told to stay in our own lane but sometimes it’s not as easy as that. I’ve been sucked into the trap of falling down the rabbit hole of social media. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve beaten myself up because I’ve not got ripped abs or I’ve not got a better, bigger or faster car or I’m not sat on a beach sipping a mojito. Sometimes we need to see social media for what it is, it’s a highlight real. Something which has helped me a lot is expressing gratitude and living in the now. Expressing gratitude isn’t just about being thankful for all the good we have in our life, it’s appreciating and helping other people who we have in our life. Perfection doesn’t exist, its unattainable, so strive for progress not perfection.
I’ve been in some of the darkest moments of my life when I’ve kept myself isolated. Wanting to be isolated from friends and family is a double edge sword. On the one hand you can stay clear of being asked any questions and not have to carry the heavy weight of a mask that you wear to stop any questions like, are you ok? Or how have you been? On the other hand, being isolated means being alone, alone with your thoughts, which in my experience was a scary place. Irrational thoughts mixed in with anxiety and self-loathing can be a destructive place. I would stay awake all night and torture myself and then my alarm would go off and I would have to wear the mask to the world. This was a constant cycle which unfortunately led me to a dark place and led me to wanting to take my own life. I made the mistake of putting emphasis on people’s reaction, I was afraid if I reached out and told them the reality of my existence I would be seen as weak and a burden. Knowing what I know now I couldn’t be further away from the truth but when you’re in a dark place you often don’t think logically, and your fears and anxieties are magnetised. If this sounds like you then I urge you to be selfish and take action to call a mate, call your mum or dad, send a text, whatever the process is that will break this cycle is progress.
The ‘sesh’ life.
Alcohol has always played a big part of my life since as far back as I can remember. As a kid I can remember thinking I can’t wait to go clubbing and drink bottles of hooch and WKD when I’m old enough (I’m showing my age here) and when the time came to it I did exactly that. From the age of 18 to 26 I worked as a doorman in some of Cardiff’s well-known nightclubs, seeing lots of people drunk and disorderly every weekend, you would think would put people off the idea of drinking, in my case it was quite the opposite. I learned that alcohol was a great way to suppress my mental illness, well for a good 18 hours anyway. Alcohol and drugs became my coping mechanism. The ‘sesh’ life became a short-term fix, now as I am sure you are already aware what goes up must come down. When I was drunk and partying, I could forget about the depression the anxiety, it was an escapism that I relied upon every weekend. This became a common theme in my life, Monday to Friday I would self-loath and isolate myself, Saturday to Sunday I would spend in nightclubs and back at house parties this was a constant cycle until it reached its peak and I finally found the courage to open up to my father who supported me into getting help from professionals. The problem is I never thought I had a problem, I knew what I was doing wasn’t healthy but I never took ownership and wasn’t honest enough with myself in the fact that I needed help. I wasn’t helping myself. Being brutally honest with myself and admitting that I needed help was the turning point in my life.
We all go through traumas in our life, some people are able to heal and our bodies are able to respond through a process of grieving and dealing with that trauma. Since founding Brotectors I have spoken to hundreds of people who have been through trauma, lots of these people told me they’ve never really dealt with the trauma they have experienced. Many men will try to carry on and wall paper over cracks as they feel society expects men to be the tough alpha male and to be supportive to others. Unhealed trauma can manifest itself in so many ways, depression, high levels of anxiety, unable to connect feelings to behaviours, self-sabotaging or being emotionally cut off. You may not even realise you have an unhealed trauma. Take time to reflect and be self-aware of your commitment to your own self-care. In my experience people will play down their own lived experience of trauma. If this sounds like you then I hope you find the strength to be willing to heal, recovery is a process that takes time and patience.
At Brotectors we aim to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. By creating conditions of a safe and inclusive environment, we aim to power and educate individuals, organisations and communities through a holistic approach of support and development. We are proud to be working in partnership with MESOA for Men; who share our passion for challenging the stigma surrounding mental health and providing men with an online community to support one another and feel safe talking about their mental health and the challenges of life.