My Darkest Hour

My darkest hour.

Recent events have provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my past. It’s not an easy thing to do for a number of reasons – shame, guilt and fear, to name but three – but, on the flip side, it does allow me to see just how far I’ve come. But this post isn’t about me telling you how great I am now (because I’m not, I’m just better than I was). No, this post is an attempt to describe how things were at my very lowest point. A point in my life that I refer to as my darkest hour, but in reality it was much longer than an hour….maybe months, possibly even a year.

Let’s start with the way I felt every time I woke up during this period. In a word – Awful. Really fucking awful. The first feeling was dread, followed by a mixture of nervousness, anger and self loathing on a continuous loop throughout the day. My heart would be beating fast and my lungs felt like bricks – almost constantly. My internal monologue would be something like:

“Oh, shit. I’m awake. How the fuck am I going to deal with this? How will I even get out of bed? How will I talk to people and not appear a jibbering mess? Will I get to see tomorrow?”

Yep. Every time I woke up.

I’ve neglected to refer to waking up as an exclusively morning based activity – simply because it wasn’t. During this period my waking may have been in the middle of the night, could’ve been lunchtime, sometimes dinner time, or on the rare occasion I would wake at the more conventional breakfast time. My sleep patterns were shot to bits. The flat I was living in was near a school and I’d be woken by the sounds of the kids chattering as they went past, the trouble was I didn’t know if they were on their way to or from school – it could’ve been 9am or 3pm. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. I dreaded waking up, whatever time. And whenever I did wake I was filled with dread. Feelings of dread that were exaggerated by binge drinking, miss-use of sleeping pills and antidepressants, or a day spent curled up on a mattress in a darkened room. Sometimes all three. During my darkest days I would do whatever I thought I could to numb the constant state of dread I lived in. Of course, the reality is that these things only made it worse. Much worse.

Why was I even in this position? I was a guy in his early twenties living in the spare room of somebody else’s flat, sleeping on a mattress on a floor, drinking like a fish, taking sleeping pills in the middle of the day and living on beef and tomato pot noodles. I had no job, no car, no money and no girlfriend (months earlier I’d had all of those things). The answer? Anxiety. Little old anxiety put me there. Or more specifically my inability to accept, understand and deal with an anxiety disorder. All I knew was I felt like shit from the moment I woke until the moment I eventually fell asleep. I just wanted to not feel like that. I just wanted to feel normal (whatever that is). I tried everything I could to escape that world but all it really did was make it darker, scarier and very very fragile. I’d pushed away everyone close to me in pursuit of numbness. At my very lowest my personal possessions were a couple of bags of clothes, a radio and little else. I was so close to having nothing at all that it scares the living shit out of me to reflect on it. I had everything and turned it in to nothing in the space of months. That was my darkest hour.

That was over 10 years ago and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to reflect on it as a shit period in my life and little more. Some people aren’t so lucky. Some people fall and don’t get back up. If you are struggling with your mental health please reach out. #beheadstrong 

BREAKING NEWS

I haven’t written anything for a while despite people asking (telling) me to. The reason? I didn’t know what to talk about…

…I mean, I started this blog to open up about my mental health challenges and I’ve done that. I’ve spoken about my past – the panic attacks, the Turkish hospital, the Tescophobia, the fear of tomorrow – and without revisiting those things there’s not much else to say is there? I guess I could talk about my here and now, but that’s far less interesting. And it’s less interesting because for the first time in years, maybe over a decade, I’m loving every day. Don’t get me wrong, some of the mental health stuff is still there. I still have bouts of anxiety and panic that come out of the blue – but they don’t win anymore! They’re uncomfortable but they don’t stop me. They are an annoyance or inconvenience but little more. Family, friends, work, sport, Headstrong – they’re all going well. They all involve passion, humour and positivity. So, for reasons I’m very proud of, I’m not going to write about me.

I’m going to write about the news….

At the time of writing the world is facing a climate change crisis, there’s a Coronavirus epidemic, Britain is turning its back on the EU, Trump is still in the White House and Russia and North Korea and behaving like, well, Russia and North Korea (and I’ve not mentioned Syria, ISIS, Yemen, or the Australian bush fires). There are scary headlines and fear inducing breaking news notifications everywhere you turn. Pick up a newspaper (remember them?) tomorrow and there will be probably something to scare the living shit out of you on the front. Turn on the TV, tune in to the radio or open your social media apps and I can almost guarantee you will see or hear something that makes you think we’re fucked. News, particularly bad news, is everywhere. And I’m beginning to think that this constant stream of fear may possibly be having a negative impact on our collective mental health (the irony/hypocrisy of that statement has been registered). Yes – climate change is a real and serious issue, yes – World War III might well be on the horizon, yes – sadly, Coronavirus will wipe out a small proportion of the worlds population BUT our personal lives can be challenging enough without the added pressures of being reminded of the cruel and dangerous world we live in every couple of minutes. Now I’m not saying ignore it completely, I’m definitely not saying don’t fight for what you believe in, and I’m certainly not saying that it’s all butterflies and jelly babies out there. But what I am saying is, give yourself and your mental health the best possible chance.

For what it’s worth, this is what I think;

I think we need to turn off notifications or delete the news apps.

I think we need to un-follow news agencies on social media.

I think we need not to buy a paper everyday.

I think we need to make time to talk about the good and positive things happening in the world….because there are plenty.

I think if we do all of the above, even as a temporary measure, we will notice a positive impact on our mental health.

But what do you think?

Do these 3 thing things….

I’m getting quite good at suggesting what we SHOULDN’T do when it comes to mental health, so it’s a refreshing change to be able to share 3 things that we SHOULD do. This post begins with me doing something I never ever thought I would do – visit a hypnotherapist….

In the last 2 months I’ve gone from not really knowing what hypnotherapy is -outside of Paul McKenna making people cluck like chickens on prime time TV during the mid nineties – to preaching about it to all and sundry.

Hypnotherapy, or more specifically solution-focused hypnotherapy, isn’t someone swinging a pendulum in front of your eyes and putting you under some kind of spell, and it doesn’t involve the giant snake from the Jungle Book telling you “you’re getting very sleepy” (which is a huge relief as I’m petrified of snakes, especially the talking kind).

In fact, a large chunk of it involves sipping tea and having a chat. And a large chunk of that chat is learning about what your brain is actually doing (or not doing). My hypnotherapist, Daisy, explains what is going on inside our heads in a simple but effective way at the beginning of each session. We talk about the neuroscience that leads to the negative behaviours and habits we exhibit and what we can do combat them and create a better tomorrow. I’m not going to insult Daisy by trying to explain the intricacies on here (she does it far better than I
ever could) but in simple terms it boils down to three things the we ALL need to be doing doing to improve our mental health, and they are;

1. Spending time with friends and family

This is hugely important and, in my opinion, never has the phrase “quality over quantity” been so important. Surround yourself with people that make YOU happy. If my mental health journey has taught me one thing, it’s that people (even family and “friends”) can be toxic. I once heard a motivational speaker refer to these people as “mood hoovers” and he was right. Negativity is contagious so protect yourself from it.

2. Doing something we enjoy

Our time on this planet is brief so we need to enjoy ourselves. We need positive interests and hobbies – things that make us feel good. For me it’s sport – football, cricket, rugby, gym, squash, running, golf – and for others it may be something completely different like fishing, pottery, sewing, hiking….

3. Self praise

Difficult, but crucial. Self praise doesn’t come naturally to me and many others, but it’s so important. Being able to give yourself a pat on the back can help build self confidence and generate energy – it can put a spring in your step!

I’m not saying that by doing these things your life will improve instantly, or that everyday will be wall-to-wall happiness, but, by spending time with good people, regularly doing things you enjoy, and giving yourself some credit when it’s due then things might just begin to improve.

One day at a time.

#beheadstrong

Since my first visit to Daisy I’ve noticed a significant improvement in many areas of my life – my sleep has improved, my anger has lessened, and I’m actively noticing the positive things in my life. If you’d like to learn more about the services Daisy provides please visit http://www.daisymaryonhypnotherapy.com (and for the record, I am not being paid for this endorsement!) 

Guest post – Sophie Elizabeth’s story

The following post is by friend and Headstrong Project supporter Sophie. Sophie first shared her story via a very honest and raw Facebook post and has kindly allowed me to share it on here. It’s a brief but powerful insight.

OK… so I wasn’t sure if I should do this but it’s good to talk, good to share and good to be heard, isn’t it?

A year ago something happened in my life that has really effected me ever since, whilst depression and anxiety aren’t new to me, this time my mind took hold of me and it got very dark. I made mistakes – I didn’t talk much or express myself in the right way to the right people.

I saw the doctor and took the tablets I was given, but that wasn’t enough. I pushed it down and pretended it would go away…. it didn’t.  I experienced psychotic moments and it frightened me. I thought it was normal for the pain I had gone through, I pushed it away, but it only became worse. I saw the doctor again, this time it was urgent. I was told not only was I suffering from depression and anxiety but I also had PTSD and dissociation disorder, I had no idea that’s what it all was. It felt like a black shadow crushing down on me more and more, it consumed me so much. The doctors referred me to the mental health team and in turn I was referred to the crisis team –  they decided the best thing for me was to go into a mental health recovery house for two weeks to start the process of healing. That two weeks away was so hard. Up and down. Good days and bad days – but it was the right environment for me to be in.

Now I am home and I’m not “better”, but I am on the right road to recovery. I’m supported by family and friends as well as my mental health worker and psychiatrist, who visit me regularly. After a year of living in darkness I’m slowly coming into the light…. everyday is different and that’s OK.

This is only a brief insight to my story but I want it to help and if one person reads this today and it makes a change to them I know I’ve done the right thing.

Please message me via Facebook me if you want to talk, I’m here. I am a fighter and I’m fighting and I want to help anyone and everyone I can. I’m not hiding away from it anymore.

#thisismeandmystory

 

Talking Headstrong

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A few things have happened since I started blogging about my mental health…

  1. It’s improved (talking, you see)
  2. People have opened up to me (talking, again)
  3. The Headstrong Project was born

And it’s the 3rd item that’s the subject of this blog.

Who is it?

The Headstrong Project is the brain child of myself, Dan Horsman, Alex Bowdery, and Sophie Cox.

Dan has had his own mental health challenges and was keen to give something back. He has successfully set up and hosted get-togethers aimed at encouraging men to talk about their mental health in a relaxed environment. An important job.

Outside of Headstrong Dan spends his time being very handsome and working for Savills where he’s definitely not an estate agent.

Alex is a keen and talented film maker (he’s worked with Jason Statham you know). His creative talents, interest in mental health and movie making skills led to the first Headstrong mini project – a powerful short film based on real life testimony of people’s mental health struggles.

In his non-Headstrong life Alex plays squash, takes dramatic photos and enjoys the occasional cider.

Sophie joined the project for two very important reasons.

1 – make real change in the fight against mental health stigmas

2 – control 3 blokes that have huge ideas, small wallets, and questionable organisational skills

In her “normal” life Sophie is a Flavour Doctor (seriously), mother, and party host extraordinaire.

The Headstrong Team – passionate, creative, organised.

What is it?

In simple terms, The Headstrong Project aims to breakdown barriers (stigmas), raise awareness and provide support around mental health through original projects and events.

It’s 2019 and people still struggle to talk about their mental health as easily as they do their physical health. Why? Mental health is as real as physical health. Mental health can impact physical health and vice versa. Mental health can lead to absence from work, family feuds, isolation, and death. It can lead to death yet we don’t talk about it!

At Headstrong we talk about it. All the time. We talk about it to our families, colleagues, friends, neighbours, and pets (probably). We tweet about it, Instagram it, post it on Facebook and share it on LinkedIn. And most importantly we aim to encourage others to do the same. Talking about mental health should be as normal as taking about the weather. That’s our mission. Our projects and events will create comfortable, judgement free environments for the conversations to continue.

Speaking of projects and events – We are bursting with ideas! Art projects, photography events, football matches, charity balls, yoga…and, most crucially, simple one-to-one chats.

Since our inception in July of this year we’ve met, and begun working with, Dorset Mind, Rural Mental Health Matters, The Blackmore Vale Partnership, The Mental Health Roadshow, and independent therapists. We’ve created a film, posted daily well-being tips, held socials, had one-to-ones, hosted quiz nights, presented at events, and attended charity balls.

We are Headstrong and we’re on a mission.

#beheadstrong

If you’d like to learn more, reach out, or simply ask a question please contact us via our social media

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A nice day for a dry wedding

Going dry at a wedding.

 

Sounds easy right? Nope. Not for me anyway. I love a good wedding. The celebration, the mates, the food, the suits and the drink. All the ingredients for a good day/night. The problem is, and I’ve mentioned this before, alcohol plays havoc with mental health. For me it’s the next day. I get the usual hangover – headache, unquenchable thirst, tiredness, nausea – but then something else happens. The anxiety, particularly the physical symptoms, go through the roof. Feeling feint, sweats, sense of impending doom, detachment, blurred vision. They all come to the party. But, unlike the night before, this party is shit. 

 

You may well, quite logically, be asking;

Why drink? If it’s makes you feel so god awful, why do it?

 

Well, until now, I’ve always kid myself that the previous nights euphoria outweighed the following days struggles. I desperately want to enjoy the night and to do that I need to get drunk, right? What a load of cock. As I type this I realise how ridiculous that sounds. Trouble is, it’s taken a hell of a long time for that penny to drop. But! The penny has dropped. I’ve challenged myself to go sober for a while and see what a difference it makes to my mental health. Monday to Thursday would be pretty easy, I don’t tend to drink much during the week – maybe 3-4 pints max – but, according to some studies, that’s enough to negatively impact your mental health (and your physical health for that matter) so I’m going to do this fully dry. Not even a shandy bass. 

 

Anyway, back to the wedding. Here’s how going sober went….

 

Arrival. The wedding venue is a lovely hotel set in the picturesque Avon valley. It’s a hot day so everybody is grabbing a drink and congregating on the terraces. We do the same. A crisp continental lager would go down an absolute treat right now! But, alas, I cannot fall at the first hurdle. A pint of squirty-gun cola (you know the stuff) it is. Pleasantries exchanged – the women compliment each other on their dresses, the men abuse each other about the tightness of their suits – the usual. Nobody has queried my choice of beverage. It’s going well. Squirty-gun cola isn’t for the long haul though. One pint of that is quite enough. I can feel it on my teeth. The next drink will have to be different. 

 

Time for the ceremony. The bride looks amazing and the groom actually scrubs up quite well. No drinks allowed (quite rightly) so no obstacles to overcome. It’s a lovely hymn free ceremony – and it’s not particularly long – that’s a winning combo in my book. 

 

Next up is the after-the-ceremony-before-the-meal-bit. I’m not sure if there’s a proper word for that…probably. Champagne and Pimms are on offer but I swerve in favour of orange juice. I didn’t find that difficult – champers is sure fire heartburn for me and my pathetic stomach acid control and I don’t particularly like Pimms. The OJ is nice….but not for the long haul. I need to find that non-alcoholic drink that you can consume like, well, the alcoholic ones. We exchange more pleasantries, catch-up with old friends, pose for photos and covertly check the cricket and football scores. I have to admit the anxiety was beginning to creep in around now. It’s weird, becoming aware of it almost makes it worse. I can feel my heart speeding up, eyes beginning to twitch and concentration waning. Im sweating a lot too, but that’s probably down to the fact it’s a very warm day and I’ve neglected to purchase a suit that’s in-keeping with my ever-evolving dad-bod. Now, historically, this would be the time for a nerve settling beverage – but not today. Can’t fail. Today I’m opting for non-alcoholic Becks Blue lager. I ask for two bottles in a pint glass. At least that way I can look like one of the grownups and won’t have to field any questions or worry about the judgement. It’s actually not that bad. It’s not amazing, but it’s certainly better than Kaliber (remember that?), and it’s not coating my teeth like the squirty-gun cola. It’s ice cold too, which is most welcome. I think I’ve settled on my “long-haul-alcohol-free-wedding-beverage”.

 

Wedding breakfast time (nope, me neither). Normally I’d be a couple of ales in by now and about to compliment that with the table wine. But I’m sticking to my Blue and the occasional glass of water. The other guests on the table are old friends so my normal anxieties about striking up conversation with strangers aren’t at play. I’m nursing my faux pint so nobody is querying my not drinking. The physical symptoms I was feeling before the meal are still there but I’m suppressing them as best I can. Feeling like you might collapse while sat at a wedding breakfast is hard to explain, so I’m not even going to try. The food comes out (and very nice it was too) and serves as a great distraction from both the anxiety and the not drinking. After the food are the speeches. All eyes on them. They must be anxious, but that’s proportionate to the situation. They all do a great job and the best man’s speech is worthy of a blog post on its own. Bitty. 

 

We clear out of the function room and the transition between daytime do and night party begins. Can I stick it out? Can I do a wedding evening without getting on the source and ruining my tomorrow? I have to. 

 

More non-alcoholic lager, more water and a couple of coffees. Plenty of toilet trips…but no alcohol, and even more remarkably – no anxiety. No “feeling like I’m fading away” or “about to drop”. In fact I’m really enjoying myself. I even danced. Sober. I danced…and I was sober. That has never happened before. 

 

No alcohol and no anxiety, result. 

 

Guest post – I didn’t believe in mental health

The following post is by good friend and fellow Headstronger Alex. It’s a great piece and I’m sure it’ll resonate with many. It’s not easy to open up, let alone share it with friends, family and the wider online community – so hats off to him!

 

What do I think about mental health?

Embarrassingly and regrettably, I was one of those that didn’t believe in it at first. I was one of those people that would say, ‘man up, could be worse’.

I remember saying exactly that to someone very close to me and watching their eyes well up with tears, as a person they thought they could talk to, be honest with and trust, essentially dismissed their claims outright.

It was at that precise moment that, not only did I feel like the shittiest person in the world, I knew that deep down, I’d always known it was a thing.

I started to think back to conversations I’d had with people. Things I’d heard on the news. ‘Happy pills’ was a constant phrase I’d heard, yet never really considered what that was. And before long, I realised how severe this problem was. And it really was. A silent epidemic, so to speak, sweeping the nation.

I made a conscious effort to be as supportive as I could to the person close to me from that point. Whether or not it helped, it didn’t matter. What mattered, was being there, in any capacity, whether that was over the phone, over a drink, or just watching a film together.

The whole idea of ‘shit happens’ was quickly ejected. Well, not entirely. Shit does happen, none of us can escape that, but it’s what happens after, that can affect people differently. It’ll spiral out of control for some. Others might be able to rein it in.

The thing that hammered it home for me, was when I went through a patch of shit in my own life.

It felt like everything had turned against me and the usual thoughts of ‘why do I deserve this?’ crept into my mind.

It was a lonely place to be. The loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life. I was drinking every night till 3/4am for a month. I didn’t really know how to combat how I was feeling. I didn’t have any answers. I remember calling my mum, pissed up, at stupid O’clock in the morning telling her a bunch of stuff about how I felt, that I instantly regretted. Stuff I won’t repeat here.

I tapped the help line into my phone more than once with the intention of dialling, but never did. I had something else.

The person I had originally dismissed, came to my rescue. I hadn’t said anything, but they just knew. They would listen to me rant and rave, cry and curse.

I also had the unwavering support of my friends and family. They moved heaven and earth to make sure I was feeling alright, sacrificing their free time for me.

Knowing that I had people like that in my life made me realise how lucky I was and it also put a lot of things into perspective for me.

There are many out there who are a lot worse off than myself. I took that to heart and started to focus. On work, on friends and family, on life and most importantly, trying to give something back.

In hindsight, did I have a mental health issue or disorder? No, I don’t think so. I was feeling fucking naff about something and then something else happened that pushed me over the edge.

I took a while, but with help and support I pulled myself out of it and haven’t felt better about my life.

For me personally, it came down to one thing. Ejecting all the shite I had in my life. It was that simple for me.

I know that for so many others, it isn’t that simple. Life rarely is. But there’s something to take away from this I think.

And that is to grab the help with both hands if it’s offered to you. And if it isn’t offered, there will always be people in your life that will help if you ask for it.

None of us know what that person across the street is thinking or feeling. We all need to be a bit more aware about this stuff. It’s important. Being compassionate doesn’t cost a thing. Only a little bit of time.

The OCD myth

The OCD myth 

There are many myths and misconceptions around mental health, and a recent tweet by author and mental health activist Matt Haig summarised some of those brilliantly;

OCD is not liking things tidy.

Bipolar is not a mood swing.

Depression isn’t feeling sad.

Anxiety disorders are not normal emotions.

Schizophrenia is not a split personality.

Autism is not being good at Maths.

Mental health is not mental illness.

Mental illness is not terrorism.

@matthaig1

In this post I want to focus on one of them specifically – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Matt (I hope I can call him that) simply, and quite rightly, states “OCD is not liking things tidy”. And it really isn’t. Psychology Today defines OCD as;

a mental disorder in which people experience unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, or sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviours or mental acts (compulsions) in response. Often a person with OCD carries out the compulsions to temporarily eliminate or reduce the impact of obsessions, and not performing them causes distress. OCD varies in severity, but if left untreated, it can limit one’s ability to function at work, school, or home.

Merely ‘liking things tidy’ it is not.

I hear phrases like “oh, that’s just my OCD” or “I’m so OCD” on a far too regular basis (I’ve been guilty of it myself). I even heard a guy once state that he needed to do up is his shoe lace because of his OCD. No – you need to do up your shoe lace to stop you face planting the pavement, just as you need to file paperwork so that you don’t lose it and you need to tidy your living room so your kids can have somewhere to destroy later. OCD has become a turn of phrase for being a bit organised, or having a tidy desk. It’s become trivialised as a slight quirk rather than a genuine and sometimes debilitating mental health disorder. Re-read the definition – unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, or sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviours or mental acts (compulsions) in response – this isn’t something that should be played down.

OCD and me

I’ve experienced OCD on what I consider to be a mild level. I’m going to share some of the obsessive behaviours I’ve experienced (it’s a bit embarrassing but this blog has put everything on the table so far so, fuck it, why not?)

The (even) numbers game – I have a problem with odd numbers. I don’t know why (apart from that their pricks and many of them have sharp edges). I know a lot of people experience this with things like the TV or radio volume. Even numbers just feel better. In that form it’s not really a problem and can be a good source of mild amusement. But for me it’s gone beyond that. When I was a teenager I wouldn’t switch my bedroom light off until my alarm clock read all even numbers – which basically meant I had to switch it off between the hours of 22:00 and 23:00 – the holy grail being 22:22. And even when I did switch my light off I had to do it twice and then take an even number of steps before getting in to bed (can’t believe I’m actually admitting this).

The even numbers thing didn’t stop with the volume or time. When I’d walk down the street I’d need to take an even number of steps before getting to the end of the road or changing surface – even if it meant taking tiny pigeon steps at the end of the path to get the numbers right. If I walked down a corridor and brushed my arm against the wall once then I’d have to do it again to even it out….

The peak came, when as a 19 year old, I was waiting to fuel up my car. There were pumps available but yep, they were all odd numbers – I sat and waited for an even numbered pump to become available. I couldn’t fuel up unless it was at an even numbered pump. What!?

I guess the obvious question now is to ask why? What would happen if I did turn the light off on an odd number? Take an odd number of steps down the road? Fuel up at pump no. 7? Um….well, nothing. What did I think would happen? I’m not really sure – something really bad yet undefined I guess.

At some point, I don’t remember when, I realised this behaviour had to stop. I challenged myself to give odd numbers a chance and, low and behold, nothing bad happened. I’m on top of it, mostly. But, and this is important, like I said earlier – I consider this a mild form of OCD. There are people who lives are ruled by the condition. Their work, social life and families are all impacted. Everyday brings a battle. For these people OCD isn’t just about good housekeeping. It’s everything

Thanks for reading!

Resources; www.psychologytoday.com 

Check out the brilliant Matt Haig on Twitter @matthaig1 

headSTRONG on Facebook

A word on headSTRONG

Since I started the blog and shared it across the various social media sites the response has been generous (the kind words, the compliments – who doesn’t love those?) but it’s also been startling. So many people out there are struggling with their mental health and this has been reflected in the messages I’ve received. It’s having an impact on peoples physical health, their family life, their work…even their finances. Blogging about my challenges isn’t enough – something bigger needs to happen – and that’s were headSTRONG comes in.

headSTRONG is the brainchild of a small group of like-minded people that want to get everybody talking about mental health. And we mean EVERYBODY – us, you, employers, doctors, politicians, parents, kids, carers, young people, old people…one and all. The project is still very much in its infancy but long terms plans include creating a positive and engaging platform that enables people to talk about their mental health along with browsing lifestyle content and advice, creating powerful films, and hosting events to knock down the barriers.

When it comes to mental health there is everything to be gained through speaking up and raising awareness.  headSTRONG want to play a key role in reducing stigma, creating discussion and making a positive difference in peoples lives.

Engage with us today via our social media;

Facebook – @theheadstrongproject

Instagram – @headstrongproject

#beheadstrong

 

The anxiety hangover….

Now, I’m not sure if this is a recognised thing or not but I wanted to post about ‘After the event anxiety’, or the ‘anxiety hangover’. Partly because I wanted to continue to raise awareness and get people talking about mental health and partly because I want to know if anybody else has had similar experiences….if you have please comment or message via the blog, DM or tag me on Insta @adamharveyblog or send a pigeon.

The best way for me to describe what I’m talking about is to explain a situation in which I experienced this.

So, it’s December 2017 and I’m up North. I’m part of a team delivering a presentation on a project we’d been working on for the last 12 months – I’m a bit anxious but I’d say that’s pretty normal given the situation – I mean, nobody likes delivering presentations do they? (if they say they do then they’re lying, and a bit weird). Nerves are to be expected.

We deliver the presentation according to script and the response and feedback from our audience is positive and generous. The nerves have gone. Event over…or so I thought.

The next morning, fully loaded on bacon and eggs, we begin our journey back down south. I’m car sharing with a colleague so we take it in turns. I take the first bit – which is mainly crawling past the roadworks at Knutsford Services (which are now well in to their second century) and then after a while my colleague takes over. This is where shit gets weird and it’s nothing to do with my workmate’s driving. In fact, once he’s got his booster seat in place, this guy is a pretty good driver. Shit get’s weird once I start reviewing the previous days presentation in my head.

Suddenly I don’t feel right. It starts with my eyes getting a little blurred, then that horrible detached feeling, then I start sweating, shaking and I can’t decide if I’m too hot or too cold. Window down…window up. Air con on, off, on again. Then, what the expert’s so delicately call “The sense of impending doom” hits me like brick. Shit, I’m dying (again). I tell my colleague that I’m not good. We need to stop. Now! He quite rightly suggests that the outside lane of the M6 probably isn’t the place to come to an immediate halt, so we wait (for what seems like an eternity) for the next service station. Once there I get out of the car and frantically walk around the car park trying not to die. My breathing is a brexit-like shambles and I can’t focus on anything. Eventually I sum up the courage to go in to the services to buy a bottle of water and use the loo. In the toilets, after washing my hands (I’m not a monster), I splash my face with water and have a staring competition with the fidgeting madman staring back at me in the mirror. It’s a tie. Things begin to settle. I begin to calm down and breath more normally. I leave the service station thinking, not for the first time, what the fuck was that?

What was it? Well it was a panic attack (or whatever you chose to name it).

Why? That’s the bit that had me stumped. Why was I having a full blown episode when there were no triggers? No life threatening situation. No high pressure meetings or exams or interviews. Nothing. The only thing I can come up with is the fact I’d had a big event the day before and this was some kind of after the event anxiety hangover. The trigger being my reflecting on it.

Since then I’ve given this a lot of thought and can identify a couple of other occasions when this has happened (the day after our wedding for one). Like I said earlier, I don’t know if this is a recognised condition (for want of a better word) or I’m simply even weirder than first thought. But it happened and I wanted to talk about it.

Thanks for reading