The Mental Health Journey
Something I try to be open about a lot is my mental health situation and journey.
I can’t really remember how it all started or when I realised I had issues but I was pretty anxious as a child. I don’t really know why but I had some issues growing up, which to be honest I don’t want to talk about.
However, one big issue I had was my weight. I was always a chubby lad when I was younger but I was still active and played football so it wasn’t a huge issue. I had a massive sweet tooth and used to just like eating sweets and chocolate without really having much of an idea it was bad for you and not really caring either.
When I hit my mid teens, I discovered alcohol and to be honest I had a bad relationship with it from the start. I used to binge drink but then so did my friends, but mine was to the point I would black out, I would always be the one downing pints and drinking as much as I could until I passed out. This used to leave me with huge gaps in my memory and a massive guilt and anxiety feeling. Maybe I was drinking to block out my thoughts, but the main reason was because it meant I was accepted, people loved pissed up Alex; he was fun, unpredictable and the life and soul of the party.
This meant I carried this on until my mid twenties. I didn’t drink during the week but I would binge drink 2 or 3 times a week. I didn’t really think I had an issue and despite the guilt and anxiety, I kind of thrived on the lifestyle.
When I met Charlotte when I was 25, I realised I didn’t want to be that guy anymore, I still liked a laugh and a drink but I didn’t want to be the one being sick or falling over at the party. Apart from a few incidents, which I guess we all have, I have cut right back on drinking and can normally manage to just have a good drink with everyone else without it being an issue.
A year or so before I met Charlotte, I lost about 5 stone through diet and exersise, this made a huge difference to me as I had really struggled with food and my diet and I used to hate being 20 stone, even though again I was always smiling and pretending it didn’t bother me.
Mentally, being so big for so long left a huge impact on me. I became addicted to exercise; xmas day, on holiday, whatever it was I had to do it, I still binge eat now and again and fall off schedule but I am maintaining a healthy weight and am in a better place. I used to tear clothes off if I looked fat in the mirror or wear big baggy jumpers.
I still suffer with issues around my weight and go up and down a bit. I have tried to stop punishing myself with starvation and exercise but it’s a work in progress. I also have had a tummy tuck and liposuction to help manage and control this.
I guess the above issues are the stem of my own mental health issues, but I honestly don’t really know.
My anxiety has just got worse over the years - I kind of feel worried for no reason a lot of the time, I feel guilty and I also started to suffer with depression. I didn’t really know what was up with me at first; I started feeling tired, feeling distant from people, avoiding conversations, not enjoying going out, not wanting to face reality and not being able to think clearly.
Oddly, I managed to mask it from the kids as I guess they were my happy place. I also managed to hide it from work and put on a brave face. The thing that made me seek help was the suicidal thoughts. I don’t know where they come from, they come at the strangest times, like even when you’re having fun or you think you’re feeling happy. They just pop up and answer to the normal problems that life throws at you, like a get out of jail card. They scared me and it wasn’t until I told Charlotte and she was upset that I knew I needed to talk to someone.
I have seen psychiatrists and had counselling a lot over the last few years. I never felt it really helped but I was determined not to go on medication as I just didn’t want to.
About 6 months ago, I had a normalish weekend but woke up on the Monday and just felt I couldn’t cope anymore. I dragged myself to work and then just collapsed, I didn’t want to be in work but I didn’t want to go home. Work were amazing and sent me to the doctor instantly, I don’t know if it was a mini breakdown or a cry for help but I needed the support.
The doctor decided to put me on anti depressants and now 6 months on I feel in a better place. I’m more positive and happier. I still have dark days and dark thoughts but a lot less.
I know everyone is different but one thing I know is that too many people have a feeling like I did and don’t tell anyone, and then a month or a year later they are found hanging from a tree. It’s so important that people aren’t embarrassed or ashamed of how they feel as its not something that’s our fault.
I don’t know enough to explain why I feel the way I do, but I do know it’s a combination of my past and my brain and the tablets have helped to balance me out.
I would urge you to speak if you feel like this, speak to friends and family and there are plenty of organisations out there, as well as medical professionals.
As for me, I don’t know what the road ahead looks like but I am talking and managing it the best I can and I have a huge support network which gets me through.