What is your official diagnosis? When did you receive this?
In 2017 I was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety (GAD)
How long have you suffered with these conditions?
It's hard to pinpoint exactly but everything came to surface in June 2017. When I left school, I took a relationship break up really bad and was lucky enough to go travelling. As incredible as this was, it only delayed the healing process and put my issues on hold. When I came home, I spent my early twenties partying, going out, binge drinking and doing drugs.
At 21 I got a job as a delivery driver and by 23 I had climbed my way up to store manager where I worked my balls off until the grand old age of 27 when things became too much. I hid behind my job, putting up to 60 hours a week into somebody else's business. During all this I smoked cannabis religiously which again, masked my issues... then I met Beth.
I decided to stop the cannabis and my whole perspective suddenly changed. I was doing very well for myself on paper but at what cost? My friends? Anxiety? My life became so bad, I became agoraphobic. I would make plans and then cancel them last minute, making any excuse possible to get out of it which pissed a lot of people off along the way. I would cross the road to avoid conversations and some days it was like there was a brick wall outside my front door that made it difficult to even leave the house. It was Beth that made me realise there is more to life than working every day and making money.
How does your diagnosis manifest itself? Do you have any triggers?
I find it very easy to spiral, so I have to keep myself busy, if I lay in bed too late I often can't leave the house. I get up every morning by 8 am and have to make the most of the day, I value everyday now rather than letting it slip by like before. Having Beth by my side makes things so much easier and we genuinely have such a laugh each day. She is the only person who can get me out of a bad spell.
I have many quirks in which is triggered by my anxiety. I have this relentless need to do 150 press ups every single morning without fail which ultimately comes down to my low self-esteem. To this day, I struggle with my self esteem and the ability to see the good in myself. No matter how many times people tell me otherwise. Everyday I battle paranoia (probably down to the amount of cannabis I smoked) which can lead to many heated arguments between myself and Beth. I always think worse case scenario which is completely exhausting.
What are your coping mechanisms?
I like to take our dog Toby out for long walks and switch off. No phone, nothing. I used to run away from my issues by smoking cannabis or drinking heavily where as now I have to tackle issues head on. If I am having a bad moment, I try my best to realise what I have now and where I came from. I still have some really dark days, which is inevitable, but I'm consciously trying to better myself everyday.
How do you relax and switch off?
Cup of tea. Friends on the telly with Beth and Toby. Sorted.
Have you been a victim to ignorance regarding mental health?
Being the joker of the group, it was difficult when I started to spiral, not just for me but for my friends and family. The minute I began to withdraw from life, friends slowly began to turn their back on me (through absolutely no fault of their own). I was never open about my issues, for all they knew I was simply ignorant. Getting better was such a long process that I felt I had neglected my friends, I felt that there was too much water under the bridge. I hope they know that I was never ignorant, I was merely tackling my demons with my family's help.
Instead of worrying what is around the corner, be excited about it. Try and get up early when possible and make the most of the day, even if it's just going for a coffee or a walk. Get out and about and try to avoid laying in bed. Go somewhere quiet if you're not feeling up to it and take some time for yourself. Try listening to mindfulness music for half hour while falling asleep in bed (our personal favourite is Peder B Helland). Your brain is a muscle, so don't over work it. If you lift weights for too long in the gym then you will over work your muscles, this is exactly the same for your brain. Switch off and just listen to the music.
But please, my biggest advice is to just TALK.