The post that wants to talk about mental health

Last time I posted was in October 2016 following a blogging silence of 5 months. Now it’s May 2017 so this post comes to you after a silence of more than 6 months. I make no apologies for that. I’m not even entirely sure why I’m pointing it out.

I was partially prompted to write that October post after someone wrote to me asking for an update. Somebody else (thank you, reader) has done the same thing recently and it feels like the right time to come back. To come back and say something.

Today in the UK, a news story broke about a professional footballer being detained under the Mental Health Act. Amongst the outpourings of love and sympathy towards the footballer were the unfortunately all to predictable lines from people who have a gross and fundamental misunderstanding of mental health.

“He’s a millionaire, what’s he got to be sad about?!”

“Have you seen his Mrs? Can’t believe he’s depressed!”

“Ungrateful little shit. A mansion, 6 cars and millions in the bank. F**king footballers.”

In 2017, it’s a shame (and almost unbelievable) that opinions like these are still commonplace. Let’s be clear. The amount of money people earn, number of cars they own, size of their house, their profession or the aesthetics of their spouse have absolutely no impact whatsoever on a person’s ability to evade a mental illness.

Having a million pounds in the bank won’t stop you from breaking your leg and it won’t stop you suffering from depression.

And actually, if I were to pick a candidate potentially more susceptible to mental illness then maybe, just maybe, I would pick the guy who is in the public eye. The guy who can’t avoid the spotlight. The guy who has been brought up in a macho environment where sharing feelings is discouraged. Where getting angry is acceptable but showing sadness is forbidden. Where revealing emotions is completely unheard of. Where talking about what you’re going through in any kind of ‘beneath the surface’ level would only succeed in turning you into a figure of fun.

Everyone can be a victim of the grasp of mental illness just as they can physical and I’m going to tell you something.

I am one of them.

Over the past several months, through various channels and life events, I came to the realisation that I needed to talk to someone. That I would benefit from talking to someone about myself. My feelings. My emotions. My past. And my present.

I mentioned something to somebody who happened to be in the mental health profession and that person took me to one side and said, look, I would recommend you speak to a professional therapist about this.

I was dumbfounded. At first.

You see, I don’t like to think of myself as vulnerable, needy or dependent on anyone else. I like to think of myself as bulletproof. Strong minded and strong willed. And it’s so important to me that others see me that way as well. Believe me, I can wear that mask well. I can fool people into thinking that mask is the real me.

So the idea of talking to a mental health professional was quite scary and made me kind of nervous. However, I am not someone who has ever needed convincing of the benefits that can be gained from talking to a counsellor or therapist or whoever. I believe in it, I know it can work and I understand it, and the process behind it, actually very well.

I had just never considered myself as a candidate for it. I had never considered that I could be someone who could benefit from it.

It could be the ‘male, manly, pull your socks up, get on with it, don’t be a wimp’ factor that has played a part in this. But also, the thing I mentioned that sparked the recommendation to talk to a therapist is not something I had ever talked about before – so no one has ever had the opportunity to suggest talking it over with a professional.

When I think about it now, I’m more than sure that had I dealt with certain things years ago, I would have felt the benefits. Instead, my solution was to ignore certain events, virtually not even acknowledge their existence. Because by doing that I would not have to acknowledge the accompanying emotions that they evoked and the subsequent pain.

There’s a school of thought everyone, yes everyone, would benefit from seeing someone like a counsellor from time to time. Just in the same way as you take your car for an MOT and a service once a year. Mental health is easy to ignore or be unaware of. Until something breaks and then the cost of the damage can be very high.

So there you have it.

Whatever you think of someone, and however someone may seem to you on the outside, you don’t know what is going on for them on the inside and what things are like in their world.

Peace and love.

N x

The post that’s five months on

Five months have gone past since I last wrote a blog post.

Where has that time gone? It makes you think, doesn’t it?

Not much has changed with me. I’m alright.

How have you all been?

Thank you to the person (if you’re reading this) who wrote to me asking for an update. I only just read your message. Apologies for the delay.

I’ve got a roof over my head. Food on the table. Money in the bank.

I’m still working full time and studying part time.

I don’t really know where I’m going though. There’s no grand plan. No big target. Nothing I’m particularly trying to achieve. I’m trying to find a purpose in life really.

Something that makes me want to get up in the morning other than the knowledge that if I don’t I won’t be able to pay next month’s rent.

I was thinking about time and life. Five months have gone by and I suppose the reason nothing has much changed is because I haven’t really changed anything. The weeks fly by so so quickly. If I had a purpose then I would feel like the weeks were at least paving the road towards something.

But at the moment, they’re just flying by, I’m plodding along and that’s it. If my life were on TV, you’d have changed the channel by now!

I’m alright though. I’m fine. I’m sort of just accepting that things could be worse and I’m grateful for what I do have.

I don’t know how to make things better because I don’t really know what I want. That’s the problem with a lot of people, they don’t know what they want until they have it.

I’m still single. I’m okay though. I’m used to that now. Of my 12 adult years, approximately 20 months of them have been spent in relationships. And in only about 5 of those months was I actually happy with the person I was with.

Whatever it is that people have that make them able to get into, and maintain, relationships I think is absent from my being. I think once you start thinking that about yourself, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the confirmation bias (Google it) comes into play until it really is true.

So I don’t want to consign myself to a life of singledom prematurely but I tend to think it might be better to accept something like this rather than go through life striving for the unobtainable. That would be no fun whatsoever.

But I’m fine, really. I’m a solid five out of ten, sometimes even six. And for that, I am grateful.

N x

The post that’s been meaning to write this for a while

I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time. I took the decision to stop writing the blog some months back. I was concerned that what I had hoped would be a cathartic exercise had become a cesspit of doom, gloom and misery.

I would only take to my blog when I had something negative that I wanted to get off my chest or something to moan about or if I was feeling lonely or depressed or any number of any negative emotions.

As such, my writing became a reminder of my misery. Of negativity. Of things I wasn’t happy about. Yes, I would feel better after ‘letting off steam’ via my blog but there became a sense that I had become the person, or persona, that I was portraying online.

Each thought, each word, that spilled from my mind through to my fingers and onto your screens was confirmation of unhappiness. Of discontent. Each post that was written, read and re-read embedding these feelings further, each one another nail in my coffin of dissatisfaction.

It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I was actively contributing to a negative spiral. I was my own enemy.

This was a suspicion I had and it was at this point that I decided to take a break from blogging. Completely stop as opposed to blog about something else. Come away from it. I wanted to give myself the opportunity to see if my suspicions had any foundation.

I can tell you without any uncertainty that I am a happier human being now than I have been for some time. Is it because I stopped the aforementioned negative spiral? Perhaps. Would I have gone on to feel happier anyway? I can’t possibly know for sure.

It is, however, difficult for me to imagine that the two things – removing this blog from my life and feeling happier – are not connected. It feels like too much of a coincidence.

So, what’s changed?

In many ways, nothing.

I still have the same job, which I loathe, but I am making more money now and it’s now a reliable, consistent source of income.

I still live with random people in a house share, but it’s cheap and I like the quietness of the location.

I’m still single, have heavy bouts of loneliness and (embarrassingly) the desire just to be hugged from time to time.

But some things have changed.

I am exercising more now. I’m running three times a week. And I love doing it.

And I have a major new focus in that I’m a part time student now and I’m studying something that I really enjoy, that fascinates me and that I really want to be good at.

I am hoping it will facilitate an exit from my current job but we’re looking at potentially 3 years for this to become a reality. But I’m willing to stick with it due to the potential reward on offer at the end of it. Without this new focus, I genuinely worry what my state of mind would be like and where I would be right now.

So, what is the point of this blog? Why have I been meaning to write it? One reason is that I kind of left things a little unfinished. Hanging in the balance. I had to return and talk about my hiatus and its impact. Perhaps someone else out there has had similar feelings or maybe having read this they’ll have a ‘holy shit’ moment realise they’re blog is not the cathartic, helpful tool they thought it was and is actually having the opposite effect.

I joke about my followers and readers but it blows my mind that this blog has been getting traffic despite the fact it’s basically been dormant for so long. Perhaps I shouldn’t be though. Misery loves company, after all!

What’s next for me and for this particular post? Honestly, I don’t know. I want to do what’s right for my wellbeing. That doesn’t necessarily mean no more blogging and it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to write metaphorical bowls of sunshine day in and day out.

But it does mean the type of content that I produced in the past will remain exactly there. In the past.

N x