Thursday, 16 November 2017

Mental Health - My experience

Mental illness, a term that I can't really think of being used very often in majority of my life, it appears that in recent years we are able to label and identify conditions more and more. Conditions that I had never heard of and perhaps don't understand.

That feels part of the problem though, if people don't understand then you could be made to feel that you shouldn't be that way, and that perhaps the solution is not to talk or seek help, but if you don't then how can you get better?

I will not profess to be speaking from a perspective of vast knowledge or even an understanding of all  mental health conditions, far from it.

In fact writing this, I am not sure if I am putting these thoughts down to be cathartic or to maybe offer an honest account of my life right now and that even one person reading it may identify within this something that will help them, or that someone could even help me if they have come through a difficult time or at least found a way to try to cope.

Im not entirely sure where my current emotion or feelings fit in with being categorised, I'm not depressed, I'm not anxious, nor do I suffer from panic attacks, however I could easily say that I get the feelings of being deeply unhappy and anxious at times. Its within that though that it is only at times that it hits me, unaware, unprepared and defiant of what my head is trying to tell me.

Let me get the elephant out of the room of why I am writing this, the reason, the motivation. This week it will have been 7 years since I lost my Dad, unexpectedly, far too young, and without the chance to say goodbye.

7 years on, I will openly admit that the pain hasn't ever diminished and despite the assurances from many a person that with time things will get better, honestly I don't think it has, if anything it feels like it is getting harder with each passing year. Hearing songs that I listened to at the time, that we played at the funeral are still too hard to hear. Reflecting on the times in my life he has already missed during those years is gut wrenching enough, but accepting that he never will be there to see the milestones in my life, to be a guide in the big times of need, to help me do some DIY or mend my car, that just adds to the pent up anger and what can be described as resentment.

To who that resentment is directed to I can't really explain but I feel it. My head hurts just writing this, maybe its a good sign, the therapy of writing my feelings down, because a great flaw of mine is that I will not approach anyone to say "hi, I'm feeling really unhappy and want to discuss how thats making me feel"

Instead I bottle it all up like I have done recently, until what can only be described to me as a darkness that clouds my head and dictates my mood and outlook, which is an incredibly hard feeling to shift, especially when there is a reminder of the event or the anniversary for example. It has been easier to shut it out, sometimes it has been easier to try to block out or numb the pain rather than deal with it.

When it first happened I did speak to a counsellor for brief period, however he wasn't a specialist in grief and openly admitted it wasn't his area of expertise, that may of been an early mistake in all of this, not seeking someone that could really assist help me, he described me as someone that is able to box away feelings, like the film Inception, where I can lock it away deeply, hidden in my mind and not have to think about it. That can only work for so long, it moves around, it tries to escape or is telling me to to make room for new memories, but first I need to deal with it.

Equally as important is not to lean towards a method that simply masks the pain or feeling of the unwanted emotion. I love a beer now and again and for a few years now I haven't really gone out for big nights out, mainly because the hangovers just take way too long to recover from, not 21 anymore!!!

It just stopped being enjoyable, however the odd innocent couple at the end of a hard week started to feel a little bit of regular occurrence recently, have one while cooking, ah the footballs on got to have one, admittedly this hasn't been going on for long and isn't a cry for help, but it did mask the bad feelings briefly. I urge anyone not to be fooled by this feeling, it isn't helping at all and can be an extremely damaging trap to fall in to, my Dad unfortunately fell foul of this demon for a number of years and he paid the ultimate price for that, and thankfully I knew that I wasn't about to let that take over me.

That is truly a horrible realisation, that he felt that it was a solution to his problems,  perhaps because of his generation & his upbringing, he couldn't talk about why he was doing it, didn't want to seek professional help or support, despite our pressure and insistence to do so. Men of his generation weren't encouraged to be anything other than the stereotypical "MAN" Being too proud can't and shouldn't be an excuse in this day and age, and seeking that help can make such a huge difference to the outcome of someones difficulties.

Luckily for me I have the most amazing Fiancé who knows me so well, and importantly when I'm not myself, she get just listens and gets me to at least talk about whats on my mind and that is part of the battle, I really have no issue openly admitting that when she does get me to talk, which is like getting blood from a stone, it is singly the most helpful thing for me, I end up balling my eyes out but the relief of pressure is unreal. (My god a man admitting that he cries?? yes don't let that stupid thing called pride get in the way of that!!)

For anyone trying to deal with loss or even overriding issues that seem to dominate your perspective or mental wellbeing, my main advice is to try and find someone that gets you to talk about it, in combination with finding ways that make you feel better, last Sunday I simply took myself for a walk for about an hour around our local park, put my headphones in and just let the world pass me by and switch off a little bit. Its a simple step but one that was really effective and will look to do it a lot more.

I am not an example of how to cope or deal with grief or mental health, I am learning and realising that shutting up shop isn't the way forward, isn't healthy and isn't in the long term going to help me find any kind of peace with my loss.

There are some links below to some routes to finding the solution or guidance to dealing with whatever you may have gone or are currently going through. There is always help available, don't be scared to seek it out.


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