My 8 Year Mental Health Battle
Some of you who know me will be hearing this for the first time, some of you might be coming across my posts for the first time, hi. I have been keeping this to myself for a long time; around 8 years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
In 2013 I hit a wall, for some reason I couldn’t stop crying when on my own, I had an anxious feeling in my throat and chest pains. I had a lot of negative voices in my head and I believed every one of them, it was like a spiral. The thing was I didn’t know why. there was no obvious trigger or stress, no trauma I could link it to. The more I wished it to go away, the worse the feelings got.
The situation came to a head when I was driving home from food shopping with my wife. An emotional song came on the radio and I started full on crying, I had been keeping it a secret for weeks. My wife was amazing, it felt great to tell someone, the burden suddenly felt a bit lighter. I made a doctor‘s appointment to talk things through with a professional.
The doctor prescribed me anti-depressants and anxiety medication whilst diagnosing me with anxiety/depression. I wasn’t signed off and went back to it. Did I tell anyone at work? No. Have I ever told anyone at work since? Again no, because I was embarrassed by it all and it felt like it was a weakness in me. We are so conditioned as men to be tough and show no vulnerability or emotion. Phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘grow a pair’ were banded around freely in my generation. Maybe women could be emotional and talk to each other about having a wobble, but surely us blokes can’t. I thought to myself ‘people are going to think I can’t handle pressure’ or ‘people will question whether I can can do my job’.
Over time things became better, I read a lot about depression and found out that it is a chemical reaction in our brains and it wasn’t my fault. It’s like breaking a leg, but instead your mind is broken. I have listed some books and resources below which have helped me with my mindset.
My career continued to go from strength to strength, successive promotions and wins and I still didn’t tell anyone, it still felt like a weakness. A few years ago I did have another wobble, the throat feelings were coming back but I spotted the signs, found a great doctor and carried on. I actually managed to swap to a better medication as the one I was taking was not even prescribed any more as it wasn’t safe!
About a year ago, I did tell someone who I knew had suffered something similar, actually it was such a relief to share our common ground.
I also developed something called Restless Leg Syndrome in one leg a few years ago where my leg moves by itself uncontrollably in the evening and early night time. It’s only in one leg and I feel fortunate as other people have it far worse, but I have learned to manage it. At one point I remember thinking, ‘I can’t go running anymore now’, so I didn’t. Fast forward a while and I go running and play football every week! Amazing what tricks the mind can play.
So why am I writing about this now? I feel we are in a different world than 8 years ago. There are lots of people leading the way on mental health from Prince William to Roman Kemp and they are heroes in my eyes. Roman Kemp’s Documentary ‘The Silent Emergency‘ was so inspiring. If a young, successful guy in the public eye can be open about mental health and then why cant I?
6 months ago (7 years into this journey), I managed to wean myself off anxiety medication which I am so proud of. I am still on a low dose of anti depressants which I am fine with, perhaps somewhere down the line, I will stop these also but currently they are doing what I need them to do.
I hadn’t told people about this, in my head it was a failure which I didn’t want to show. If I look back on what have I achieved since then, I now have a wonderful 4 year old daughter, I have been promoted to bigger roles 4-5 times and lots of other wins. Is it a weakness? No, actually it’s a strength. All of the learning and self development I have done has been a result of what happened and I now have a better mind as a result. Confronting it and taking the steps to control it have been instrumental in getting me to where I am.
I want my daughter to grow up in a world where it’s ok to talk about mental health. That we should all look out for each other and speak freely about times when we are struggling. Hopefully by me writing this I am one of those leading from the front too.
Tony Robbins - Awaken The Giant Within
Ant Middleton - Zero Negativity
Prof Steve Peters - The Chimp Paradox - The Mind Management Programme
The Silent Emergency - Roman Kemp
The High Performance Podcast - Jake Humphrey and Prof Damian Hughes