I guess the most obvious question to ask me is…okay why now? Why do you now choose to write about your experiences with Mental Health? And you would be asking a really great question so I’ll answer it as honestly and as truthfully as I can.
I want to share my story; not to put the spotlight or focus on me solely, but to show how a single moment, one simple step of reaching out for help changed my life for the better. For anyone else reading this, for you to understand that you are not alone in this battle. My mental health issues are still very real, still very relevant, but ones that I am dealing with on a daily basis. I am proud of where I currently am; proud that I took that moment of clarity, took that step to reach out.
This is my simple story, the start of my journey. So many people are dealing with Mental Health issues but are hiding it. Let’s break the stigma associated to Mental Health. Embrace your anxiety. Take a deep breath, focus on the here and now and be in the moment.
As you can see from the below, my attempts at writing an anxiety journal over the past couple of years have been somewhat unsuccessful to say the least, but I’ve finally given it a go. I hope it can help you?
This is going to be my first ever attempt at creating an anxiety journal.
Never having created a journal of any kind before, it was difficult for me to think about what I was going to write about? So, I went and did some research in order to understand a) what anxiety is and how it affects each of us individually and b) how to tackle the symptoms and get myself better?
As I say, I’ve never done anything like this before, that is, expressing emotions and feelings or trying to describe my current state of mind. After all “I’m a man” I thought, ”I don’t do things like that”! This was and is the wrong attitude to have… I know this now. I guess I just didn’t want to admit that there was something not okay with me!
Well I’m clearly not having much luck with this am I! As you can see from my previous entry I only got as far as the date. But then again, I have been attempting to write this whilst at work which doesn’t really help.
Ha!, well this was a good idea wasn’t it!
Maybe I could try harder in 2018?!
Wow! I’m sat here as I type with a wry smile on my face as I realise that it’s been just over 2 years since I attempted to put my thoughts, feelings and emotions down in written form.
The problem was, and still is, where do I start? I’ve never done anything like this since my English GCSE days back in 1988. I’ve always fancied a go at this writing malarkey but for whatever reason, either through the personal attribute of laziness or the habit forming phenomenon that is procrastination, I just never got around to it.
I’m sat here thinking way too much about this, so…I’m just going to go for it and pick a moment in time and then go from there. Let’s see where this written journey takes me?
That moment in time was September 12th, 2017. I’d flown to Ireland 5 days before to visit my Mom and Sisters. Mom always said to us that once we were all old and ugly enough to fend for ourselves she would move back to Ireland. That was almost 20 years ago now. I have visited many wonderful places in Ireland, but my “happy place” to return to time and time again has always been County Wicklow, and more specifically, Lough Tay (also known as Guinness Lake) set in the incredible and beautiful Wicklow Mountains.
So there I was, stood on the hillside looking out across the dark peaty water of Lough Tay to the mountain of Luggala when I started to feel that all too familiar overwhelming sensation of impending doom, fear, heightened alertness, being totally on edge, nausea…closely followed by increased heart rate, sweating, tingling sensation in the hands, shallow breathing – I was about to have a panic attack!
Even to this day, I’m still struggling to work out what the specific trigger could have been? I’d had a good night’s sleep, albeit Guinness induced, but I woke up in a good mood, looking forward to the day ahead. I was in a safe place for crying out loud; after all I was in my happy place. What could go wrong?!
If I’m being honest here, I think it had been building to this point for some time. I’d had several panic attacks before, which, on a couple of occasions, had ended up with me being admitted to A&E as I thought I was having a heart attack due to the chest pains.
Now that I really think about it, the one thing that I was struggling to do was to just “be in the moment”. I wasn’t able to enjoy where I was; the scenery, the Sun on my face, the beauty of it all…..none of it! Why? Noise! There was a noise, even though all around me was quite. That noise was coming from me, from inside my head…a busy noise like hundreds of people all talking over each other.
There was no one about, I was all alone. I now had to dig deep and remember what I’d read about in order to focus on quelling this overwhelming wave that was crashing over me.
Taking deep breathes was my first plan of attack. Breathe in through the nose for a count of three, hold for one second, breathe out through the nose for a count of four, hold for one second then repeat. Then, whilst trying to focus my attention to my breathing, I’d learnt about grounding techniques so I started to count the rocks and the trees. I was about to go for the “count as many things as you can see that are a certain colour” game, but immediately my brain went “GREEN…count everything that is green!” REALLY! GREEN! Do you know where I am stood right now?! However, it was enough to distract me and put a smile on my face.
That was the first time I’d ever stopped myself from having a full blown panic attack and for want of a better word I felt a sense of achievement, but also anger at the same time. Anger at myself for having put up with this for so long!
And so it was, in that moment on the Irish hillside that I’d decided that enough was enough, I needed help, I needed to reach out and I needed to, no…I wanted…to finally understand and admit to myself that it was okay with not being okay.
Above Picture: My ‘Happy Place’ – Lough Tay (aka Guinness Lake) County Wicklow, Ireland 🇮🇪