Who would have thought that four years on since I originally decided to write about the subject that I’d be back here writing about mental health once again? My thought process back then was that it would just be a one-off exercise as part of my wellbeing journey where I could document and share my own experiences with mental health issues.
The primary reason why I have decided to write about mental health again and how it is more important now than ever before is the increase in mental health challenges brought on by the covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health around the world. The pandemic has created a perfect storm of stressors, which has resulted in an increase in mental health challenges. One of the most significant impacts has been the isolation and loneliness experienced by many individuals. People were suddenly unable to see friends and family, attend social events, or even go to work. This isolation has caused a rise in depression and anxiety.
Additionally, job losses and financial struggles have caused stress and anxiety for many individuals, further impacting their mental health. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of continuing to raise awareness for mental health and the need for more education around mental illness. Mental health stigma has been a long-standing issue, preventing people from seeking help and support for their mental health conditions. The pandemic has shown that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Writing about mental health has been a powerful tool for my own personal growth and healing. For me, writing has been a way to process my thoughts and emotions and to make sense of the chaos that the pandemic has brought. It has been a tough road to navigate, but it has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences and find ways to cope with my anxiety and depression. Hopefully, by writing about mental health again, I can inspire others to seek help when they need it and help break down the barriers to accessing mental health care.
Five years ago, I had reached a breaking point. The truth is that I had been struggling with mental health issues for many years, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to manage on my own. I struggled with intense mood swings, depression, and anxiety without really understanding what was happening to me. As a man, it was difficult for me to talk about my struggles with mental health. I saw it as a societal expectation that men should be strong and unemotional so I tried to hide my symptoms from everyone, afraid of the stigma and shame associated with mental health issues. But eventually, the weight of it all became too much to bear.
Living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder, is a daunting and overwhelming experience. It feels like your mind is constantly racing, and you have no control over your thoughts or emotions. It can feel like you are drowning in an ocean of negative thoughts, and there is no way to come up for air. The fear of being judged or misunderstood by society, friends, or even family members made it even more challenging to cope with; it was exhausting to be constantly feeling that way, and it made me feel like I was a failure. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is characterised by excessive worry and fear about everyday situations. I would often find it very difficult to control the anxiety, which would have a significant impact on my daily life. For me, this often meant avoiding certain situations, such as social gatherings or work events.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is another mental health issue that affects many men. OCD is characterised by unwanted and intrusive thoughts or behaviours that are often irrational. I would often feel like I was losing control, which was very scary and frustrating. For me, OCD manifested in obsessive thoughts about checking doors and windows to make sure they were locked, intense stress when objects aren’t orderly or facing a certain way. Intrusive images of driving my car off the motorway at 70mph! Repeating scenarios in my head over and over again and not being able to control the outcome. Repetitive images, words and numbers. It was a constant battle to control my thoughts and actions, and it made me feel like I was going crazy.
Panic disorder is another mental health issue that affects many men. Panic disorder is characterised by sudden and intense episodes of fear and anxiety, which manifest themselves as panic attacks. Having a panic attack would feel like I was having a heart attack, which was absolutely terrifying. For me, panic attacks were a regular occurrence, and they often happened at the most inconvenient times, such as during a meeting at work. It was humiliating to feel like I was losing control in front of others.
These disorders can take a significant toll on a person’s life. It can be challenging to maintain relationships or keep up with daily responsibilities. Anxiety, fear, and panic attacks can make it difficult to leave the house or engage in social activities. Men with mental health issues may struggle to find the motivation to take care of themselves, including eating healthily, exercising, or maintaining personal hygiene. This can lead to a negative cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism, which can make the mental health challenges even more overwhelming.
That initial step of admitting that I needed help was not easy for me. I have always been someone who values his independence and self-reliance, and I didn’t want to appear weak or vulnerable in front of others. But after many years of struggling, I finally recognised that I needed to take action. I still face these immense challenges on a daily basis, and it is a struggle that can feel like an endless battle. However, I have learned valuable lessons from these challenges, such as the importance of seeking help and support. The stigma associated with mental health must be eliminated so that men can feel comfortable coming forward and seeking the help they need. The message to all men is this: you are not alone, and it is okay to seek help.