At the end of 2017 I took part in a mental health webinar at work, to tell some of my (cue coldplay music) 'journey'...
I thought I'd share it on here. Hope it's interesting / useful / not a terrible read.
Take Care & Talk
But before I say more I’m starting with an apology, which I’m fully aware is an anxious trait but I’m doing it anyway….
If you know me, I’m so so sorry for what I’ve been like
I’m so sorry how my past negativity, sadness, ability to bring things down, extremes of mood and oversensitivity has affected you or affected how we get on.
Please believe me, I never wanted it to. But I know it has and that makes me sad, full of regret and wishing I could turn back time.
The good news is I’m learning to control it now. I’m getting better now. I’m getting help. I’m rediscovering who I am. I’m joking and laughing again. My smile is back. And I’m not going to be those things anymore. I’m going to be a positive in my life and other peoples. I’m certain of that.
You can read about my anxiety and depression in my blog. But today I want to talk more positively about what I’ve done to change, how talking is so important, how I’m getting better now and what other people can do.
Earlier this year the pressure was too much for me and the doctor prescribed anti depressants.
I also got to go on an 11 week cognitive behavioural therapy course with a group. It’s been really good, life changing in fact.
Work let me have the CBT as a medical appointment after ticking a box on a form to declare myself disabled in order for the right policy to apply.
I doubt I would have had to tick a box to have treatment for a bad back and we’ve still got a way to go before mental health is viewed as a mainstream illness and better understood. I'm not criticising my employer here and am grateful for their support, but there is still work to be done.
I view my anti depressants as a pair of armbands or a rubber ring, they’re role is to help keep me afloat whilst I get better. If that analogy doesn’t work, if you broke your leg would you expect it to mend without a plaster cast?
Friends are so important when you're struggling.
My best friend was the reason and the drive behind me finally getting professional help.
They encouraged, supported, listened and cared until I finally took that huge step.
I really hope everyone has a best friend like them. They’re a truly remarkable and amazing person.
They saved me.
I can never thank them enough. They helped me get back to being me
A friend was recently told by their manager that they should have managed their wellbeing and stress better because of their grade. That made me really angry and is so wrong. This needs to change, mental health, like physical pays no respect to grade or seniority. Would we tell someone they should have managed their cancer better?
Is it any wonder that people don’t feel comfortable opening up about mental health….
Until reasonably recently I haven’t seen many examples of blokes speaking out about how they feel, or more accurately how they think.
So I kept it all in. I was a pressure cooker. And it wasn’t good for me
One reason it’s hard to open up is the public perception of mental health, and the approach the mainstream media apply has often been misinformed and the illustration of it been focussed on the high profile cases where people have had to be admitted somewhere for intensive therapy.
I’ve often felt that puts all mental health into the category of being mad, or mental, or bonkers.
I didn’t tell people I was ill, or how I was feeling, I didn’t even admit it to myself because I didn’t want to be ‘mental, mad or bonkers’ but I now know that most mental health isn’t really about those words
If you’re depressed you’re not going to necessarily going to get to crisis point and be locked up or try and hurt yourself, the same way that if you are short of breath one day it doesn’t means you have lung disease.
So we need to start focussing more on preventative measures and building or sustaining good mental health and understanding. Making sure we don’t reach crisis point – spotting the signs – and making sure it doesn’t need someone to commit suicide to properly talk about this.
The traditional manly image is to be the strong, silent type. So if you speak up, are you not strong, not brave, less of a man?
I’m 6ft 2 and 17 stone of potential rippling muscle. I’m physically pretty strong, but mentally I have my weaknesses.
Would you prefer to be:
You understand yourself better, are more self aware, can show more empathy.
This is my first blog from over a year ago.
It took a lot of strength to press the publish button, and I sought reassurance from some trusted friends and colleagues before I did. There’s a friends theme running though his huh.
I then tweeted a link to it, and went home and worried.
It was one of the best things I have ever done. Being open.
People liked what I said. They told me, either openly, or more commonly with a whisper in a corridor or a private mail.
People started to understand me better. Someone said they simply got why I was like I was. And that helped build relationships, rebuild relationships and strengthen them.
I’ve written and shared about 30 blogs now about my mental health journey and have recently asked colleagues to be guest bloggers. This happened after we had open conversations about mental health in the office. They are amazed and delighted and reassured by the response too.
People don’t judge. They often empathise or sympathise. They appreciate the openness.
Thousands of people have read my blog now. Sometimes it just helps to know that you’re not alone, you’re not the only one suffering.
We need to make time for these conversations and particularly make men make time for them. We need to stop manning up.
The first step is talking.
Don’t keep it all in. Find that trusted person. They might be a friend, partner, family member, doctor, counsellor, manager anyone. You can talk to me if you want.
Second be kind to yourself. Even if you want to be a manly man you can’t be and do all those things you think society expects you to if you’re not well.
It’s important to be kind to your friends or family if they are suffering, and I’ve been really lucky in that sense. It can be hard to understand why anxious or depressed people think like they do, they probably don’t want to be down or upset you or affect relationships, in fact it’s probably the last thing they want to do. I know I didn’t want to but I know I have, and it makes me feel shit, and that’s tough when you’re already anxious.
Leaders also need to step up and share about mental health and normalise it further. In a recent meeting with about 16 directors the check in included where we were on the well to ill scale. I was at the ill end and the summariser said someone being physically unwell. I blurted out that it was mental. I think I got the point across, and sent them all my blog.
We need people to understand that it’s normal, that you can get help, that you can change, that you can progress, that you can have great relationships.
We need to look out for each other more, not accept ‘I’m fine’ answers, make time for conversations, look out for friends, family and colleagues.
Get the professional help. They’re professionals.
My doctor was excellent. He didn’t judge. He wasn’t embarrassed. He didn’t make me feel embarrassed. He told me I had made a massive step coming to see him. And I had. And if or when you do if you’re struggling you will be too.
Accepting who you are physically and mentally is empowering. You’re you. Just try and be the best version of you that you can be, and get professional help if you need some, as early as possible.
I told my parents about my anti-depressants. I’m not sure they really understood, despite being on all manner of tablets themselves for physical needs that they haven’t chosen to suffer from.
My mum said ‘you’ll soon be back to your normal self then’.
I said I wasn’t sure what my normal self was anymore.
Last weekend she told me she had a chat about mental health, or more accurately my mental health with her best friend who she talks to about everything, apart from probably things like this.
Her friend then told her she had been on anti depressants for years. My mum suddenly got it. It is normal. People just struggle to talk about it.
Don’t be one of those people. Don’t let your friends or family or colleagues be those people.
It might only be a 5 minute conversation.
But that 5 minutes could change your life or someone elses.
You might even save their life.
Find something to give your brain a break and give those you rely on a break, because they need it too.
It’s tough being the shoulder to cry on, just ask my best friend.
I’ve recently found painting. It’s amazing, the process, not the pictures as you can see.
I also laugh at myself more. That’s important.
I’m trying pottery next.
Thanks for listening, take care of yourself and others and please make sure you talk.
Mr Paul Wyse