With Thursday the 13th of September being R U Ok? Day, we asked our editor and chief if he’d sit in his seat and discuss anxiety and depression with our readers along with telling us how much talking and writing about it has helped him over the past couple of years. As they say a single conversation could make someone’s day, their week or their year. It’s ok to talk and more men and women need to be educated that is ok. SO over to you chief fire away and don’t bore the readers too much please…
Well with that introduction I’d better ensure to make this an easy, breezy read for the folks at home. If you had of asked me to write about this a year or two ago the answers would have varied from Aww hell no to a few expletives followed by a staunch no. The fact that I am now able to sit here and talk about it is a testament that if you can find that one person and start opening up, the more you do it the more you become comfortable doing. In saying that I still struggle to speak with people about my anxiety and depression that I don’t really know or that I am not comfortable with. Even writing this now has a me a little anxious as to what people may or may not think.
Like thousands of men and women across Australia and around the globe I suffer from anxiety and depression. I have my good days and yes I certainly have my bad days, my wife will be happy to attest to that. The good news is they are coming few and far between, I won’t lie and say it was easy to get to this point but I will say that it took a lot of hard work and honesty. Firstly being honest with myself and secondly being honest with those that I care about and love. Being honest and admitting to myself that there was something wrong and I needed help was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life.
No one likes asking for help especially when they often can’t put their finger on exactly what the problem is or why they are feeling that way. So when people used to ask me what was wrong or why i was being quiet I would often just say nothing and try to disappear into the background. I tried changing the topic and more often than not I would ask questions and listen so I didn’t have to deal with my own thoughts and feelings. We all have days when we are feeling a little blue so I put a lot of what I was thinking and feeling down to that. At the time I was living in Brisbane, a long way away from my family and close. Yeah I had some good mates around me but none that I was comfortable talking to at the time.
It wasn’t until I started to display physical symptoms that I knew I had to do something, I had to see someone. I remember one day sitting on the floor of the bathroom feeling nauseous, there was a tightness across my chest and I was actually physically sick and I couldn’t control my thoughts. It was something I had never experienced before but it was something that would happen to me more and more over the following months until I saw someone. Now I would love to say that I plucked up the courage and went of my own volitions however I didn’t. I was given an ultimatum but it was the one that I needed and deep down I knew it was for my own good.
With my decision made I then struggled for some time as to who do I go and see, do I get medical help, do I go straight to the psychologist or psychiatrist, do I talk to friends, family. What do I do? It was daunting, I searched online, I read articles but at the end of the day it was a conversation with my father in law that changed it all. You see we don’t often get to see what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t ask questions that are personal and as men we just choose not to talk about our feelings. Its ingrained and beat into us from birth, strong men don’t talk about their feelings.
This one conversation though set me on the right path, through opening up I learnt that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only person to go through this and there is nothing wrong with asking for help and knowing that it is ok to talk. Now my journey to seek the help i need may be different to a lot of people. I had a Skype call with one of the nation’s top professors of Psychiatry who then pointed me in the right direction and made recommendations. From there I saw my physician and on that back of that we setup a mental health plan that suited me.
My next hurdle along the way was having to take medication, it got me down and made me even more anxious that I needed to take a tablet each day to ensure my highs and lows were kept in balance. It honestly made me feel miserable but what it did do was allow my brain to slow down and process things a lot better. The more I researched what I was taking the more comfortable I became. I would talk about it in my session with my psychologist and together we began forming a plan to put in place the strategies and techniques to allow me to cope with my anxiety and depression if I ever came off the medication.
Over time my dosage has been adjusted, slowly becoming less and less as I become more and more comfortable with my own thoughts and feelings. How I manage and process them has gone from one of confusion and often being overwhelmed to now being ok with them and letting the thoughts and feelings come and go as they please. I’ve also learnt that talking about my anxiety and depression or writing about it has helped me a great deal. Being ok and realising that it is not a weakness but a strength, a strength that shines through in the day-to-day battle with my mind and thoughts.
The uneducated will make comments like what have you got to be sad about or are you suicidal. A lot them won’t even attempt to understand and will shy away from people with mental health issues. The truth is that mental health issues affect everyone differently, yes it does overwhelm some people to the point they want to the pain to stop that’s the sad truth but they are often the people who need our help the most. They are the people who just having a conversation with them could make their day. It could save their life, the problem is a lot of people still feel the shame and stigma that comes with mental health.
Conversations have helped me over the past couple of years, just having them has opened up my eyes to the world and to the fact I am not alone in my struggle. It has helped me understand my mind, understand my anxiety, understand my depression and most importantly understand that it’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to talk, its ok to ask for help. It’s ok to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Take a leaf from the young females of the world they put themselves out there on social media on a daily basis with there blogging and fashion posts but they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable often for a good cause.
I’ve been humbled this week by several people reaching out to me and sharing their stories and asking for help. Whether they were inspired by me finding my voice and asking for help or not is irrelevant the fact they were able to speak up and say there were struggling made me both proud and humbled at the same time. They were taking the steps to find their feet once again and work on themselves. Most importantly they were learning to love themselves once more. The biggest part of any healing process is accepting that you are going to be ok and who you are.
So it is to all those who are struggling in the world, you are not alone, there is a good chance the person sitting next to you right now is going through the same thing or has already been through. Do yourself a favour and ask people are you ok? What you give you shall receive tenfold as the old saying goes. Pay it forward, look after yourself and take care of those around you. It’s ok to talk, its ok not to be ok, and most importantly it is ok to ask for help. From myself and the team here at A Mind of Its Own, R U Ok? Start the conversation even if it isn’t for you.