His mother committed suicide, he had a mental breakdown, and he still struggles with extreme anxiety. But he’s turning his experience into a tool to help other men.
I’ve seen some of the darkest things imaginable. I’ve had things happen to me out of the extreme decisions made by other people in my life. My life has been of extremes and I’ve seen first hand how destructive a mental illness can be.
In the end, I lost my mum to suicide, had a mental breakdown, suffered with anxiety, panic attacks, crippling headaches and been through a ton of family dramas that make any soap opera look like a nice little holiday. I’ve been through it all and come out the other side.
The past 30 years have taught me quite a bit. And I’ve pretty much experienced every emotion there is, and along the way I’ve discovered ways to live with them. My hope is that by sharing my story, it will help others to realize their own potential and discover the benefits of sharing your stuff. You can take from it whatever you feel is beneficial, I just want to prove that talking, writing and sharing is OK.
I’ve lived with panic attacks and anxiety since about 13. Mine stem from a whole range of things but mainly come from my mum. As amazing as she was, she was someone you feared upsetting or getting on the wrong side of. Growing up I lived with this fear day in day out. Most days were filled with what if’s and anticipation — which is what drives anxiety. The fear of what if.
The best way to overcome this is to say fuck fear. A coping mechanism I was taught was to embrace fear. Find the reason why you’re feeling anxious and confront it head on. Fear of having a panic attack will only cause a panic attack. Using a distraction will just lengthen your anxiety. Find fear, hunt it down, look it in the eyes and say fuck you.
It’s not easy to be mad at people we love. I was furious when my mum committed suicide. But how can you be angry at someone who’s dead? It’s much easier to get angry with the door not shutting or the TV remote not working. Locking up anger only leads to more frustration and more anger.
So let it out. Tell the person you’re angry with that your angry with them. Tell them why. Can’t do this? Then go outside and let it out. I go to the beach and find the biggest rock and throw it as far as I can. I imagine throwing it at the person I’m angry at. The gym is another good place to get angry. Don’t smash up your house or room. Go lift something heavy. Throw something big. Use a punch bag. Letting anger out is the only way to stop feeling angry. Just don’t hurt someone or yourself and you’ll be OK.
How many times have you said “I’m OK” when someone has asked you if you’re ok? I cried when my mum died and I didn’t care who saw it. But not long afterwards, literally a few days, I stopped crying. I decided I was now OK. She was gone, I was here and I had shit to do. Two years later I had a mental breakdown. The hurt, the pain, the un-cried tears from the last two years all caught up with me and I self-imploded.
I still find it tough to cry. But I always feel better for doing it. One thing that helps me is music. A particular couple of tracks that cause me to breakdown into a dribbling mess of tears. Don’t be afraid of the things that make you cry. Use them to your advantage. Don’t be ashamed. It doesn’t make you weak. So grab the Kleenex Mansize and shed some hard-earned tears.
Feeling depressed feels like you’re dragging a 1 ton weight around with you. It’s like swimming in glue. It’s exhausting and makes you feel like giving up. I remember the lowest I’ve ever felt and thinking it would never pass. I thought that’s it, I’m fucked. This is my life. But slowly it passed. Some of it on it’s own, some of it by me accepting it. It’s like all these feelings. The more you fight it, the worse you feel. You know why? Because you’re just fighting yourself.
As soon as I accepted my depression and said ‘fuck it I’m going to bed and I’m not going to move for 3 days’ the sooner I was out of bed. It’s not giving up on yourself, it’s just not forcing yourself to be happy. Sometimes you need to give in to the way you feel. Sometimes you need to just feel like shit and switch the world off. It won’t last forever. It will pass. Just go with it.
After my mum died I was left with a huge feeling of loneliness. I was not only physically alone but I also felt isolated in what I was going through. I wasn’t alone at all. Talking to others about my issues helped me overcome this. There’s always someone out there going through the same thing you are. Find them. Talk to them.
As soon as I did this I realised that physically being alone wasn’t that bad. And that depending on the company
of others made me feel more lonely. I learned to enjoy my own company. It was an opportunity to do whatever I wanted. Do something you love and talk to others along the way. You’ll soon realise you’re not alone and that your own company is not that bad. Be a mate to yourself. Do what makes YOU happy. And don’t feel guilty for doing it.
Feeling confused sucks because you can feel everything and nothing. All at the same time. During my breakdown I was in a world of confused thoughts and feelings. Why do I feel like this? What’s wrong with me? How can I stop feeling like this? What should I do?
Chasing for an answer can feel like you’re stuck on repeat. So stop. Switch off and list everything that is on your mind. You need to break the cycle of confusion. If writing doesn’t help, try giving your mind some peace with a simple task. Give something the best clean it’s ever had or fix something. Meditation is the act of focusing the mind on a mundane task so the rest of your mind can find peace. Forget confusion for just a few seconds. Stop chasing it. Let go of it. Focus on something completely different.
What Works BEST for Me
I’ve lived with anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life now and the one thing that has helped me the most is a journal. This important task has been forgotten over the years and now is a more crucial time than ever for guys to get writing again.
So I’m creating a unique journal designed for the modern day man. Using a simple yet powerful framework, the journal I’ve created helps overcome the often mundane task of writing your thoughts down on paper. It’s formed of questions and tasks, increasing in difficulty as you journey through.
It’s called Mind Journal and it’s the first journal designed specifically for guys. It’s simple, powerful and totally doable. It’s on Kickstarter now with an estimated delivery of June 2016. I’m hoping it’s as effective for every man who uses it as it was for me.
Originally Published on Medium.com