Fuck It! Strength through Vulnerability.
I have always felt that life is about spinning plates. A Saturday afternoon in London in October 2015 was when all my plates fell down. I had a breakdown. Just typing that brings back the painful memory of that day, but by writing this I have accepted what happened and feel that I am on a journey to learn to accept myself. What I actually remember from that day was getting up as normal but soon after not feeling myself. I didn’t even know who I was any longer. I was all over the place. I’d been found out, exposed for the fraud I was. My girlfriend and I went for a coffee, returned home, then I sat on the sofa and it began. The previous day had seen me sent home from work and told to seek help regarding my anxiety. Instinctively, I had gone home and made a doctor’s appointment for the next day. I remember I went to the cinema, alone, for the first time as I didn’t want to be at home alone and didn’t want to think about what had happened. I sent a text to my Mum and my girlfriend explaining what had happened and then I just sat and stared at the wall. I was lost. In many ways, I was relieved to be out of work and away from the stressful environment which was consuming me. Now was the time to think.
My first memory of the breakdown was starting to cry, it felt like a normal cry but then it gradually became more intense. The true horror of the mess my life was in started to dawn on me. The plates were smashing. Overwhelmed, the cries became screams, breaths became shorter. I had experienced a panic attack about three years previously but this was something else. I remember screaming something about not wanting to go to hospital, body rocking and shaking uncontrollably. I know my Mum was called, I remember speaking to her. I remember feeling like I had let everybody down. I was staring at the edge and I didn’t want to carry on anymore.
I was lucky. My closest friend and his partner arrived and while my friend tended to my girlfriend, his partner was able to comfort me. Just seeing them come to my rescue immediately made me step back from the edge. Being hugged felt like the best thing ever. They stayed and helped me navigate through the next few hours. I am forever grateful for their actions on that day. I was so fortunate to have them as my support network. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had experienced a breakdown like that during the two years previous to that when I had been living in Italy. They were the first step to inspiring me to change my life. But these journeys are complicated and this blog is about what has followed and the feelings I have experienced and the things I have learned.
I could go on and on about what happened that day but now I see it as something that just happened and I learned from. The next step was to attend the doctor’s appointment with my friend later that afternoon. He was able to explain to the doctor what had happened to me when I couldn’t find the words. It was clear that my anxiety and whatever else I was suffering with was affecting me very badly. I was put on medication. It was agreed I would go and stay with my Mum. I was signed off work. Now was the time to rest and try and put myself back together.
My Mum missed a holiday to stay at home with me. That’s just what you do. Again, I was lucky. I remember feeling looked after, valued, protected. We made lemon drizzle cake one day, my cousin and his girlfriend came to visit the next. I didn’t know what day it was. I learned more about my Mum that week than I had in all my life. We went for an Italian meal and my Mum told me all about her childhood. She booked me in to see a councillor. My Dad came over and I remember a strange moment where I had a coffee with my parent at a hotel my Dad was staying at in Manchester. Since they divorced when I was 11 it has always felt strange the three of us being together. I remember coming back from the toilet and seeing them deep in discussion about me. It felt nice to be the topic of conversation, to have those closest to me rallying round me.
Family circumstances have clearly had an effect on me. My parents divorced when I was 11 but were distant before then. Dad worked away a lot before he left. As a young child, I was very intelligent and incredibly perceptive. I sensed the mood in the house, I knew it was wrong. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t have a bad childhood. I love my parents and like them both as people and they did their best but it isn’t easy. I’m sure at times they just muddled along and did what they could. As I’ve grown up as an only child I can’t shake the feeling that I was the product of something that didn’t last and as a result have gone long periods without the true parental attention I felt I deserved, for which I take some blame for. But at the time of writing my overriding feeling is wait for me to sort my shit out and we’ll talk about this another time.
I can’t remember how many weeks I was at home for. I had three really constructive sessions with a counsellor. The medication was starting to regulate my mood. I had taken them previously over the years but always wanted to get back to a life where I didn’t need to take a pill every single day to function. I knew I was going to have to make changes. When I returned I tried to repair what was already a broken relationship. We were not right for each other but that is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight. I also had to decide if I could carry on with my career as a teacher.
After a lot of contemplation, I decided to make a go of both of them. I used the rest of my time off to try and keep fit and look after myself but I felt that I was still in a position of fear. I was scared of my partner’s judgement, scared of going back to work. Honestly, I was just bumbling along with no plan, doing what I could. I attended regular wellbeing workshops, I started practising Mindfulness techniques, I tried to inject passion back into a relationship which was already dead. The point is I tried. I did something. In terms of the relationship I took it all on myself. Mentally I punished myself for showing weakness, for being too sensitive. I was trying to hold it all together and be someone I was not. In December, I was signed off by Occupational Health for a phased return to work.
I probably wasn’t the best boyfriend and I must have surely been difficult to live with. I would have mood swings but my heart has always been in the right place. I felt I should have been supported more, I deserved that. I had to do something, leave my job or leave my girlfriend. So just before New Year when we returned to London I ended the relationship and yet again was supported by my closest friend and went to live in his flat. The people closest to me were all in agreement that this was the right choice. I saw it as cutting a chunk of stress out of my life. Over the coming months I had to cope with establishing myself back at work, processing a break up and getting back out into the world to meet new people, a tall order. I celebrated my 30th birthday with my friends and they helped put me back together.
As the months rolled on I just kept on going, keeping my head down and trying to get on with my life. I wasn’t addressing the issues I was facing but I was doing a pretty good job of faking it. Again, I wasn’t probably the best person to live with for which I am truly sorry but it is truly exhausting to not feel good about yourself, to constantly question everything and feel pressure building on a daily basis. I recently watched a documentary about people who have experienced mental health issues wanting to run the marathon. One guy explained that he felt his next bout of depression was ‘in the mail’. This was exactly how I felt yet I didn’t know when it was going to hit.
For a couple of years my relationship around alcohol had changed. I was no longer a happy drunk and was using it as a crutch to cover up my insecurities and present a better version of myself. It ended up having the opposite effect. I knew I had to address this but I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t strong enough. To be successful I needed to have a platform to achieve. Having not had a bolthole for a long time I was still feeling lost. This was not the time.
I was struggling to control my emotions. They were overwhelming me. It was affecting me at work. Had I taken on too much too soon? I was fast becoming disillusioned with the teaching profession and I was hurtling towards a stress related meltdown. Even in times like these however a person is capable of making some good decisions. I had joined a dating site and started to get out and meet new people, it probably wasn’t the right time and maybe I should have just taken some time to enjoy being on my own. Except I wasn’t enjoying being on my own. Emotion was always bubbling under the surface. When my friends announced their engagement on Valentine’s Day I burst into tears of happiness in the middle of a pub. Being asked to be a best man is a tremendous honour.
That motivated me to look for someone I could really care for. After a number of I dates I met somebody who was really nice and kind. I was very honest about the things that had happened to me and felt like I could be myself, whatever that was. The things that make people interesting are the things that aren’t perfect. I immediately could see she appreciated my imperfections. I remember going to watch her run the marathon and feeling incredibly inspired. It was then I felt ready for a new relationship. Of course, this was when some of my plates fell down again. I had been working incredibly hard and knew that something had to give. The anxiety and stress I felt around teaching and the way I addressed stress was about to come to a head.
After a disastrous pupil progress meeting where I felt completely dismantled as a professional, stress overcame me and I broke down. After school, I threw a stapler on the floor in a fit of anger, which felt great after the day I’d had. Maybe I wasn’t mentally prepared for the meeting, but I felt utterly humiliated. I don’t want any teacher to go through what I went through that day. If it was a boxing match my corner would have thrown in the towel early on. Enough was enough, after four hours effectively being told you are shit at your job and being informed in a very insincere manner that you could not leave the school premises until somebody was at home to ‘look after you’ was the final straw. I was finished at that school and after my friend was called and told to await my arrival I walked out with my head held high knowing I would never return. Many people lack empathy or pretend to show it but from a young age I would never suffer fools gladly. Don’t pretend to care, I can see through you. It upsets me when I see others hurting and for me that is how I know I am a real person.
From this wreckage, I had started to develop an attitude of ‘fuck it’. We had a nice date planned for the next night, I wondered whether I was up to it. In the taxi home from school I bared all and revealed to her what had just happened, the mess I was yet again in. She was so understanding and came through for me that day. We have subsequently gone from strength to strength, we are currently living together and we are planning to move up to Manchester together. Now I finally have somebody who likes me for who I am. I can actually be myself which is a major fucking relief, let me tell you. Too many times I have tried to be someone I am not. In the midst of one of the confusing periods of my life I have got something completely 100% right!
Soon after I went through my teaching union, finalised the end of my contract, moved into a house share and started moving on with my life. I found myself damaged, but not broken and free from the two biggest problems in my life. It was then I started to confront who I really was and the negative thinking patterns that had troubled me throughout my life. After another break, I registered as a supply teacher and started working in various locations throughout London. It was then I started to think about what I really wanted out of life and what I really wanted to do if I weren’t a teacher. After years of being consumed by pressure and self-doubt I started to look around at those closest to me. I came off the tablets. I did 33 days off the booze. It was time.
My closest childhood friend had married a year before, a fantastic time where I loved being the best man. Another close friend had recently become engaged, to someone I had introduced him to and my closest friend in London who had helped me in recent times was also engaged. This made me reflect on myself. A strong feeling of peer pressure overcame me and I started to beat myself up out of comparison. Eventually I thought about what I lacked in comparison and decided it was stability and consistency. I’d had such a turbulent few years; leaving Manchester, a year in Spain, two years in Italy in a damaging relationship, moved to London, had a breakdown, ended a relationship, lost a job. Quite an eventful period I’m sure you’d agree. Drama had become a regular occurrence in my life. For someone who doesn’t like to cause a fuss and hates confrontation, things were not going the way I wanted. I learned about stoicism and considered the mental toughness I had shown.
I love my friends and I am fiercely protective over them. We are all very different personalities with a wide range of interests. An eclectic bunch compared to most friendship groups I know and I am proud of that. Every day I wish I could see more of all my friends because they are all class guys. At this stage, I was overjoyed that they were getting on in life both romantically and financially. After all this is what they deserve, yet it was having a very negative effect on me. I was feeling so ashamed about my lack of progress in life. Why wasn’t I married yet? Why did I not have a house? Why had I not developed properly? My head was spinning into overdrive with regrets, worries, insecurities making me on edge and irrational fears were preventing me from being an acceptable version of myself. I don’t know if they knew I felt this way but I hope that if they ever did read this they understand the daily struggle I have.
It was great to have everybody together for wedding number two. From a fantastic stag in Spain to the big day itself in London it was so valuable to be around those I care the most for. For speech number two I was able to speak from the heart and share how grateful I was to have been cared for by the happy couple in my time of need. I quipped that if they ever worried about what kind of parents they would be, they need only look at me. With a supportive girlfriend giving me confidence, it was time to turn the corner and I decided to make the focus of my life me. I have been there for all my friends. Previously I have been a leader for the group, organising things in the early days, an encouraging and motivating presence for those around me. Not many get to be a best man twice (three times if you count my Dad’s wedding) and I had a rare moment of feeling truly awesome. I realised that the path to self-acceptance started here.
So why after giving these amazing speeches did I still not have inner confidence? I started to reflect on my problems and pinpointed that it all stemmed from a lack of self-esteem. Over the Christmas period, I started to contemplate whether I really wanted to change and if so, in what areas. One of my major difficulties is feeling like I have underachieved, which comes from trying to be a perfectionist. I now wake up and tell myself I’m not perfect and that’s OK! In fact, that’s great. It must be pretty knackering trying to be perfect all the time. I decided to move in with my girlfriend in the new year. Yet another change but a really positive one. A chance to be happy.
Starting from the January we made our lives about routine. I longed for stability and consistency. In comparison to the life I had been living it may not have been as glamorous but it was better for my mind. For years I had longed to be more in control of what was happening to me and I communicated this early on. It helped that my girlfriend is exceptionally supportive and organised, the nicest person I know. It provided me with a platform to improve. I wanted to show her how amazing I could be. I’ve always loved making lists so I made a list about the things I wanted in my life. Now it was really time to make changes.
The thing about change is you have to really want it. Not just pretend to want it or say you want it, which I had done for so long. There was nothing stopping me from achieving my goals except myself. I had struggled financially since leaving a well-paid permanent teaching job in London to enter the world of supply teaching while paying London rents. With support, I was able to structure my finances and put money aside to cover holidays, bills and food shopping. I was enjoying starting this new routine and sharing my life with someone in this way. Planning regular meals and healthy lunches as well as home cooking were a sign of a new direction in my life and kept me focused in the new year. Eventually I started to slip again into negative thoughts and a niggling sense of frustration about not being comfortable supply teaching started to consume me. I came home from work one dark January evening and lay under the covers crying. I thought I was going to be OK, but here I was again being weak. It forced me to show a bit of fight, an example of my fight or flight response in action. I had perfected the flight situation but now it was time to face up to difficult decisions and take action.
It was time to be honest with myself, I just wasn’t feeling good about myself. I thought I was not good enough at everything. I had felt like this since childhood and at some stage in my life I had to rectify it or I could end up doing something unpleasant to myself. I remained frustrated, but I started to see this as continued fight, about not being happy with my lot. Deep down I could see my confidence, like a shiny coin at the bottom of a murky fountain. It sounds stupid but I felt like I was special, that I meant something and that has always been the glimmer of hope that has pulled me back from the brink of total despair. I needed to throw myself into something new. Something to finally break up the now boring daily feeling like shit. I needed to exercise. I needed a hobby.
I have always struggled to stick to things. I was a stubborn child and if I made a mistake I would always react badly. I never got back on the bike. Like some children I didn’t like losing. There was a point I stopped being competitive as I hated the feeling of losing so much. I needed to arouse passions within myself to stop myself feeling flat and succumbing to negative thinking patterns. I went with a colleague to play with a group called Terrible Football. Having lived with anxiety for so long, I was often scared to play football, especially in my adult years. But I woke up that morning and thought ‘fuck it’ and tried something new. I did it. I went. I was pretty shit but I wasn’t the worst. I’ve been going ever since to help improve my fitness, ability and to meet new people.
This was a massive turning point for me, I wanted to get fitter. I always knew I was out of shape and if I am honest I have been overweight since the age of 7 years old. Looking back at pictures that was the age when I changed from looking like the other kids, to being bigger than them. I have never been absolutely massive but I have always been overweight. Medically, I am obese so I have to address it now. This explains my low self-esteem. I’m not saying this is the case for every fat person but it must have an impact on the majority of people. I attribute my weight issues as a contributing factor to me not feeling good enough. I would go as far as saying it has severely hampered my confidence ever since. Now was the time to address the physical. Healthy body, healthy mind.
With wedding number three on the horizon in Wales I attempted to step up my efforts but a messy stag party in Amsterdam put a stop to that. Yet again, alcohol had taken an undesirable hold of me and my insecurities came pouring out. This time I lost it with my friend and my pain, anger and frustration was vented. But my reaction to myself was more measured, I considered the reasons for this outpouring and attributed a lot of it to an unsuccessful job interview day I had taken part in a couple of days previously, and the prospect of seeing my ex at the wedding. Instead of apologising and taking all blame and beating myself up, punishing myself in a period of spiralling out of control I was able to move on and enjoy the rest of the trip. I was on a journey and I wasn’t going to go back to square one. It was time to stand up for myself. I wasn’t the first person to make a tit of himself while drunk after a bad week and I won’t be the last. It was an early glimmer of strength and self-acceptance to acknowledge my imperfections and not let it derail my progress. Like I said, I’ve been a good friend.
Handling pressure has always been a problem for me. I knew it would be emotional to me to see my ex at the wedding. We introduced the happy couple, which is the best thing to come out of our mindfuck of a relationship. There were good moments yes, but I’m not going to waste my time listing all the bad ones. But seeing her had put me on edge. I wanted us to not bring partners as I knew I couldn’t handle it. Add alcohol into the mix and I was unstable and unable to communicate that beforehand. I was crying out for help and support and I inevitably became upset when I saw her flirting away and seemingly flourishing in life without me, it got to me. I had my closest friends around me but this time I felt adrift. Eventually I had a good old rant and got a few things off my chest. Luckily this was the end of the night and it didn’t ruin anything but being held back while screaming at someone isn’t a nice way to remember the occasion.
I ended up alone and vulnerable, drunk in a hotel room and all the plates around me wobbling. A familiar feeling and some dangerous thoughts attacking me. As the night went on, I realised nobody was coming to my aid, that was the scariest part. Did they even know what had happened? Did everybody know how bad I was hurting? Why can’t my friends take this pain away? After all I’ve done for them. That was my frame of mind and I was thinking the worst as I had found myself on the edge again. Even now I don’t know if they know this. I felt a burden to everyone, a glorious failure. My fight had nearly gone. I have to write it to admit it but on 8th April 2017 I seriously considered suicide, the strongest I’ve ever felt.
Waking up the next day and sheepishly saying my goodbyes, I felt detached from all those around me. I was utterly ashamed and what was making it worse was nobody was mentioning it at all. Maybe out of respect, but I had this overwhelming sense that they were all done with me. After all my years of constant, incessant worry about what people think about me, about keeping those around me happy, I faced the prospect of losing core friends. It was then I realised. And I mean really realised, that I could not go on like this. This self-destructive behaviour was taking its toll on me both mentally and physically. Did I want to live? Yes! Did I want to keep living like this? Hell no! Eating a KFC at the motorway services I promised myself I would up my efforts. Try harder. Do something. Change something. Address something. Ask for help. Seek help. Anything to change this bleak situation.
Arriving home, I explained all to my girlfriend and again she was my rock. I needed time away from everyone. I needed to go into hibernation and concentrate on making the necessary modifications and improvements to get myself back on track. We had a great little holiday. I fell deeply in love with her. She’s got my back. On April 14th 2017 I made this list of things I could do:
• Addressing Low Self-Esteem.
• Meet others who have suffered.
• Exercise and Better Diet.
• Low-Cost Therapy.
• More structured lifestyle.
• Reading up on self-help.
• Concentrate on people who matter to me.
• More thinking of others.
I had to be more open-minded. I had to go out of my comfort zone. I was struck by a quote saying, “Easy Choices, Hard Life. Hard Choices. Easy Life.” Straight away I got on Meet Up and found a Confidence and Self Esteem group. I did something before I could change my mind. I thought about my assets more. From the get go, my teaching was better. I wasn’t drinking. More healthy eating. More exercise. I was sticking to routines. I was on my way back up. I had started to make changes and this time they felt genuine. These modifications were not intended to be a means to an end, such as to look good for a wedding or a job interview. They are the beginning of lifelong changes. At my first Meet Up I listened to a guy speak with raw honesty. I was humbled and inspired to be around others who had suffered. I felt part of something. I confessed about the feelings I had in the hotel room three weeks earlier. I was listened to. I became aware of the things I had put myself through, “we suffer more often in imagination than reality.”
At the same time, I started some therapy. It helps me to talk through things and get them off my chest. I’ve not held anything back. I am truly learning how to feel. Making lists about what I liked about myself felt strange at first but I continued employing a ‘fuck it’ attitude. This is helping me on my journey. I had identified that I may want to work in the charity sector so I began researching fresh challenges. I felt a longing to return home so we discussed it thoroughly and came to a mutual decision to move. My life had very quickly become more stable and consistent and I was thinking long term for the first time in a long time. It became empowering to think of what I could bring to a new role. I confided in my counsellor that I never learned to ride a bike, about how fucking stupid and pointless I often feel as a human being having to admit this. Even if you laughed in my face about it you couldn’t possibly match the mental punishment I’ve put myself through over the past 20 years about this. I promised to him I’d let him teach me.
There will always be challenges. In May I left my phone in the park after football, I returned after five minutes to find it gone. Previously I would have massively overreacted but this time I accepted it and just got on with things, not letting the event derail me. I used an old phone and scaled back my social media usage which I would describe as average yet it could often be a distracting influence. To be honest, not looking at Facebook and not comparing myself to others really helped me. It allowed me to focus more firmly on my self-improvement project. Not content with twice weekly football, self-esteem meet-ups and counselling I identified making a noticeable weight loss my next challenge. I was so inspired watching the marathon runners on the day, especially those who had appeared on the Mind over Marathon programme on BBC. It made me think that I could achieve my goals.
I signed up for Man v Fat. A football league for overweight men with added points awarded for weekly weight loss, a bloody fantastic idea that is now getting national press. I am really starting to enjoy football again and it has helped me with my anxiety to throw myself into situations by facing my fears and doing it anyway. As one of the lighter participants it feels quite nice, even if I am not an amazing player. It is brilliant to be part of a team all achieving the same goals. I have achieved a weight loss every week and since April I would estimate I have now lost well over a stone in 2017. I did another 33 days off the booze. I even look forward to my daily salad at lunch! I don’t want to stop drinking entirely but I can enjoy the positive effects of no alcohol on my body and my mind. I have spoken with many people about the gut-wrenching anxiety that comes with a hangover. Glad I’m not the only one who feels it! Frankly I could do without this but I’d like to achieve a happy relationship as an occasional social drinker. I take the weight loss very seriously though. Being focused is giving me structure and consistency.
Talking therapy continues to provide a listening ear and early on helped me to identify barriers to self-acceptance. Many of my strengths were things I viewed in a negative light, seeing them as weaknesses that have led to me failing in this driven, dog-eat-dog world. I have always been emotional and cared too deeply about things. I display compassion and empathy yet never appreciated these qualities in myself. I never classified these feelings before but now I am proud to say that I am a person of integrity. Having a label for it gives me strength because I believe in these abilities. Through discussion I now realise that it is possible to show vulnerability and strength. I am starting to feel better about myself. About time!
In teaching I have always had excellent relationships with my pupils and with teaching assistants, but have suffered from stress and the pressure of excessive paper work and meeting the demands of managers, fellow teachers and middle leaders. Coupled with the ludicrous expectations I was placing on myself, I was heading for a fall. The teaching has always been my favourite part, but I have little love for the rest of it. I could write a whole blog entirely about this. Early on in my career I passed on applying for a promotion, not deeming the skills I had as worthy enough. Over the years my passion for the job has diminished. I’ve changed job often. I’m very down-to-earth and highly adaptable and flexible. In June, I began a half-term block of teaching in a school I have supplied often at. I like the staff as they are regular, normal people. As I prepare to leave the profession, I’m starting to enjoy it again. Funny that.
Through the self-esteem and confidence meet up, I said yes to starting a seven-month coaching course. I can fund it by not drinking as often. This is something I would previously have not considered but I have enjoyed immersing myself into this world. Having opened up and shared my true fears I am having deeply meaningful conversations with people who feel that they have also not achieved their true potential. It is liberating to start a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement and it works well with all of the other things happening in my life. The plates are all spinning serenely. My ultimate aim is to be in a new job by October and I have expanded my field of possible new challenges by thinking about not only charities but advice, guidance, coaching and counselling. I want my newfound strengths to be an asset to others. Obviously, I have years of experience with children but my experience of coaching adults in my group as well as a friend on an informal basis have given me a real boost. I am on the front foot, beginning to be pro-active not reactive.
My coach, who is a top bloke, has been motivating and helped me to set regular targets for myself. As I’ve gone into this with an open mind (a ‘fuck-it’ attitude) I have found I am learning about myself all the time. I have identified the things I felt have held me back (many of which have already been covered) and I have referred to these as issues and circumstances. What has been instilled into me so far is that I am not these issues and circumstances. Instead I have generated talents I see in the best version of myself. I want to be in control, courageous and prepared. The thing is I already am these things, although I don’t always feel it. Still, if I keep the emphasis on these qualities and make them the focus when making decisions and setting targets, I can achieve more. All I need to do is think, what would a courageous version of myself do? Write a blog!
My mission is to make my life work for me. Is it working? Am I in control? These thoughts bounce around in my head constantly and keep me on track to keep learning. I once read a quote “It is all about the journey, not the destination” and that feels so true now. I am happier but I don’t want to be irritating about it. I am going somewhere good and I want to share that. This fire and fight that burns in me had led to a surge of energy and confidence which has propelled me to write this blog. I have found it a great way to capture the flurry of ideas that swirl around inside my head. I believe I have always had a quick mind. Can I build on this surge? My counsellor explained to me that we are all muddling along in life, I believe he has hit the nail on the head there and it is nice to hear it from others. Everybody has worries and struggles, but some just appear to be coping better, that’s all. It is the comments of others and the quotes I read that truly underpin this whole experience and lead to the next level of learning.
To anybody reading this looking for a quick-fix, there is no magic transformation. It takes time and is bloody frustrating. Share your raw truths, don’t hold anything back. Stay on the track, even if you stray, get back on it quickly. I haven’t yet got my desired result but the things I have experienced throughout have moved the goalposts. The same should happen to you. Now my brain is expanding. It is like a muscle after all and I am undeniably giving it a hefty work out. Some days I’m exhausted and my brain becomes saturated. The fatigue and stress can open up old wounds but I am learning to laugh at some of my irrational thoughts. I often catastrophise and think up imaginary situations where I feel threatened or there is some confrontation or disapproval. I have to check myself and laugh them off as they are often complete bullshit. If you see a random guy laughing to himself on the tube, it could be me.
Sometimes I take on too much responsibility and I feel blurred and unable to think straight. It is important to be good to yourself and revisit your achievements and positive qualities. Self-improvement and acceptance can be a daily struggle but it is worth it when you achieve results. In my case certain weight loss milestones, getting into a new pair of trousers, someone telling me I have lost weight and great feelings to behold. Starting a food diary was tough at first but stick with something and it can become habitual. Through research I have found that it takes 20-30 days for a habit to develop, which I certainly felt when not drinking.
Finding a passion is so important. Something you can speak from the heart about and really care about so you feel you can get your teeth into it. Thinking about coaching and target setting helped spur me on to complete tasks such as updating my CV, writing a cover letter, setting up my LinkedIn and applying for jobs. After all, that is what an in control, successful and courageous person would do. I feel alive. What I have found useful is looking back at targets met to boost me up when I experience mini-moments of stress. Last week I felt really pissed off about not having found a suitable job for when I move to Manchester. I looked over my achievements so far and looked again, finding a few suitable opportunities that I intend to apply for. Am I scared and worried? Yes. Am I going to do it anyway? Yes.
On occasion, I have the odd wobble where I experience panic, feeling like an imposter in my own life. Who are you? What is the ‘new’ you? Is this ‘new’ you boring? Was the ‘old’ you better? These represent some of the resistance my mind creates. I often find it nice to focus on appreciating past memories and some of the fantastic experiences I have had in my life to take my mind off this mental troll. I have lived in Amsterdam, Southern Spain, Rome and London. Not too shabby. One thing that has persistently bugged me is the idea of writing this blog. It has taken me weeks of mental toing and froing to finally start tapping away. I have had to do it just to stop myself thinking about it. The main worries include: What if its crap? What if people hate it? What if it makes me look like a dick? What if it upsets family and friends? Who gives a shit about you? Will I get trolled by some prick? Who the hell do you think you are?
After careful thought my response is fuck off I’m doing it anyway. I’m not even going to whisper it but I think I’m a pretty inspiring person who has embraced his flaws and is making peace with himself. What have you done, imaginary critic who I have just created? I’ve got nothing to lose so let’s see where this takes me. I recently spoke with a group member who was worried that those around her would see her newfound confidence as arrogance and was able to realise that of course it will be hard to get used to a new me but all true friends want to see you happy. Single-mindedness is something I have never, even demonstrated until now because I’ve been petrified but feel it is fundamental for growth. I’m putting myself first.
This leads me to the idea of taking risks. Of putting myself out there. Recent quotes that emphasise this point are “always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else” and ‘the fearful are caught as often as the bold”. It is amazing how quotes like these can encapsulate a feeling you were unable to previously express. They sum up what has been wrong with the last five years of my life. I now try to extend my personal quest from ‘fuck it’ to ‘fuck it just do it’. Let’s see what happens and have a giggle if it goes wrong. I could create something from just blindly going for something. How can it make me worse?
This is my confession. It has been a cathartic experience for me. I still have doubts. I spend large amounts of my time frantically scribbling down thoughts, feelings and ideas. I read advice pages, books and other people’s experiences. Above all, I’m interested in mental health and the reaction and support people receive. After I had a breakdown I didn’t share that with too many people and I wish I had, yet if I had broken my leg I’m sure I would have gone fishing for likes on Facebook and received considerably more attention. Nevertheless, the situation is improving and its now becoming more acceptable to discuss our struggles. I would like the intended audience for this to be those who feel trapped, lonely or isolated. I also feel that I could get through to men who might be scared to discuss their issues and circumstances. The national conversation has started and I hope I can be in some way part of it. Writing this has helped me to process my experiences. If one person reads it and finds it useful I will be over the moon.
Carl Jung said, “Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” Life is tough. We get on with things. It affected me, but I haven’t done too badly if I take a step back. I was crying out to read something like this when I was experiencing dark times, to give me strength. Don’t suffer in silence. Do something to address it. Share with people who understand. With people who have also suffered. People out there care about you. They give a shit. Unlock your future. Take steps. Talk.
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