May 1, 2013

I was probably the last person you would think suffers from mental health issues.

This is often the case - to the outside world I was so laid-back I would regularly be described as being horizontal. The real truth is that 7 years ago I started experiencing anxiety and OCD - despite considering myself to be relatively bright I could not understand these new feelings. I remember one time when I felt anxious getting my haircut. How ridiculous does that sound?

I decided enough was enough and I had to tell people

After a couple of years of trying to figure out these feelings by myself (I was mostly catastrophizing), I decided enough was enough and I had to tell people. My saving grace has undoubtedly been my ability to 'open up' to friends about some of my feelings. I vividly remember the first time I told my friend Hannah at work 'I'm really not feeling very well'. The weight came off my shoulders immediately. My friends and family have been fantastic.

I guess I am lucky as I have never been ashamed of suffering from a mental health issue. I was never concerned about discussing mental health as I knew for a fact how supportive my friends and family would be. My biggest issue was that I didn't 'understand' these specific thoughts - I found websites and online help forums an excellent way to understand mental health better.

Conversations about mental health can be scary

I completely understand why conversations about mental health can be scary, you don’t know how people will react, but 'coming out' so to speak is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done.

The results of having that first conversation regarding mental health were that:

  • I realised that no one really cared if I had a mental health issue - everybody knew I was a good person
  • it made me aware that other people had also experienced anxiety and this, in turn, made me feel less isolated
  • in the longer term that initial conversation made me become even closer to my friends and family

My mate Tucker lives in Australia. His response, when I told him about my anxiety and OCD, was: 'call me whenever you like pal, even if it is in the middle of the night out here'. My friend Hobbsy I called from the other side of the world in Cape Town - he'd always put things in perspective by laughing. Good lad. I’ve found that telling your friends then having a laugh about it is a good way to put things in perspective. Friends are as good as therapists in my opinion...and a lot cheaper. My much better half Keri has been totally empathetic and I look up to her so much.

My experiences have made me more conscientious

I have an amazing job and have met the most wonderful people through work. My condition in no way hindered my ability to work, it made me more conscientious and in many ways made me perform better. My workplace have been superb I once read a study that those affected by mental health are some of those most employable people, this doesn't surprise me at all.

Now I am much better but to re-iterate this has largely been due to my ability to discuss mental health openly.

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