, February 23, 2017

I have experienced poor mental health at times for most of my life and always struggled with emotions, thoughts and low confidence. I had a big breakdown 2 years ago and slowly got my life back with the support of my lovely family, friends, various mental health services and work colleagues. I now feel better than I ever have to be honest and understand and recognise my self as a whole in much more clarity.

Things got bad in December 2014, I remember starting to feel low and going to bed one night and thinking to myself, "I'm going to have this brain forever and I don't really like it". That one thought started it all, I slowly went downhill, started not sleeping, being constantly anxious and not eating. I lasted about 2 months with barely any sleep and lost over a stone before I cracked, couldn't hide it anymore. I was laying in bed, been awake the whole night in complete panic and I called to my wife, "I think I'm suicidal". I felt so guilty and ashamed to say those words, it was also my son's birthday, some how we managed to get through the day.

I broke down at work the next day, couldn't concentrate,  couldn't rest, I was living in a nightmare, a vicious circle of not being able to sleep but also not being able to wake up. If I'm honest, (and I know that sadly some people will understand this), that if there is a heaven and hell then I have certainly been prepared for the latter because I was in hell. At the end of that week I had had enough, I phoned a crisis number that I had been given from the doctor after an unsuccessful visit, I just couldn't cope. I had reached the lowest of lows and literally just didn't want to live anymore. I felt totally helpless, couldn't understand what was happening to me and wanted someone to just take care of me. There was fortunately for me a centre in the town where I live and they arranged for me to go into see them. I thought that I was going to lose everthing, my family, home, job and couldn't see a way back. I was experiencing suicidal thoughts, paranoia, psychosis and high levels of anxiety - I actually went blind one morning with sheer panic!

For me being a male, I believe, has felt harder to open up, show vulnerabilty, perceived weaknesses and generally be honest to myself and the world. Although the majority of males in my life have always been understanding and helpful I have always felt that underlying social expectation to be stronger mentally and more of a man! Whatever that means! I feel I am now much more able to be my true self and am comfortable to show my emotions and sensitivities, but still believe there is a stigma attached to men regarding mental health, depression and anxiety. Being in your mate's corner, accepting and helping them accept themselves if they are struggling, can make the world of difference in their recovery and helping them maintain positive mental health. I really hope that we can encourage men to end the silence and stigma that still surrounds male mental health and to promote a more positive acceptance of men showing their feelings.

I have recently had an experience of helping a young man, a family member, by being in his corner. I believe that my experiences with my own mental health have been paramount in helping him and by being open and honest about my struggles have helped him in some truly desperate times. By giving my time, full attention, understanding and knowing the right people to contact at the right times, (spent 24 hours in hospital to get the correct assessment), has given him the chance to tackle his problems safely. I believe being there for someone, listening and helping them make sense of their own thoughts and sharing your own can really make the difference and even save lives.

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