World Mental Health Day is today and it is a day to help raise awareness and educate people about the social stigma that Mental Health, unfortunately, has gotten. This year it’s highlighting problems people have with Mental Health in the workplace with a shocking 65% of people in work too scared or ashamed to say something might be wrong.
I myself have had issues with Mental Health in the past from Depression to Anxiety and the latter still being something I am troubled with today.
To look at me, you’d think I am a young, healthy confident male – no different to any others but myself, like others, have had problems and hopefully just going over what happened with me will health not only raise awareness but help people in similar situations know they are not alone and help is available.
I first developed anxiety back in 2013, I was working for the pharmacist Boots at the time in Nottingham and I’ll admit, it wasn’t the job I wanted but I still took pride in my work. However deep down I knew I really wanted to be a web developer and have my own business.
So, I kept putting myself under constant pressure, I’d work my job at Boots, come home and look for jobs and apply, while trying to grab any freelance web developer work I could to drive me forward.
Then I’d go out with my friends, have a few drinks – go home and start again the next day and the day after.
While it might not seem like much, by not taking time for me to switch off, relax without needing alcohol and by not exercising – it all started to build up.
I remember the first time, it started to affect me. I pulled up at work and was speaking to my girlfriend on the phone, it came time to say goodbye and get out the car and I couldn’t. I felt almost paralysed because my mind didn’t want to face it all again, but eventually, I did and carried on.
I eventually moved jobs to Derby and got a small developer role, but it still wasn’t enough for me. Because of the target I had set myself, the pressure I was putting myself under – coupled with the still active social life and lack of exercise, meant the ticking time bomb was getting worse.
My first anxiety attack came on a holiday of all places in Spain, I was meant to catch a bus to Barcelona for the day and on the bus, my iPod ran out of juice. It’s done that a thousand times before, but today I just panicked and had to get off the bus, I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was being choked and was freaking out! Eventually, I got off the bus but couldn’t get back on and to this day I struggle with buses. I am now aware of this though so make sure I am prepared for situations like this and look after myself to make sure I get through them ok.
It’s been 3 or 4 years since that first time in Spain and while I still occasionally lose battles as I call them, I win ones too. It has helped me take a look at my life, I went to spoke to a therapist who helped me understand what anxiety was and how I can manage it.
I started taking up running in the morning and evenings (not always the same day), I cut down on the “treats” such as alcohol and eat healthily. I give myself time to switch off, during the day – I go for a walk at lunch even just for 10 minutes or I just relax on the couch, no phone or TV just a couple of minutes to stop and breath. You don’t realise how much of a difference it makes until you try it, trust me.
While I have won battles as I mentioned above, there have been a few I have lost and it has affected my business. Thankfully not enough to put the business in danger, but sadly enough to lose a potential new client.
There have been times when I’ve had a meeting or presentation and I’ve worried for days about it, even though I’ve done the prep work and told myself a thousand times you’ll do great. When the moment came, because of the worry building and growing inside my head I’ve panicked and missed the opportunity. I try not to let it get to me and I take note of why and how it happened, to hopefully not repeat the situation next time.
I hope that by me discussing the problems I’ve experienced in the past it has helped in some way to know you are not alone.
Start by taking little steps, the charity Mind has tips on how to make small changed in everyday life and in the workplace.
If you feel you need to talk to someone, don’t feel ashamed because there is nothing wrong with talking and saying something isn’t right. If your body plays up you mention it to your friends and see a Doctor and your mind is no different.
Again, I hope this has helped and if you want to talk further, please get in touch – I am always happy to have a tea and talk.