Today is a very important day! It’s World Mental Health Day! Personally, I think every day is mental health day! We all have a Mental Health and every day we all have ways to exercise our Mental health! Just like we get up and walk and some of us exercise physically, do we value our mental health the same way?
Now one thing I must say is people sometimes mistake mental health with mental illness. We should never mistake these. Mental illness is a diagnosable condition such as bipolar or schizophrenia.
But today is a day we highlight our mental health.
I have had problems with my mental health previously. I have struggled, I found times could get hard and I had problems dealing with it. No one else knew. I hid it well, simply because I felt ashamed. I couldn’t control the thoughts in my head. I felt like I had a grey cloud hovering over me and it was blocking any type of sunshine. It’s a strange way to describe it but it’s the only way I can. It’s not something you wake up with one morning, it’s not like the flu or a headache. It can creep up on you. It starts off small then build and builds until it can consume you.
And that's exactly what happened to me.
Going back a few years ago I went through a break-up. It was bad. I felt like my world had fallen apart. I asked myself a lot of questions, what did I do wrong?, Why me?, how could I have made him love me more? On the inside, I was falling apart but on the outside, I was doing ok. Yes, I had the crying sessions, and the angry moments but what I was showing on the outside was only a fraction of how I was feeling on the inside.
Things then got worse, I started to stress myself out which brought on a case of my skin itching all over. 6 months of doctors visits and nothing was curing me, nothing could be diagnosed. I was getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. Every night my legs felt like they were on fire, I was having 3 showers a day just to try and cool my skin. One shower in the morning, one at 10pm when I was going to bed and then another one at 2am. This was stressing me out more and more, plus trying to come to terms with my relationship ending.
Then at Christmas, I got attacked. I spent 5 days in hospital this made me feel even worse. I remember laying in my hospital bed thinking to myself how have I let things get so bad. I also had a voice saying " you deserve all of this" But why me?
Eventually, my skin condition was diagnosed as stress, so it was a vicious cycle, stress was causing my skin to react like this, yet the reaction was making me more stressful. Once I was diagnosed, I began to be less stressed. However, I still questioned everything in my head.
Then I joined a gym, started to lose weight and generally started to feel better about myself. But I was doing this for all the wrong reasons. I wasn't joining a gym to make myself feel better, I was doing it for revenge. I was thinking if I bump into my ex at Pride I wanted him to see how well I look and feel sick. The only person who I was making feel sick was me though. And it usually came out when I had a drink.
One evening I and my best friend went to a concert. I got absolutely steaming drunk, didn't have a good night, upset my friend and had a breakdown outside a chipper on the streets of Dublin. This was now my new rock bottom. But I just blamed it on the break-up. Once again only showing a fraction of what I was feeling. At this stage I felt I was in a prison cell being taunted by the other prisoners, all my insecurities were being yelled at me, screamed at me and they thought it was hilarious. On the outside I was still that guy making silly jokes, laughing, drinking, masking my pain.
A year later I had fallen in and out of love again and this time all those questions I had asked myself the year before were all being asked again, however this time I couldn't take anymore. While at a friends house I broke down, I admitted I couldn't cope. I was asked "why didn't you tell anyone? why are you suffering in silence? " How could I tell anyone how I was feeling, I felt ashamed, stupid, insecure. How could anyone help me with this?. No one would be honest with me, they are my friends and family, of course, they're going to say you're great, you're the best person we know, we all love you. I felt trapped even more.
So she told me to speak to someone I didn't know. I booked an appointment with a counsellor. The thoughts in my head as I was walking to his office, "he is going to laugh me out the building, poor guy can't deal with a break-up."
But it couldn't have been more different. He sat there listened to me, let me speak with no judgement. I didn't get any compliments. I didn't want any. I just wanted to get all these thoughts out and someone sit there and just listen.
After an hour I left the room and was almost skipping down the road. I felt a new person, I felt like the old me was still in that room locked away. Now I was out of the prison and the prisoners were back in that room. Within an hour I had made a positive effect on my mental health. And I continued to go, and I went from strength to strength. I don't go anymore but I got some exercises from my counsellor that I continue to use to this day.
And while I haven't stepped into a gym I'm still exercising every day. It's just now I'm working out with my mind and my mental health. It's rocking a mighty 6 pack and has done many marathons and got loads of gold medals.
There are so many saying going around and so much advice. But for me, I found that talking is good. If you don't feel happy within yourself, speak to someone, because that little thought could grow and grow and consume you. Do something that makes you happy. Look out for yourself as you would look out for your loved ones. Love yourself.
So as mental health day comes to an end, I would say don't stop thinking about mental health once the clock strikes midnight.