I never really thought about ‘mental health’ as something that had any real relation to me directly. In fact, I didn’t really think about it in the widest sense at all for a long time. I knew I had friends that had suffered with depression, eating disorders, addiction, etc, but those things were individual things and were HUGE.
But the small things matter, and can become bigger without you realising. I never had the BIG things, and sometimes that gives me imposter syndrome when I talk to people about having struggled with mental health. Like I don’t have the right because it was just some anxiety which everyone has from time to time. But that’s sort of the point.
Everyone does suffer. No-one talks about it because they diminish it in their own minds. Mine got so bad because I didn’t talk about it for the longest time – I didn’t accept that I had lost control of it. And yes, it was just some anxiety and I was mostly living a normal life – I was going to work and playing with my band and being with my family. But people noticed. My friends started asking why I was so distracted, my wife would tell my kids to leave me alone because I just wasn’t present. I would get really grumpy and twattish at practice. Work was, in some ways, the worst because that was where I HAD to keep it all in and run a team that all expected me to be their leader. I started smoking again – except I was smoking cigars(?) rather than cigarettes, I lost all sense of myself and any sort of direction. I started having panic attacks (including a memorable one in the middle a Target in Dallas…) and felt miserable pretty much all of the time.
I was, however, insanely lucky to have some people I could talk to about it, no judgement and no holds barred. They were there and able to just listen to me when I needed it the most. Gradually I found some control – not over the big things, but over much smaller ones. And each small win helped me re-find myself.
I would like for everyone to think of their mental health as they do with their physical. That’s not just about finding help, it’s also about removing the stigma we attach to it. If someone had a cold, we wouldn’t think they were any weaker or less of a person than us. If someone had a broken leg, we wouldn’t judge them for not coming to work. So why do we feel like we can’t just tell someone that our brains hurt? Why can’t I just tell a colleague that I’m feeling overwhelmed and need some help with something?
Whether or not we choose to tell everyone what’s wrong or not, we need to keep fighting to make our world a place where we feel like we can, with no judgement or worry. Where there are places to turn, just as you would tell a GP when you have an infection. Because it’s not a weakness, any more than a sprained wrist is.
So that’s why I’m doing this ridiculous challenge for Mind. They do amazing work and they do it at a national and a local level and you should have a look at the work they do – if not for yourself today, then for the people around you – because we all suffer, but we can all help too.
I’m also doing it because I never felt like I was in any way athletic or even remotely interested in exercise. But it turns out I love riding my bike. And getting to do it through a beautiful country with one of my favourite people is going to be incredible and I cannot wait, even if it means I have to get into the shape of my life (considering my shape for most of my life, that seems a low hurdle..). Please do donate if you can, and share and shout and do anything you can to help us.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to all of the amazing people who keep me going everyday – you are my light.