Sharing your story when it comes to mental health can be an extremely daunting prospect. World Mental Health Day is a significant time of year for me. It’s a time for honest conversation, which is sometimes tricky but, most importantly, awareness. Awareness that you’re not alone. Now I could sit and bang on about how important it is to talk more and share, but it wouldn’t be a good example if I didn’t share mine. Some of the best experiences I’ve had with talking about mental health have been with my co-workers here, and I hope at least some will find some resonance with this. Please know it’s always ok to talk; my line is always open.
My journey with mental health has been a turbulent one. I was diagnosed with depression and general and social anxiety in my early 20s; as strange as it sounds, I felt almost vindicated as I’ve always known that ‘something’ had been present my whole life.
Shortly after being diagnosed, I lost three people very close to me within a year, leading me to spiral. It seemed to be the catalyst that brought me down to rock bottom. Everyday tasks now seemed like a mountain to climb, and my self-worth plummeted along with any shred of confidence I had.
It was debilitating, led to me being signed off work, losing an unhealthy amount of weight, and barely being able to drag myself up the stairs. It felt like I had become a shell of my former self.
I knew I had to explain how I felt to my loved ones but speaking up was one of the hardest things to do. It was easier talking to a doctor, a stranger with whom I didn’t feel I was burdening—the overwhelming sense of being a burden to anyone with the misfortune of hearing my ramblings. There are more important things happening in the world than in my head. (Spoiler - not right)
It wasn’t until I started to speak to people that I realised the vast support I had. Even from ‘the boys’ who were arguably the most intimidating to approach. Not because they are intimidating but because of the idea of what you ‘should’ be like as a man in broader society.
Not once was I met with resistance/judgment from others or a sense of shame that I had manifested in myself for so long. This is a point that I still must remind myself of and remember the significance of. People care, friends care, family care. No one should be alone in this.
Talking to those closest to me was the first big step, but I knew this alone wouldn’t solve everything. I was prescribed various anti-depressants/beta blockers and underwent a year of CBT therapy.
Whilst this isn’t the answer for everyone, it helped me.
It’s a slow journey learning to live with mental health issues; you must celebrate small victories and not be defeated by the bad days when they come.
Throughout my journey with mental health, coffee has been a constant rock. Not just in the consumption of it but the practice of it. I have found a voice for myself, a sense of confidence I’ve never had before, from coffee… crazy.
When I think back to where I was and where I am today, I have such a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, every day isn't a breeze, but that’s the truth of mental health and life; it can’t always be sunshine and rainbows. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other, doing your best and proving those demons wrong.
I’m always more than happy to talk to anyone if you feel like you’re struggling, no matter how much or how little. Never suffer in silence.