This brings me back to my battle with my mind. No matter what I do or how well I do it I never feel like it’s enough. I never feel like I deserve what I have and I struggle to accept the positive things that other people say to me. I worry, I worry a lot. I question if I’m a good parent, a good husband, a good friend, a good employee, a good person… the list goes on. I struggle to ever find a content peace of mind. Yet to those around me I may seem calm, collected and ‘OK’. Yet inside I’m a complete mess. During this internal struggle the biggest skill I’ve developed is the ability to look ‘OK’ because otherwise people will know I’m weak, that I’m not ‘OK’. Though hiding it gets harder and harder. The worry just shifts to ‘What if people find me out?’ I then just feel like an impostor all the time.
For the last few years I’ve been battling with a powerful enemy: my own mind. I say the last few years, but to be honest I think it’s longer. I think I’ve only been aware of it for a few years but it’s plagued me much longer. I’m writing this today because I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, even if I can often feel alone in this battle. It’s just that people don’t necessarily talk about it. It’s not easy to talk about mental health.
So here goes…
I’ve been through a lot of crap in my life and much of it I still carry with me. When I was a kid I lost my brother to cot death. My 3rd sister was born with significant disabilities and passed away after 2 & 1/2 years, when she should have had much longer. I was bullied a lot in school from 12-16 years. My parents had a pretty shitty separation when I was 14 and I basically raised myself for a while. I was taught to ‘man up’ & wasn’t taught how to deal with emotions and I believed a bunch of other crappy life lessons that have not really helped. All of this instilled in me a ‘just get on with it’ attitude and outlook on life. I’m not blaming anyone, that’s just how it was.
It’s not been easy, I’ve not been handed anything other than opportunities to work hard. I’ve worked hard, I’ve slacked off. I’ve made good decisions and some terrible ones. I’ve been good to people and bad to some. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve owned them, owned up to them and I would like to think that I haven’t left a negative legacy behind me.
Recently my wife showed me this video which The Mighty have produced describing what it’s like to have ‘High Functioning Anxiety’. I watched this video maybe 8 or 9 times that day. As it described exactly what I feel like on a day to day basis. Each time I would watch it, a different phrase would hit me and I would get emotional. I could see that I wasn’t alone. In this woman’s words I felt represented. I felt connected and I felt as though I could respond. It’s very, very hard to put into words how the anxiety feels and so to hear someone describe your daily emotions, it’s liberating.
In part this video has shaped DadsApp and what I’m trying to achieve here. I want people to know that they are not alone. I want people to know that they can talk to someone. I want people to know that there are people out there that feel the same or similar to them. I want wife’s to understand why their husbands act the way they do and vice versa. I know that talking about this stuff is not easy but… it helps. Taking that step of being so vulnerable with someone else that you show them the real you, if only a little… that’s truly being in control. Though it feels like you are letting go, in truth it’s taking a firm grip of the internal enemy and saying ‘NO, NOT ANYMORE’.
This is truly the message I want to get across today. We need to know when enough is enough. For the sake of our relationships, for our kids and more importantly for ourselves. We need to know when the suffering has run its course and when it’s time to stand up to it. Whatever the feeling, emotion or health complaint – there is help to be sought.
I’ve recently taken steps to address this beyond talking to people close to me. I’ve known that I’m struggling with my mental health for 4 years and spoke to my GP a couple of years ago. It went nowhere and I quickly reverted back to the ‘suck it up and get on with it’ way of life. I have then struggled on a couple more years and have finally said ‘enough is enough’. I’ve seen my GP and I’m now on the path to accessing professional support. I’ve also been in touch with a charity in my area to receive support too. Something that you can do either through the links on the Support page or getting in touch with DadsApp to discuss types of service that might be helpful.
Probably the biggest step I’ve taken is to just be open and honest with people around me. When someone asks ‘how’s it going?’ I now answer with more honesty than I would before. I will say ‘I’m feeling a bit down today’ and conversations begin. These conversations help, they can be a release of steam valve of negativity that I carry with me day to day.
I’ve also started to write these feelings down. Some I share here, others I keep to myself. Many guys won’t ‘journal’ but maybe just write stuff down. Even if you bin it straight away afterwards. Just take time to address and acknowledge how you feel. It’s better than being under the control of those emotions.