So, it has been a while since I last posted. In fact it’s been nearly 5 months. A lot has happened in that time and there is still a lot happening.
Life as always carries on. I am still having regular CBT sessions but am nearly at the end. I decided in March/April that I was feeling a lot better and didn’t need my “happy pills”, wow! What a mistake that turned out to be; especially as I didn’t tell anyone and I crashed big time. However, it did teach me a valuable lesson or two. 1. Just because I’ve had a couple of good days doesn’t mean I’m cured. 2. There is still a need to keep talking with those around me. 3. You get into trouble from your Doctor and CBT worker when you fess up!
A lot of people recently have asked me âAre you sorted now?â
This is not an easy question to answer, as when I am having a good day I can answer yes quickly and I appear confident but even on those days I can get struck with anxiety. Sometimes about things I have done hundreds of times before such as travelling to London for work, or walking the dogs. Other days I can’t answer, as I genuinely don’t know how to. You see I don’t think that I will ever be able to say that I am sorted. I may well be able to say that I am sortedâ¦..at least for that day.
Often when I respond to that question I get some funny looks as they (whoever has asked the question) may have seen me playing pool at work (great for stress relief!!) or taking photos at an event or generally just out and about. This is perhaps one of the biggest things that I find myself getting frustrated about. What I have learnt to have is some strategies to try and help me cope.
A couple of weeks ago a blog I follow posted a story about Lincoln City Player, Nathan Arnold who was holding an evening to talk about his struggles with anxiety. It was with a bit of trepidation I walked the short walk from my house to the ground; a walk I’ve done hundreds of times. Who would be there? Would some of them be there for a laugh? Would I be made to speak? Would I cope with what might be discuss that evening. I knew one person there, as they had written the blog and we had previously exchanged some emails. I won’t go into the details of what was said by the speaker that night. There were a lot of helpful things to take away. During a video clip some words came up they said âThey see impossible I see I’m possible.â
I want to finish with the words I have just written above, those words tie in with what I believe in my faith (if you don’t believe in God or faith that’s fine feel free to skip the next couple of lines) you see God says that He believes in me and that I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. (Philippines 4:13)
When things seem Impossible and people say âAww you won’t get betterâ or some other off the cuff remark please remember I’M POSSIBLE
So last week saw a national #timetotalk day. I did type a blog but for some reason it kept failing. In hindsight this has been a blessing as I can now look back on what I had written and see it wasn’t coming from the best place.
For those who may not have read or seen my blog before I was diagnosed with Depression in August 2016 and subsequently with anxiety. I shared then about the difficulty I had about taking the time to talk about how I was feeling and what was going on. I want to give a bit of an update and few thoughts about the slight irony of #timetotalk.
Since my diagnosis and time off work I have been a whole lot better and then I went for an occupational health appointment where it was recommended that I undergo Cognitive Behaviour Therapy aka CBT. No to be honest I was very sceptical about this, I have heard a lot about CBT and what it does and to be honest thought I was doing those things however I have been pleasantly surprised and am finding them helpful and not as scary as I first thought (there really isn’t anything to be afraid of with CBT). Especially with following Lincoln City and the great season that we are having so far and the greater bond I have developed with my son by taking him to the matches including away days.
However this is not really what I want to focus on in this blog but something that I have struggled with for a long time and where the irony comes in for me. One of my biggest issue is that I use social media a lot, at work and at home in many ways it would be classed as an addiction which is why when I took time out I banned myself from it. Slowly though it has began to creep back in and I am grateful for a very understanding wife who does tell me when I get a bit (ok a lot)fixated on social media. You see when on Facebook and twitter I see posts of what people are up to and forget that they are just sharing a very brief snapshot of their life. I often find myself comparing my life to there’s and feeling a failure when I read and see some of the great things that my friends are up to. I will be taking another break from social media because I believe that it is healthy to do so. The problem is with social media is that people take the time to talk either in words, a silly video or photographs but it isn’t real as I have said. Social media is no substitute for having a good old fashioned conversation with a friend or friends. going out for a coffee, a cuppa or even a beer if you want to and taking the time to talk and importantly to listen. Often once I have shared with a friend (and yes this does mean your husband/wife) things often feel better and the outlook so much brighter. If you know someone is struggling with mental health issues or even life in general why not offer to take them out for the aforementioned drink and be that listening ear and really take the time to talk to them.
As a Christian I have a faith in God but often I forget to talk to him. I have had to re-learn to speak to Him and actually talk to Him and say hey you know what at the moment I feel pretty crap because of x,y or z (or any other letter of the alphabet not sure why x,y and z have priority)I am often reminded of an old hymn and one that isn’t often sung today but still rings true today as it did when it was written in 1885
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Please don’t struggle with life on your own please find someone you can talk to and if one of your friends asks if they can talk to you then please take #timetolisten
So as I am laying in bed with the mind a big foggy with hundreds of different things going through it I thought I should post a bit of an update. So on the whole I have had more good days than bad that doesn’t mean the good days have been perfect it just means that I’ve managed to stop the random horrible thoughts quickly and find a happy place in my brain.
There have been lots of happy places over the years from my football team Winning the non league Scottish cup to somehow achieving a degree when I missed a lot of my lectures due to loving student life and my life as a bouncer more than I loved studying or attending lectures that I knew in reality would be of very little use to me in real life to in more recent times supporting Lincoln City, not forgetting my wedding day, my first blind date with my now wife to seeing my son for the first time after only ever having seen one picture of him.
Now just because I’ve got these happy places it doesn’t mean they always work. There are some days where I don really want to see anyone and I just want to hide away. Times when the thought of seeing people and speaking to them fills me with dread (giving I talk for a living this can provide a challenge) so I desperately try find a happy place , a safe haven in my mind. Now sometimes it works others it just seems to make it worse. It is in this times that I am learning that I just need to keep going and focus on the fact that I will get through this that one bad day doesn’t stop me doing what I want to do. Sure it is difficult to sometimes to say that the reason I am quiet or quick to snap is actually i am trying to avoid speaking and explain down that my mind is like Christmas tree lights that always seem to get tangled from when we put them away to getting the following year.
If you are dealing with mental health issues can i please encourage you to keep going and to not bottle things up.
So as I look forward to a new year I sit looking back at 2016. A lot has happened. There have been some great highs and in fairness a lot of lows. From completing the Cambridge Half Marathon to a few months later being told have arthritis in both knees and to stop running. To my Gran passing away and receiving her Well done good and faithful servant from her Lord and Saviour to sharing a great Summer holiday with one of our closest and best friends. There has also been a change of Church as we walk the way God is guiding us. There have been so many times that I know that it was absolutely the right thing to do and I love being part of a great body of people and do church with them. There has been my battle with mental health issues which culminated on Sunday the 18th September when I had a breakdown, and a period of time off work. This is just a snippet of some of 2016. As I reflect and pray about what’s ahead I know that God is with me whatever happens. I thank God for those who are beside me in 2016 still being there in 2017. I have been challenged over recent days by the Hymn I surrender All.
I look at 2017 knowing that I have to give it all to Him and that no matter what happens God knows what is going on. I thank God for the difficulties of 2016 as without them I wouldn’t be a better person and I pray that I will be able to help other’s in time.
I also feel the need to say that there may be some reading this who are struggling with life, some who are unsure if they should go on or walk away. Some who dont know why they are where they are. Today I suggest that you surrender whatever ‘it’ is to Jesus and to trust in Him.
To churches who dont seem to be moving or feel like going backwards or who aren’t sure why certain programmes aren’t working please give it to Jesus and let Him guide you. Put aside your own ideas and dreams, stop worrying about what other churches are doing or not and start breaking down walls and saying Jesus we surrender it ALL to you.
I pray that whatever you belief is that 2017 will be a great year for you.
If you want to know more Jesus then please feel free to ask me or check out a local church.
Dont loose hope.
Just a note to say that I wrote this blog a few weeks ago but have really been struggling and wrestling with if I should publish it. There are a lot of posts this week on Facebook etc. encouraging people who are struggling with depression and mental health to speak up and to get help. I would ask you to take the team to read and I would love you to share my story as it may help one person that they are not alone.
Time to Talk – Is it safe to speak up?
I have a confession to make.
The confession is I am suffering with depression. This is something that it took me a long time to come to terms with. Over a number of months I had been feeling ‘low’; however it got worse. I started contemplating suicide. I was struggling to cope with things. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t, then every few weeks I would crash and sleep for up to 16 hours. I lost interest in many of the things that I used to enjoy. My mind was like a fog. Sure I managed to function and do my job but it left me feeling exhausted. Then during August myself and Mrs B had a couple days away… just the two of us. I opened up about how I felt and didn’t hide anything. We chatted and cried. I knew I couldn’t go on like this, when we got back I made an appointment with my GP.
I went to the appointment and as I was speaking I broke down, I felt embarrassed that I was crying in front of a stranger. Me, who people turn to for help and support. Me, the big strong lad who was always the joker. We talked through the option of anti depressants and agreed which I would be on. We agreed I would make another appointment for the start of September to see how things were going.
Then came the battle in my mind alongside the confusion of what to do next and should I tell anyone. I was still working at this point. I decided to send my mum and brother a text. It was short and to the point. 3 words “I have depression”. I was trying to figure out who to tell and how to tell them. Sure I had told my wife who had explained to my son in a child friendly way what was going on. I decided that I needed to speak to a colleague and friend who knew some of the things that had been going on. There was a sense of relief as I spoke to them. I didn’t tell them about the suicidal thoughts at that time. I then let a few other colleagues know what was going on. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised about how supportive they were but I was.
Over the years I have encouraged friends and colleagues to try and be open about their mental health issues also to be honest and affirming there is nothing to be ashamed about. However, ashamed is exactly what I felt about my depression. So I mulled it over for most of the day then I decided that as I am a keen user of social media I could use that, it just so happened that my wife had written a blog when she suffered from depression a few years ago but never published it ;so she updated it and put a bit in about me (www. hopebubbles.wordpress.com). I simply shared it on my Facebook accounts and Twitter with a simple comment “please read to find out what’s going on with me just now.”
Over the next couple of weeks my meds were increased (I later discovered when they were increased again that that is what I should have been on since the start). I had no thought of being off work. I still managed to do my job and have a social life. I didn’t know what was going to happen but felt comfortable that I would be fine.
Sunday 18th September was a normal day ;with church in the morning an afternoon at home then chilling before the week began. Mrs B was away that weekend and due back at any time that evening so I was getting the house tidied and getting sorted for the week ahead. I wasn’t feeling brilliant but shrugged it off.
Then ‘it’ happened, it is difficult to explain exactly what ‘it’ was but I found myself in the middle of a panic attack breakdown; crying uncontrollably, repeating over and over “I can’t cope anymore”. I have to say Junior was great he put his calming music on got me tissues and said “You will be okay dad”. I text Mrs B to let her know what had happened. I then sent a message to my boss that I wouldn’t be at the meeting first thing as I had broken down and that I was going to see the Dr in the morning. I finally crawled into bed past midnight, exhausted and drained, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
After visiting the GP I was signed off for 2 weeks. I said to myself that I would be fine to go back really soon “I could deal with this”.
How wrong was I.
In total I was off for 6 weeks. I came of social media (it’s not actually that important!). Some days I slept all day, others I felt fantastic but was afraid of the drop that was about to come. A bit like a rollercoaster you can’t always see the drop coming up but you know there is one. Some simple tasks were beyond me as well some days, but honestly for the first few weeks I couldn’t see an end.
I did a lot of reflection, a lot of crying out to God “why me? why me?”. What have I done to deserve this? It was when I was speaking with a wise man, a friend of the family and something he said struck a chord with me, “you haven’t done anything to cause it, you are not to blame”. I was on my own for 24 hours that weekend so I put on some worship music when I got back and poured out my tears and frustrations, I even shouted out. The week before this, during a pastoral cuppa with Jim my vicar I had been challenged “as to how my spiritual life was?”. He is a straight talking Yorkshire man so I knew he didn’t worry about big words; so I said there isn’t one!! There was no condemnation that day from him (or since) but that Saturday I picked up my Bible and flicked it open at a random page. I read and don’t ask me to remember now what it was but it struck a chord with me and helped to put some things into perspective, which has helped greatly as has the counselling I have received.
I have been back at work 8 days now and slowly getting back into it. Someone asked if I was “all okay now?” I said “no this is an ongoing battle, but a battle that I am going to win.”
If you read this and you are struggling then please speak to someone, your partner, your best friend, your GP or even the Samaritans. Remember it is not your fault and you are not alone. It is ok to not be ok. Be brave, dig deep, speak up and get the help you need and deserve.
It has been a while since I have blogged, so sorry for those who were waiting on one. To be honest I just have not been in the best of places recently. I ran my half marathon at the end of February which was great; although I did suffer from bad blisters and a lot of pain during the race. I rested for a few weeks and got back into it but was still struggling. I had the Lincoln 10k fast approaching and money to raise for my chosen charity this year Christian Partners in Africa and for 2 great projects that they are involved in which are St Paul’s Community Primary School in Uganda and Afar Girls education project in Ethiopia (you can donate here https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/fatboygettingslim). I ran the race quicker than I did last year but off my PB which was disappointing. I struggled and was in pain. A week later I was away with work and with some friends who advised me to have a further rest as I was struggling to walk. I tried to go for a run but didn’t get any further than my hotel room. So I went to the doctor when I got back home and was sent for an x-ray. I thought it was cartilage damage but when I got the results I was shocked. Arthritis in both knees. I’m only 33; only old folk get arthritis I thought. It felt like I had been hit by a bus. I asked what this meant for my running and was told that I had to stop. I was far from happy and in fairness was rather grumpy about it. Still am.
Running was something that I enjoyed. I could run wherever I was, I didn’t need loads of expensive gear (although proper running trainers are a must). What I enjoyed about it most was how relaxing it was, it was me time where I could de stress. If I wanted to think about nothing I could, if I wanted to think things through I could, if I wanted to pray I could. I am still missing getting up at silly o’clock to go for my run. I have said I will start swimming but keep putting this off as it means to me in my mind I will never run again. I have come to accept that I need to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to try something different. Just because I can’t run this doesn’t mean that I can’t be involved so I have volunteered to help at the Lincoln Half Marathon in October this year. I still tell people of the benefits of running.
In life we often have doors closed on us. When they do we have a decision to make. We can walk keep knocking and pushing and often get frustrated that nothing is changing. We can knock on different doors until one opens or in some cases we force it open. The other option we have is to walk away and not knock on any doors. This is what I was close to doing but I have come so far and don’t want to throw it away. I don’t want to be sat thinking if only. I have to say thanks to those who have helped me realise that I need to keep going. If you are struggling then keep going.
This is also not the end of my fundraising I will think of some challenges that I can do and will give it my all.