Welcome to the recovery.

So I’ve moved away from the beautiful leafy suburb of Croydon to the beautiful leafy suburb of Finchley. It’s a pretty nice area and it’s a great house. I’m really lucky to be living with someone excellent too. There’s a great looking sushi place I want to try out (it’s all you can eat).

Moving is very tiring though. Especially when you’ve just started back on antidepressants after a particularly crazy few weeks. Sleep is still hard to keep up. I wake up often and the quality of my sleep isn’t great. The tablets are wreaking havoc in my body. My eyes are constantly itching, my appetite comes and goes, my motivation to do anything varies on an hourly basis.

I have to really force myself to do even the tiniest things. Even the most awesome things that happy Alex would normally love to do, unwell Alex struggles with. I’m going back to work in the morning after a long long time and that’s both exciting and terrifying.

Going back to work after a mental health episode is often the hardest day. Anxiety runs high and it’s extra high after a huge change in my life. So for now, work, relationships, everything else, takes a backseat. My focus is going to be my mental health. I may have moved to a new place in a new town but I’m trying my hardest to get back to my old self.

I’m going to be blogging more about my recovery this time round so stay tuned. I want to show that you can get better.

Welcome to the recovery!

Don’t let your mental health silence you.

I posted very recently about my recent (and current) mental health which has been questionable to say the least and the response that I received from friends and family has been incredible. This is not the first time I’ve fallen back into serious depression and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The one thing that helps me more than anything is having amazing people around me. The messages of support, the kind words, the positivity keep me going. It’s so so easy for you to think that you’re worthless and that no one cares but that’s absolutely not true. Please see here.

You are not alone. You will get better and you will be stronger than ever. But to do that you can’t let your mental ill health prevent you from having a voice. Whether it’s online via a blog, on YouTube via a vlog, going for a coffee with your best friend and talking about mental health or anything else you can think of. There will always be people saying to you to “just cheer up” or that “other people have it worse” and even assume that you’re just sad but you can explain it to them. Explain that there is a hormone imbalance in your brain. That’s the cause.

Write a poem, write a song, paint a picture or do a dance. However you choose to express your struggles just make sure that you do.

1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness. There is such an amazing community online and beyond who are supportive and passionate about supporting people with mental health issues.

If you need urgent help please go to A&E, book an appointment with your GP, if you’re a student you can head to student welfare.

Otherwise to find out more, check out the websites below:

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

 

 

Depression: “But you’re so happy!”

So after a long long time, I’m unfortunately back on anti-depressants. Over the last few months, my mood has dipped gradually despite my best efforts to do all the things that usually give me a boost. I’m still working on picking apart why I’m feeling like this so you’ll have to bear with me. Luckily I’m “experienced” enough that I was able to get myself to the doctors before doing anything drastic. So while I’m not thrilled that I’m back on tablets I’m glad that the doctors were so responsive.

People always seemed to be really surprised when I tell them that I suffer from anxiety and depression. The common response I get is; “Really?! You always seem so happy.”. And yeah, I always try my very hardest to be happy and if I feel rubbish then I at least pretend to be happy because sometimes, it almost tricks my brain into believing that I’m actually happy. But you’re right, it can be strange that people who seem so chipper can be secretly suffering in silence (not that I suffer in silence. I’m very open with my mental health.).

It can be really terrifying for someone to admit that they have depression and even harder to ask for help. If you know someone who’s been brave enough to open up to you about their mental health please support them. Even if all that means is supporting them to go to see the doctor. Or something as simple as checking up on them every once in a while.

I’ve been given a few days off to recover and been told to not do anything but I’m struggling. Lots of sleep and movies for me I think.

Before I finish and try to eat some good I want to share this:

image
This is the face of my depression and my experience back on tablets. Sleep deprived, puffy red panda eyes, nauseous, paranoid, extremely emotional, migraine filled, low on energy, no appetite (which has never happened before).

Its okay to ask for help, it’s okay to feel (and look) like this. I’m at a low point of an uphill struggle to get better but I’ve taken that first step (again) to admitting I need help which is half the battle.

A

The Gateway To 2016 And The Ones You Miss The Most

This isn’t going to be a generic 2015 summary and 2016 preview. I’ll do a little bit, of course, but that’s not the focus of this post.

Sure I achieved a lot this year. Met some amazing people and saw lots of brilliant things happen. I’ve also taken a few hits this year. My confidence at work has increased greatly but my confidence in social situations has plummeted. However, this isn’t a sad story so don’t reach for the tissue. I’m determined to be better so I know I will be.

Anyway, this post is more about the people I wish I could be with tonight. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a delightful evening cooking a baked lamb meatball ragu but I was meant to be in Newcastle with my extra families so I miss them tons. The brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles from the north, the nephews. All of them. I miss all my old Team v people (and I apologise massively for not keeping in touch with lots of you!). I miss my friends around the world. I miss my friends who live in the same town/city as me but I never seem to be able to connect with.

Admittedly I’ve been much less good at keeping in touch with everyone recently due to various self made mental barriers too. I’m working on it as hard as I can so I’m hoping I won’t be missing you for long.

But for me, and I’m sure everyone else I know, there’s that one person that I wish I could see right now more than anyone. Hopefully, like my person, they make you feel like a better person, they make you smile and feel comfortable. You might not speak to them often and might see them even less but whenever you do see them or speak to them, you’re excited to and it feels like nothing has changed.

So for your first kind gesture of the year, I implore you to drop that person a message, a text, write them a letter, visit them.

Happy New Year.

Love, smiles, and good vibes.

A

Once a year.

Once a year Christmas day happens (it also feels like I only post once a year). Despite not being a Christian, not being religious at all in fact,my family gets together and plays stupid games and eats a butt load of food and usually end up playing mah jong. It’s a time of year that freaks me out a huge amount.

It’s the time of year where I’m reminded how little my family understand how strange my mind is and how complicated my mental illnesses are. Okay, so I’m writing this after having a midnight argument with my brother which has set off my anxiety a huge amount but I’m going to try my hardest not to let that affect how I write (he was trying to do something nice for my mum but it’s another thing that makes me ridiculously anxious which I now feel really bad about resisting!).

I’m extremely different from my family and have always felt like a black sheep. I’m the only one who’s working in my particular sector. I’m the only one who travels up and down the country to visit people. I’m the only one that’s into performing and music. The only one interested in technology. The only one that’s into comic books. I’m a nerd. And I feel very very English.

My family are very unaware and resistant to the idea that mental illness exists and because of that don’t quite understand mental health and how it can affect people. They don’t understand that almost everything to do with Christmas makes me anxious. I’m going to list a few things that I love and loathe about Christmas. It’s not all bad but it’s certainly not simple either.

Things I love about Christmas:

Christmas music. (I flipping love Christmas music)
People seem happy.
Writing cards for people.
Giving gifts.
Food.
Cheesy Christmas TV and films.

Things that make me anxious at Christmas:

Having a full day with a huge group of my family with no escape. (lots of people that come I only know as a passing acquaintance).
Not being able to have my own personal space.
Not being able to be musical at home.
Finances being drained by gifts.
Shopping for gifts.
The strange expectation that I have to celebrate Christmas despite not being religious.
New years eve.
Having to stay happy throughout the day even once anxiety kicks in so as not to ruin everyone else’s day.
Immeasurable guilt that I’ve not sent Christmas cards and gifts to everyone I know.
Irrational fear that I’m already running Christmas some way.
Feeling extremely alone even though I’m surrounded by people.

Anyway. This list could go on pretty much forever. This year, due to various factors and my mind not being the healthiest, everything feels amplified. But as always, I’ll knuckle under and get through it. I’m very fortunate to even have a family to feel awkward around.

All I ask is that today, this week, this season, where suicides rates are high, is for you all to look after your brains. Look out for other people’s brains too. Be understanding and compassionate. Be a little bit selfish too. Give yourself ten minutes to yourself if you need it. God knows that I’ll be doing that a lot.

Christmas can be a very stressful, lonely time for a lot of people. Lots of us think about all the things we’ve not achieved this year. We think about how we could have been better. Let’s try to help each other see all the good stuff we’ve achieved this year. As individuals, communities, society and the planet as a whole.

A

Long Time No See

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on here. Right now I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve had a pretty miserable day. I’ve been much quieter at work than usual which was noticed by a few people (I’m usually well gobby). But overall in life, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m not sure what’s got me feeling so good. So many of my friends are having a tough time at the moment. So many people are suffering. There’s so much stuff going on in the world and I’m here feeling good.

Again, I don’t know why I’m feeling so positive at the moment. Work is good I guess. I’ve got lots of music in my life and have recently started hanging out with some great new people which makes life a little more exciting. I’m embracing my interests and general existence much more than I used to due to a few long deep chats with one or two people. I’m also blessed with some incredible friends who are working their hardest to change the world to make it better which fills me with hope for the future of the planet and friends . I’m in the middle of planning the next chapter of my life, applying for jobs (whilst also working my arse off to hopefully get another offer at this job) and looking at places to move out of my family home and hopefully will have somewhere new to live in the new year! I’m also going to Newcastle this weekend to see some amazing people and go to a gig for one of my favourite bands. 20151019_200745

Now I don’t mean this to be a “humble-brag”. I want this to show that celebrating your successes is an amazing thing. Even if they’re little things. Even if it’s just because you’re happy for no reason. You should never feel guilty for being happy (unless your happiness depends on making someone else miserable. Then you should feel super guilty.) you should enjoy the things that make you happy. You should be enjoying every single positive thing that goes on in your life and if you can share those moments (and create them) with your loved ones, you should just fucking go for it!

A

Campaign Bootcamp Blues

So I made it home this morning around 1am after a very long and very tiring week at Campaign Bootcamp. The last two posts I’ve written were written while I was there and they mostly focused on my anxiety and how I was coping with that throughout the week. This post will be slightly different. Campaign Bootcamp is obviously a huge deal. It costs the best part of £3000 to take part per-individual and has training from some of the best campaigners around. It’s also in massively high demand with around 250 applicants and only 34-ish places. So in appreciation of this great training and community, here are the top 4 things that I’ve taken away from the week.

1. Knowledge

Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Knowledge is super broad and you do learn something new every day but I’m talking about vast amounts of knowledge and information. Whether it was about values, theories of change, other world issues or existing campaigns, I learned more than I expected to. Lots of that knowledge came from within the group itself and it was all made so accessible for the less experienced campaigners in the room. So even though it might seem like a bit of a cheat, it’s important to remember that knowledge is power. The more you know…

Learning outdoors in the sun is the best way to do it. 

 2. A Kick Up The Arse

When I arrived at the training we all had to introduce ourselves for one minute. And while everyone else went up and spoke about themselves and all the campaigning that they do, I spoke more about the fact that I wasn’t currently a campaigner. I’m more of a teacher, instructor and supporter. However, now that I’ve spent the week with some of the most ridiculously experienced and passionate campaigners there are, I feel like I’ve been given renewed energy for running campaigns rather than just supporting them. Keep your eyes peeled for more. 
A nice chat by Shami Chakrabarti was certainly… Sharmi-ng! HEYOHHHHHHH!

 3. Resilience

The first two days were particularly difficult for me this week. I am not a huge fan of meeting new people, especially all at once in a place where I’m not comfortable! I had to take myself away for an hour or so, the first few evenings to recover a little from panic attacks. I was very close to leaving and not coming back. However, everyone was so supportive and so open and welcoming. I also remembered over and over about the opportunity and how hard it is to get on to bootcamp. I resolved to stay, even if I didn’t speak to anyone the rest of the week, I would stay. I even managed to put up with all the forced dancing!
A circle of dancing. Not tribal at all.
Luckily, MJ had a ukulele so I managed to feel better pretty swiftly. But I really had to work to stay there and be resilient. If I hadn’t forced myself out of my comfort zone I’d have missed out on some of the greatest people I’ve ever met! 

 4. People

I wanted to learn a lot and start putting things in to practice in my own life, work and campaigning. I met some of the most incredible people this past week. I knew calibre was going to be high when I walked into that room and I knew there would be people with more years of experience than I’d been alive for. I even got to meet and have lunch with Shami Chakrabarti.
What I really wasn’t expecting was to feel such love and warmth from people I’d only just met. Throughout the week I got talking to a bunch of people about everything they’ve been doing and why they do what they do but also about what they love to do when they’re not working or campaigning. 
Even besides that, there were some people who I was able to mess around with for no reason. People I was able to complain to/with. People who I was able to avoid dancing with. The culture was incredible and I knew at any point I could walk up to anyone and start a conversation with someone without feeling like I was being a pain in the arse. 
A little camp fire quiz session with Olivia the quiz master. 

So despite the rocky start and the crazy brain making things just that little bit harder, I’m glad I got on to Campaign Bootcamp, I’m glad I stuck it out and I’m so glad to have met everyone that I did. I’m actually feeling a bit lost without 30+ people around me at all times but I’m making the most of it by watching Blue Planet.

Oriana and Dora, the best buddies a guy could ask for!

Finally, Rachel, Tamara-Jade –

Campaign Bootcamp

So for the last two days and for the next four, Campaign Bootcamp is my life. It’s an intensive week long campaign training course. It’s not a cheap thing to do but luckily I managed to get a scholarship to get on the course which means I didn’t have to pay a thing!

Around 225 people applied. People from all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, genders and even countries have applied and I was one of the 35 people to be selected to be on the course. It’s an amazing group of people who are campaigning and working all across the sector from climate change to immigration. From youth work to positive money. The range
of people who are here is astounding and the skills and knowledge they have is not only impressive, but humbling and somewhat intimidating too.

Luckily everyone is remarkably nice which means that my perception of intimidation from them is all down to my own mindset. For those of you who know me well will know that I kind of hate making new friends and it really does make me feel extremely anxious. As I’m typing this, I’ve briefly retired to my bedroom to listen to music and to relax and calm my nerves. It does almost feel like a shame at the moment that I’m not making the most of the social opportunities here but I’m hoping that my anxiety will subside over the next few days and I can overcome my fear of meeting people!

Day one was all about getting to know one another and trying to make us feel a little more comfortable around each other. While I know that I can chat to people without them turning me away my own nerves and anxiety are currently preventing me from doing so. To a lot of people it’s really easy to just strike up a conversation with people and click with them but for me I find it infinitely more difficult! I have of course spoken to people in group activities and when they talk to me but I have been finding it really tough to approach people, especially since my most recent breakdown. That has left me in a particularly anxious and delicate state but I’m determined to make the most of my opportunity here and not let anxiety hold me back.

Today was day 2 and was all about strategy. It was a very up and down day, my mood was pretty low coming into the day and again, it’s made the social side of things really difficult. I learned plenty and heard a seriously inspiring story from a lady about her experience of surviving a forced marriage and how she dealt with her own depression and anxiety and turned that into various campaigns and powerful articles. What a lady!

My main take away from this so far is that my anxiety is currently debilitating and in turn is greatly affecting my depression but I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t ruin my week. I just have to keep reminding myself of the pride that I have that I made it on to the course, the importance of why I’m here and the appreciation for the opportunity. Don’t waste this opportunity, brain.

A

P.S. Look how nice this place is when it’s sunny!

Week Commencing 25th May

The last seven days or so have been an ordeal. Had my mood been better I’m sure the last week would have been very different!

Monday: The day it all kicked off. This was the day I played my first gig in around six years. Needless to say, in the lead up to the show I was petrified. My strong mental resilience seemed to crumble under the nerves of playing a show which is very strange for me as I used to love it. I played a few songs and made a lot of mistakes which was horrendous for my confidence and anxiety. Monday saw my self worth plummet and that left me in a shaken state for the rest of my week.

I did a lot of travelling this week as well. Tuesday I went over to Slough and worked there for the day before delivering a session in the evening. Again not my best work which was due to my constant anxiety and that of course made it worse. Wednesday was much of the same. Slightly better but my mood was very low. The only plus side of Wednesday was seeing a friend which calmed me down significantly before I travelled up to Leeds that evening.

After getting into Leeds at around half ten, I got to the hotel and worked and practiced for the training I’d be delivering the next day. The next morning I had to deliver that training, sleep deprived, miserable and exhausted. One obnoxious man at the training did not help things and seemed to get to me more than it should have!

Friday was another semi pick me up where I saw one friend but was so exhausted that I missed another’s birthday. Sorry!

Saturday was terrible. I thought it was the 29th and so booked to go see a film with a friend. Turns out it was the 30th. My mums birthday. So not only did it feel like I’d forgotten my mums birthday, I also had to cancel on a friend. Once again my self esteem plummeted.

Throughout the whole week I’ve been having panic attacks. Usually in the very early hours of the morning though there are a few dotted around for good measure. Tonight has been no exception.

Mental health is an unpredictable beast. Lots of people would probably say that making a few mistakes performing is a minor thing and my reaction to it is disproportionate. They’d probably be right. But it just goes to show that even small things like that can be devastating to someone’s mood and we’ll being.

I went from feeling phenomenal last week to having one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in months. It’s hard to put into words how my brain works when my depression and anxiety really kick into overdrive but by talking about it at all will hopefully make it easier to articulate and easier to understand for others.

A

Mental Health Awareness Week

So this week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and it felt like a good time for me to get back into the bloggosphere, even just for this one post. It’s been nearly two months since my last post on here and the reasons for that are various.

Life has been hectic. Lots has been going on, good and bad! And so I thought it would be a good chance to tell you all about all the things that have been going on with my mental health. So I’m going to write about the good, the bad, the achievements and the setbacks.

The Good

I’ve had lots of good things happen the last few months and I’ve been able to get a lot done. I’ve achieved a lot and am generally feeling really proud of myself. Work is going great, I’m really getting my name out there and getting s*** done!
I’ve spent the last few months trying to get my life on track and I’ve been doing my very best to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to do more things by myself which I’d always struggled with. For example, I went to the cinema by myself for the first time ever. It might sound stupid and it might be a bit weird but I did it! It wasn’t easy though. I had to invest a lot of time and effort into it. 
First thing I had to do was spend money. I booked the ticket online in advance, VIP seating, 3D screening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also went out to get some food an hour before the screening started. 
The next thing I had to do was tell people I was doing it! Once I’d told people I was going to go, I felt like I had to go. Backing out was no longer an option! 
The last thing I had to do was compose myself! After having eaten my meal I went into the cinema and very nearly had a panic attack so I had to compose myself. I just tried to think about the mission. 
I made it through and saw the film, beat my anxiety and ended up having a really good day. Don’t get me wrong I left the cinema feeling very shaken and completely overwhelmed but once it all sunk in, I’m really proud that I made it through that day!

I’ve also done a lot of stuff on Instagram with the #cheerupchallenge. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, my #cheerupchallenge is a series of posts highlighting all the things that I do to keep my mood up. If you’d like to follow the journey just follow me on Instagram @alexquang or click the link at the top of the page in the social media section!

The Bad

My mood has been undoubtedly lower than usual however my mental health in general has been a lot better! I can’t figure out a reason why my mood is lower but there are a few contributing factors. 
There’s been lots going on with my family which has contributed to my mood dipping. Lots of my family have been having troubles. My aunt is ill and my gran took a tumble and I’ve been doing what I can to help out. 
As a result of my lowered mood and family commitments, I’ve been seeing my friends less which again has a massive impact on my mood! Hopefully I’ll be better soon, with more free time and be able to go up to see the gang in Newcastle and of course those a little closer to home! 🙂 
Unfortunately also, I’ve been able to make good on the idea for my #OnYourMind project. It’s something I’d definitely like to come back to soon but at the moment, I’m not able to manage the idea as well as I’d hoped (hence the much simpler #cheerupchallenge). If you would like to help out though and contribute/organise, any help would be appreciated. Just email me at alexquang1@gmail.com! 

Overall

All in all, it’s been a mixed month. Right now I’m feeling a bit down but my mood overall and my resilience and ability to deal with my depression and anxiety has increased massively! I’m productive, able to pull myself up a lot easier and a lot less likely to fall into a deep depression. All the hard work seems to be paying off! 
If you’re interested about mental health and have any questions, by all means drop me a line and ask away! I can’t guarantee a clear answer as the topic is very rarely clear but I’m more than happy to share my story, the things that worry me most and how I cope. 
Alternatively if you need more structured help check out the sites below, find your local mental health services and counsellors or visit your local A&E if you’re fearing for yours or someone else’s life. 
A