Hard Times

Sorry for going AWOL the last month. It’s been a little bit of a stressful time!

In the last month or so I’ve been hit with two pretty tough pieces of news. The first was that a friend of mine passed away. He was the friendliest, most caring guy you could meet and although we hadn’t spoken in quite a while, I was absolutely devastated to hear about it all. He was from a volunteering programme I took part in a few years ago and he made such a huge impact on so many people. He was volunteering for my best friends project and was regularly reassuring her, supporting her and delivering care packages to parents who had children in hospitals.

Then last week, I found out that my gran has cancer. My gran is 83(ish) years old and has lived 5 doors away from me for as long as I remember. She would always look after me, my brother and my cousins when our parents were out working one of their many jobs when we were young and she has always been kind, loving and cheerful (unless she had to miss out on playing mahjong). Hearing her news and hearing that she’s ready to give up is really tough.

As a result, my social life has suffered, my work life is a little bit mad and my mental health has plummeted pretty drastically. My usual techniques of music, video games, video making and comic books just aren’t cutting it and I’m finding that I’m beginning to struggle to do basic tasks. Sleep has been eluding me for the last few weeks and I’m physically and mentally exhausted. I’m constantly feeling guilty for not being able to do everything I usually do to the quality that I usually do it to.

I’m trying constantly to remind myself that I shouldn’t feel guilty and why should I? Okay so these things aren’t happening to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t affect me greatly. People that I love and respect are going through some really hard times and that’s going to have an impact on me. Right now, it feels like life is a little bit shit and for me right now, it is. I’m going to try to not feel guilty about depression hitting hard at this point in my life because even someone without depression would feel like shit with all of this.

Bad news affects most people with depression more than it would healthy people. That’s just a given. And getting out of a depression slump is one of the hardest things to do but it is doable. With the help of my friends, my family I will get through this as I have done every single other breakdown and panic attack.

In the meantime though, I’m going to feel like shit and that’s okay.

A

Change: Overcoming Nerves

So as you may have read in my last blog, I’ve just started a new job after nearly 4 years at my last (wonderful) job. It’s a huge change for me. I’ve gone from being comfy, happy and confident in my job to uncomfortable, constantly nervous and doubting myself. It’s a pretty common thing, sure; but when you have anxiety through the roof and the natural lack of confidence that comes with depression it makes things even more difficult to manage.

Here are a few things that I’ve been doing to manage a time of lots of change.

1. Give Yourself A Break

In a new job, you’re obviously going to work as hard as you can and I definitely have been working as hard as I can to get to grips with everything. But change is tiring. I’ve been finding it hard to stay awake in the office and difficult to fall asleep . It’s warm, comfortable and quiet in the office. So to combat this fatigue and the nerves of passing out from exhaustion, I’m making sure that I’m having plenty of breaks. I’m making sure I take my full hour for lunch and as the weather is so nice, I’m going outside and sitting somewhere else, in the afternoon I pop out to the little garden and text some people and chill in the quiet for a few minutes. It might seem like a small thing but it’s exactly what I need to get through the day!

2. Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It

It’s so hard to go from something that you’re comfortable and confident in to something brand new where you know virtually nothing. You are naturally going to feel a bit shit about not being as quick, as knowledgeable or as productive as you’re used to. That’s okay. It literally happens to everyone who makes a big change. In my case, a new job, they expect this. They don’t expect you to know everything from day one. In other cases, new town, new country, new course, new school, other people will be feeling the same as you. Don’t get annoyed at yourself for not being 100% straight away. It takes time to become comfortable in a situation.

3. Do What You Love

So when you’re battling with increased insecurities throughout the day, often doing things you’re not used to or you don’t enjoy yet, it’s important to make sure that you do what you love. I’ve been coming home and doing some extra freelance work each night and then sitting down to play some video games, do some music or bingewatch some videos on YouTube. For me, that’s what I love to do with my evenings, but for you, it could be something else entirely. Gardening, art, calling a friend, dancing in your underwear. It doesn’t matter, you do you.

4. Celebrate The Little Things

So yeah, it’s not going the smoothest. Like I keep saying, change is hard. But there is always something great that happens in every day. Having my first call with a volunteer, surviving lunch with a new colleague without having a panic attack, not offending anyone with poor taste jokes. I’ve been trying to make sure that I appreciate all the little successes in each day. You need to make sure that you celebrate all the little successes too. Sometimes making it outside is tough enough, but if you’re in a new situation? It’s terrifying. But if you’ve managed to pop out to the shops, celebrate it. If you managed to sit for a coffee, celebrate it. If you managed to try something new, celebrate the fuck out of it!

So yeah, change is hard. But often change is also amazing and exciting. It is often the doorway into a fantastic new chapter in your life. So until you’re comfortable with the changes, try your best to keep afloat. Follow these four things and go get that life you want.

A

Lasts and Firsts

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted anything. Sorry about that. I’ve been a little busy! Lots of freelance work, a little volunteering but most of all I was getting ready to leave my job.

After nearly 4 years at my job, I took redundancy and decided it was high time to try something new. I was sad to go, but excited for the next big adventure. Nervous, but excited. So over the last few weeks, I spent a lot of time focusing on the lasts. The last time I’m going to run a session for Go Think Big. The last time I was going to go to get curried goat, rice and peas for lunch from my regular place. The last time I’d be able to walk 10 steps from my building to my favourite bar. The last time I’d sit and have lunch with my team in the middle of work. The last time I’d travel up to Leicester to the head office. The last time I’d be able to make ridiculous jokes and hear the familiar voices and groans. The last time I’d lock up the office.

In a way it was really sad to go. But I wasn’t upset. It was a strange sensation. I was leaving people I loved working with, friends and colleagues I respected but I was fine. For me, this time, I switched very quickly from focusing on my “Lasts” to going back to “Firsts”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried new things since I started this job but they’ve been things that I’ve done extra. My job was a constant. Now, I’m going to have to try to establish a new constant in my life at my new job. It’s excited and nerve-wracking at the same time.

But now, I get to focus fully on the exciting firsts again. My first day (which is tomorrow, scary). My first paycheck. My first friend at the new job. My first lunch. My first work drinks (please please please let there be work drinks). My first opportunity to prove myself. My first big mistake. My first meeting. My first young person to support. My first experience working in International Development. My first joke in the new office (this one will be crucial to establish myself I think.).

Don’t get me wrong, most of these Firsts are going to be exciting, but f*** me, it’s also kind of terrifying. After years of new people coming into a place where I’m comfortable, it’s my turn to be the new guy. Times like these, while positive, can really trigger a person’s anxiety. It can really make people feel awful, awkward and scared to be themselves. There’s a high chance that this’ll happen to me too. I fully expect it to. So I’m going to prepare myself. I’m bringing things that I know will calm me down during the day. Music and noise cancelling headphones are first, of course. I’m going to bring a book. Maybe even bring my camera and my new macro lens. It’s going to be an amazing chance for me to be brave, grow and learn to beat my anxiety.

Wish me luck.

A

P.S. Thank you to all the people that I’ve worked with over the last 4 years, whether that was at the NYA, Go Think Big, the old Think Big programme, and all the amazing friends I’ve made through partners, other charities, events etc.

High Functioning Anxiety and Depression

So I recently made this video about high functioning anxiety and depression for a competition that I’m in (I’m currently taking part in the semi-finals, thanks for asking) and the brief said that it had to be 1 minute long. I already went over the minute by a bit and I barely scratched the surface of this topic.

High functioning anxiety and/or depression is where you’re still able to perform essential tasks like go to work, volunteer etc. It doesn’t mean, however, that those with high functioning anxiety and depression aren’t suffering very much. Sometimes being high functioning makes it even more difficult for people with mental illnesses. It means it’s harder for them to access help, it’s harder to spot when someone has issues.

I recently wrote a thing for work talking about signs that someone could be struggling with their mental health (again, tip of the iceberg, I know). You can read that here. These were things that I exhibited when I was struggling a lot at work.

So just because I’m able to go to work that doesn’t mean I’m well. So here are some things that people don’t/rarely see about me when my depression and anxiety is at it’s worst and often even regular every day things.

  • Hypersensitive emotions
  • Hypersensitive senses (particularly struggles with light)
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks in large groups of people
  • Panic attacks when meeting new people
  • Panic attacks in regular every day situations like shopping
  • Constant fear of being judged
  • Overthinking to the point of burning out
  • Inability to focus
  • Lethargy throughout the day
  • Self harm through eating bad food and drinking obscene amounts
  • Drinking to be able to deal with social situations
  • Anxiety to the point where I can’t speak to my friends
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Constant self destructive thoughts
  • Constant self loathing
  • Huge mood swings
  • Days where I’m angry for no reason
  • Days where I’m sad for no reason
  • Days where I have severe mood swings multiple times
  • Inability to process information
  • Inability to form a coherent sentence

This is a pretty short list. I guess what I’m trying to get at (I’ve had only a few hours sleep) is that it’s not always obvious that someone is suffering. In the video below people talk about me as a jolly, happy, friendly guy and I love them all to pieces. However, I try my best not to show them my struggles and my difficulties just getting through a regular day. I don’t talk about how exhausting it is being a super happy, upbeat guy every day. I don’t mention the fact that that’s not what I’m like when I’m alone.

Other people with mental illnesses may be just like me. Putting a mask on every day just so that people don’t worry, so that we’re not a burden on anyone else. People with mental illnesses don’t choose to have them. They’ve been dealt a hand and they’re trying to get by with what they’ve been given.

Make a conscious effort to ask how someone is. Be the kind of person who checks in on someone just to see how they’re doing. Offer to support a person. Hell, even making them a cup of tea can sometimes be enough.

Be kind, be thoughtful and be understanding. Look after yourselves and look after each other.

A

 

 

 

 

Welcome To Mental Health Awareness Week

So today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (if you couldn’t have guessed by the title) and I thought it’d be a travesty not to write this week.

So I might not be able to commit to a post every day as I’ve not done a huge amount of planning but I want to write as much as I can. I’ll be uploading a post to the blog that we do at work so I’ll be linking to that at some point. This year’s theme is Surviving or Thriving? It’s a good theme and one that I often ponder.

I’ll try to discuss that theme later on in the week but today I’m here to talk a bit about one of the worst parts of depression and anxiety (in my opinion).

The feeling of loneliness. 

My depression often makes me feel worthless. It makes me feel like I’m undeserving of friends and on my worst days that I don’t have friends. I used to (and occasionally still do) think to myself that my friends weren’t my friends at all. Instead they were gaining my trust so that they could pull some kind of shitty pranks on me and were just waiting for the right time to humiliate me. And I thought that they were all in on it too. Even the ones who don’t know each other. So while my depression makes me feel like I don’t have friends, my anxiety has a different effect.

Anxiety prevents me from reaching out to people for fear of alienating the few friends I imagine I have. And so begins the spiral of loneliness as a result of mental illness. My brain tells me I have no friends and I’m worthless and as a result of that insecurity I become too anxious to attempt to make any new friends.

I’m one of the fortunate ones though. My friends have proven time and time again that they’re there for me. That they’re real friends. That it’s not some sort of sick and extremely elaborate hoax. I know I have so many people I can turn to. People as close as London, as far as Newcastle. Hell one of my best friends is all the way in Australia. And they’re always there for me. Some are friends I’ve made online through video games or forums or Instagram. I have managed to find friends when I thought I had none and would never have any and I’m grateful for every single one of them. And if they ever need me, if they ever feel like I did and sometimes still do, I’m going to make sure that they know I’m always going to be in their corner.

Sometimes you really have to look and reflect to see who’s really there for you. I really genuinely hope and pray that anyone who has the same thoughts as me can fight through them, reach out and remember that people care. If you really can’t think of anyone, remember that I care. I’m in all of your corners. I got you.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, please make sure you contact your doctor. You can also access counselling services and other treatments, often for free through charities.

If you’re in the UK check out these guys:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/

Be there for one another. Look after yourselves.

A

So This Is Awkward, Silence isn’t Golden and Valentines Day.

Hey, so it’s been a while! I had initially planned a little two week break over the Christmas holidays and BAM! Two months later, I’ve not done a damn thing on this blog. But I’m back and although it’s not on my usual Thursday spot, I thought I’d give you a little update on life. It’s going to be a little bit rambly but I’m just glad to be back on it! I’ve been a little unwell, a little demotivated and a lot lazy but I’m not beating myself up about it too much. 🙂

The first thing that I’ve noticed recently (and by recently I mean the last few months) is that I am not good with silence. Whether I’m at home, out or at work, I am completely unable to sit in silence. Recently silence makes me really really anxious. Everywhere I am I need to have music on or the TV on in the background. I don’t know why it started, but it’s affected the way I work, the way I relax and the way I look after myself. The strange thing is, there are some sounds and some noises that I can’t cope with. The sound of trains and the underground makes my skin crawl. The sound of other people talking gives me an instant headache. I only seem to be able to handle the sounds that I can control myself. My music, the TV, films. Other sounds are just jarring at the moment and I’m having to relearn how to cope with the rest of the world.

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Neon art on display at the Rise Gallery in Croydon

Valentines day is coming up as well which is a source of anxiety for a lot of people. I’ve been single for 4/5 years now and happily single for a fair bit of it but it took me a long time to learn to love being single. I’m happier than ever to be single. Valentines day is a nice day for so many people in relationships but it often causes lots of people anxiety around their relationship status. It’s hard, but try not to focus on that. After all, self love is the most important kind of love there is. I know it’s cheesy as hell, but it’s 100% true.

Either way, please remember, you are wonderful, you deserve to be happy and it might take a little bit of time but everything is going to be fucking amazing.

Videos, New Skills and a New Passion.

So for those of you who follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have seen that I’ve recently released my first video for Success In Selflessness. It’s a totally new avenue for me to explore and it’s a new way to reach new people so that I can hopefully support even more people to open up and talk about their mental health. If you haven’t seen it, don’t panic! Here it is:

The first one is about the benefits of forcing yourself outdoors when you suffer with social anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I know how fucking hard it is to get out there but if you can manage it, even for ten minutes, it can give you a huge boost.

Over the last few months I’ve been dabbling with music recording, Illustrator, Photoshop, video editing and After Effects. I have unexpectedly fallen in love with creating videos. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got so so much to learn but I’m so proud of my first real attempt at a video. Rest assured that I’ll be doing more of these! 🙂

If you like the video, please like it, share it and subscribe for more! It’ll really help me out and I really want these short videos to help other people too. If you tag me if/when you share it, I’ll give you a shout out on Twitter (@albysaurus) and/or Instagram (@alexquang)! 🙂

The really wonderful thing that I’ve been pondering recently though is about getting educated. I don’t have a degree. I dropped out after a year of doing Business and Management at Birmingham City University. I didn’t do well at A Levels either. But I definitely don’t feel stupid. I’m so much more motivated to learn now that I can choose what to learn. I’m putting in so many hours into everything that I’m doing now.

The way that I see it, learning is an absolutely essential part of life. If you stop learning, you may as well stop doing anything at all. You’ll stop growing as a person and you’ll never strive to be a better version of you. I stopped striving for a while. I became complacent and I ended up miserable. I didn’t feel like I was challenging myself and I felt like less of a person.

I highly doubt I’m ever going to be a full time professional video editor but learning a skill that I thought would be just something I’d use at work has led to me discovering a new passion and I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty exciting to me!

So don’t stop learning, don’t stop pushing yourself and don’t stop being brilliant.

A

World Mental Health Day 2016

Bonus post today! Today is WMHD and the theme this year is psychological first aid and support that people can provide to those in distress. I of course, am no expert on psychological first aid so I’m not even going to attempt to advise on that.

If you do know someone who requires help, you can find information or someone to talk to at these places.

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

http://www.samaritans.org/

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

For me, I’m going to talk about that feeling you get when you feel like you aren’t doing enough. I’ve spoken to a few people about it over the last few weeks and it’s been playing on my mind.

A lot of the most ambitious people I know are doing a whole shit load of things. Setting up businesses, creating amazing things for people, looking after their families and friends and challenging stereotypes and making the world a better place.

Lots of people however, not just my friends, feel like they’re not achieving enough. They don’t fit into the normal boxes that society has created for us. They might not be getting the “stable” job or going a traditional route through education. What they are doing though, is carving a new path for themselves.

One thing that a lot of people from generations past just don’t understand is that it’s a lot harder for people these days to find one job, one career and stick to it. The days of long term contracts is gone and we have to live life a little bit different. This is exemplified in the place that I work. It’s a great job but due to funding, our contracts don’t go for more than a year. Our roles no longer consist of one singular task. We have to be photographers and videographers, youth workers, video editors, social media experts, tech gurus, social action moguls, event planners, workshop deliverers and more. It makes for a much less secure role, but it allows us to learn and develop skills that will surely help us to find other employment and/or start our own projects or businesses. You can’t just do one thing anymore so don’t have a go at us for splitting our attention. It was previous generations that have led us to this point in society where we’re forced to chase dreams differently.

There’s a lot of pressure put on young people to find a job that we’ll have forever and to have kids and a nice house in the suburbs. Lots of people these days are unlikely to ever own a house. Lots of people don’t want kids. Lots of people don’t want to do a 9-5. If any of those are you, then that’s fine. You don’t have to do what society tells you to do. You can be the creator of a whole new way of working and living. We’re the future of this planet and so we need to implement the changes we want.

It’s really easy to compare ourselves to each other, to successful people you know and admire and feel like you’re not doing enough. You are, though. Everyone has a different path to get to where they’re happy and healthy and successful and some are straight and simple, while others are meandering and complex. Either is fine. If anyone tells you otherwise, smile, nod and then go achieve what you want to achieve and show them how wrong they are.

Don’t beat yourselves up. You’re doing fine. I still don’t know if the career I’m in is what I want to do forever. I don’t think I’ll ever know. You don’t have to either. I just make sure that I’m doing something. Make sure you’re doing SOMETHING and you’ll be learning and growing.

To finish, I’ll leave you with a video. It’s a TED talk about having more than one passion. It’s one of my favourite talks and I watch it regularly to remind myself that being passionate about everything is a good thing. 🙂

A

Resilience: No Pain, No Gain

So as mentioned in my last post and on my Instagram I’ve recently started trying to learn how to skateboard. I’m not going to lie. It has not been pretty. I have fallen off the board and fallen, injured my arms, legs and butt. However, I have been getting back on again and again to try to get better.

My body hates me right now and I’ve done the splits about four times today because the board slipped me. I have managed to pull about 90% of my leg muscles. 20160924_1545561

However, no matter how much I fall, humiliate myself, no matter how many bruises and cuts and scrapes I get I’m going to keep on going. Of course, this isn’t just a post about skateboarding. It’s about resilience.

Resilience is all about how we keep going when something goes wrong. It is not always easy to stay resilient. Life will knock you down over and over and it’s going to suck, but how you respond to those knock backs is what shows your true character. The easy option is to give up and to just accept things as they are but sometimes that’s just not feasible.

As regular readers know, I’ve suffered from breakdowns, panic attacks and all the physical manifestations of poor mental health but in my mind, and in what people tell me, I’m trying my absolute hardest to be a better version of me every day. As of today (29th September) I’m 9157 days old which means I’m Alex v. 9157.

You will never be perfect but that doesn’t mean you won’t be incredible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re a pretty special person now but you can be better too. You just need to believe that you can be incredible. Right this second, I’m feeling pretty chuffed about myself and life but I know it can and still will get even better. My mind will too.

So keep building up resilience. Your muscles get stronger by exercise. Work out your brain. Think things through logically. Keep believing in yourself and the fact that you can be better every day.

Here’s a little message from Rocky Balboa himself. It summarises everything I’ve been talking about in this post.

Right now, I’m actively trying to learn more. Skating, science, music. Everything. That’s how I’m trying to be a better version of myself. Life hit me hard recently but I got back up and am moving forward. I hope you can too.

A

My New Endeavours

So this is my 60th post on Success In Selflessness. And there are some exciting things happening. Okay, no I’m not cured, I still avoid social situations as best I can and I’m still spending 70% of my time at home in bed, resting but I’m determined to get better slowly.

To continue my never ending battle of recovery, I’ve decided to do some new things. I’m setting myself a few challenges to aid in that quest.

First, I’m going to try to learn to skateboard. I’m neither graceful nor athletic. So that’s going to be really interesting.

Second, I really really want to learn to scuba dive. I’ve been looking for scuba diving courses near where I live and I think I’ve found a place. I always used to find the sea and the water really relaxing and even though I’d be learning in a pool, it would hopefully one day lead me to the sea to swim with sharks. That’s the dream. My new endeavours.png

Thirdly, I’m going to be diversifying the content that I create on this blog. First up, you may have noticed some new pages on the site. I’m going to be posting music related content as well as things about politics, identity, culture, and lots of other social issues. The most exciting bit that I’m planning is to create some videos to go alongside the content that I’m creating. So I’m learning how to edit video as I write this. Who knows, by the time this comes out we might even have our first video up!

This post is primarily a way for me to announce the new ways I’m going to be providing content but it’s also a reminder to never stop growing. Whenever I learn something new or achieve something I didn’t think I would, I feel great. I feel a rare sense of pride in who I am and what I do.

So my message to you this time, no matter how, when or where, learn something new and do something you didn’t think you could. Even if it’s leave the house to go to the shop. Or to read a new book, or start learning a new language or instrument. You’ll thank  yourself for it.

UPDATE: I’ve bought myself a skateboard so keep your eyes peeled for some shocking bails and bruises… 20160924_154556[1].jpg

A