The Recovery Part 5: This is what my depression looks like.

What my depression looks like changes on a daily basis. Some days I’m a happy go lucky, music man with a spring in his step and a joke to tell. Some days I’m the calm, quiet, doodler. Some days I’m a tech mad, comic book nerd with his face deep in some sort of gadget.

Some days I’m a happy go lucky, music man with a spring in his step and a joke to tell. Some days I’m the calm, quiet, doodler. Some days I’m a tech mad, comic book nerd with his face deep in some sort of gadget. 

However, some days it’s also a raging beast of emotion which pours out of my eyes and my mouth as tears and words I’ll later regret. Other days it’s a complete numbness where I feel no emotion at all, no happiness or sadness. Some days I’m incapable of movement, speech or thought. Sometimes I break down over the most ridiculous things that most people would either be completely unphased by, or at most, are mildly irritated by (an example, today I had a breakdown after I realised I forgot to order my usual mushroom rice with my curry and I accidentally ordered a sweet sultana naan bread).  Often, I’m a combination of two or more of these and that’s pretty scary.

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Sometimes I break down over the most ridiculous things that most people would either be completely unphased by, or at most, aremildly irritated by.

For the people who don’t know me very well, they may well only see the happy-go-lucky guy. Or the doodler. Or the super nerd. And that’s the aim. Even me, who’s quite open about my mental health, find it hard to behave as I want to for fear of upsetting others. I don’t get to be emotional at work. I don’t allow myself to become overwhelmed and break down in front of other people. Often my mood swings on a normal day every hour or so. Some parts of the day you’ll get a genuine happy, super fun time Alex and other parts of the day you’ll get the fraud. Some parts of the day I’ll retreat away from other people by going for a walk or sitting in a meeting room so that I can stop the act for just a few minutes.

Every social interaction I have with other humans is a tiring and complicated experience inside my brain. Every single word I speak, my body language, whether or not I hug or shake hands or have any physical contact at all is thought over hundreds of times before every action. I go through every possible scenario that I can think of and plan for the best and worst possible outcomes. (Example: I accidentally added someone on Facebook recently and felt so bad and went through so many scenarios that I apologised to that person when I saw them before realising that I was probably going to end up adding them anyway at some point. The person did not care in the slightest that I added them on Facebook.)

Every single word I speak, my body language, whether or not I hug or shake hands or have any physical contact at all is thought over hundreds of times before every action.

Even if I feel well that day, my brain still thinks about these interactions constantly and if things go right, I feel pretty decent. If they don’t go as I’d hoped it could be the one thing that breaks my resolve and causes a dramatic mood swing. Days like today, where my mind and body are exhausted the thought of speaking to other people seems like the worst possible scenario. This is what my depression looks like summarised in it’s most simple possible form though there is a huge amount that I’m unable to verbalise or get down on to virtual paper.

If you’re comfortable sharing how your depression looks, please feel free to do so in the comments or get in touch with me privately via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email if you would like to talk. I may not post often but I’m still keen to help to facilitate people to discuss their own personal black clouds.

One thing it’s not is “just a fancy word for feeling bummed out”. Don’t be like Dwight.

A

P.S. Thank you to all of my friends, family and colleagues for understanding that when I ignore your calls, don’t turn up to things, take forever to reply to messages or lock myself away, that it’s not personal. You guys are my rocks.

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:

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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

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 –

#CheerUpChallenge

So I wrote in my recent post that I’ve set myself a challenge to cheer up. It’s imaginatively called the #cheerupchallenge.

I’ve spent a long long time figuring out what kinds of things make me happy. It’s a brilliant combination of music, fantasy, food and friends. Have a little look see at some of my posts so far and set yourself a little challenge to keep your mood up! 🙂

I don’t want to make this post too long as it’s going to be 99% pictures chronicling my quest to get better so I hope you enjoy and please feel free to give me a follow on Instagram (@alexquang) and leave a comment/like/share! 🙂

View this post on Instagram

Got myself some treats today as a little retail therapy. I've been so run down today I've broken out in some very painful stress spots so I thought I'd get some sunglasses to cover up parts of my face and some new cologne so I can at least smell nice! Lots of people forget that men can have anxiety about their looks too. It's something that I'm trying to be more open about but it's seriously tough. These things take time, energy and guts. Hopefully if I'm more open about it in future it'll encourage other men to do the same. Men are judged by society if they open up about their emotions and feelings but I say bollocks to that. #depression #anxiety #mentalhealth #therapy #cheerupchallenge #bodyimage

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You’re Only As Good As The Company You Keep


With the recent happenings in my life I’ve been very aware of the people that I surround myself with. I’ve recently started uploading songs I’ve written and had a really nice response from my friends. Alongside this I was also featured in a video for vInspired that you can watch here. Again the response and reaction I received was fantastic.

It made me think though, my story isn’t unique. It’s not exceptional. It’s a story that I share with so many incredible people albeit with a few details changed.  Today, I’m going to mention very briefly some of the people who inspire me most.

First of all, Kate. A good friend of mine, surprisingly I haven’t her known that long but it feels like I’ve known her for years. Also you may well have seen some videos of us singing together online. She suffers with ME but not once have I heard her complain about it. Instead she works tirelessly (and often to the point of making herself ill) to help others. She’s putting packs together for parents of severely I’ll children, she’s a top class dance teacher and she mentors. These are just a few of the things she does. Well played, kupkake.

Danielle, another close friend who is not only one of the smartest people I know, but the most thoughtful, kind and ethical people I know. She recently secured a job with an amazing charity in Newcastle. Besides that she constantly supports me to be better, more confident and for some reason finds my bad jokes funny. If I could have half the brains you have, I’d be a happy chappy!

Victoria is a close friend of mine who not only inspires me by regularly overcoming the things that make her feel most awkward. She’s got the brains and the guts to do things that scare her and for me, that gives me the strength and courage to challenge myself and do things I’d otherwise never do.

Naomi is another one of my closest friends who battles through everything with gusto! She’s the person who taught me that even when things go wrong you have no choice but to battle through it. If you don’t do that, if you just give in, how will you be able to help those who depend on you?

Pete 1. My previous boss and the gent who gave me real world experience of helping people. Sustained goodness that is still going on now. I was but a mere cog in a complicated machine of organising but I was always made to feel like the most important cog. I was taught, supported, guided and mentored and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the time this man invested in me. Check out Citizens UK for more info on what the organisation does.

Pete 2 moved down here recently from Newcastle to gain more access to theatre and work. Let’s face it, moving to an entirely new city takes guts. Not only that, but Pete is one of those people who just exudes friendliness. I challenge you not to love the guy.

Rob, my bae. Another man who moved down here for work. In his dream job for a year. GUTS. Also one of the people who you don’t have to pretend around. He taught me to loosen up a little and enjoy life a little more.

Zahrah. Old 6th form classmate who I fell out of touch with until she got in touch about the work I was doing. Now she works at vinspired and is kicking arse there. Zahrah teaches me every day to just be real. Do what you need to do and love whatever that is. No one is as real as kiwi.

These are just some of the MANY people who inspire me. These are some of the people who make me a better person and I’m so thankful for it. Don’t forget to notice those around you and how they impact your life in a positive way. I wish I could list more but this is already an insanely long post. Make sure you appreciate those around you. They are the people who help shape the person that you are.

A

A Glorious Return

So I’ve been experiencing some pretty awful writers block recently which may be a result of my recent panic attacks and dip in mood. However, I’m feeling significantly better now and I’m keen to get back on the blogging scene!

I’m very lucky to have had a really good week and been able to do the things which often lift me out of my funk. I even managed to socialise four times in one week! Tuesday night I went up to Newcastle to stay at some friends new flat before they headed down to London for graduation. On Wednesday night I went for dinner with an old friend in Newcastle. I went for a lovely dinner with people I volunteer with/volunteered with on Thursday and got the worlds messiest burger. Friday I managed to head out with some more old and new volunteering buddies for a chilled out evening in a nice bar by work. Good food, drink and company. What more could I want? I also had a really great week at work, speaking to hundreds of young people about running their own community projects and receiving some fantastic feedback from the event organisers. This set me up for a dynamite weekend.

So far this weekend, I’ve been writing songs, rewriting old songs, listening to music, playing music, singing along with music and reading about music. It’s been a pretty music fuelled Saturday. But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, music is something which I love, something which makes me feel better all the time no matter how low I’m feeling.

All the songs that I write though, aren’t just to cheer me up. I always try to write songs for people who might also be going through a rough time and need cheering up. Besides music and friends, the thing that always cheers me up the most is knowing that I’ve made someone happy, made someone smile and helped to change someone’s mood for the better.

As some of my Facebook friends know and some of my twitter followers know, I’ve uploaded a few of my songs for people to have a gander at. I received some really nice feedback saying that I managed to put a smile on faces. This was pretty ace for me. My mood was dipping, my body and mind were exhausted, but the fact that I managed to make my friends smile with the music I created means that I was able to combine the three things that cheer me up the most.

If you don’t believe that cheering someone up will make you feel better about yourself, your mood and life in general, I challenge you to give it a try. And just a bit of shameless plugging, please find the three songs I uploaded just below. Right there. If you’re having a bit of a lousy Saturday, hopefully I’ll be able to brighten it up for you! Enjoy, smile and have a good weekend.

A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Fjci_OX2Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDP0CDO4UsU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RarOWXqrWTQ

The Karma of Kindness

I talk a lot about kindness in people. There are some people who completely agree with everything I say about kindness and my opinion that everyone would be instantly happier if they treated everyone else with respect and kindness. It often starts a chain reaction of kindness and I feel like this is something that I’ve been benefiting from for a few years now.

From the day I realised that I was not a particularly good person was the day that my luck started to change. It feels like I transformed overnight. The second I tried to be a better man it was like happiness and kindness followed me around showing me how to make people smile. I know, I know, this is a bit wet and sickeningly sweet enough to give you diabetes, but I think it’s important to realise the importance of karma.

I volunteer a fair bit and I work in the third sector and the mission I’ve set myself and one that’s shared by all the charities and organisations that I’m a part of is to spread kindness. Through my hard work, I’ve got jobs, new friends and family and a much more positive outlook on life in general. This pays off. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m now surrounded by positive people and it’s incredible.

I’ve been working on this blog for a few weeks now and the people who share in my mission to spread kindness have been reading it and have got it up to nearly a thousand page views in no time! If I was a horrible person preaching kindness, I doubt many people would bother to read it or if they did, they would probably berate me for not practising what I preach! Through working hard to be kind, people have not only read, but they’ve shared this blog and helped me to come up with things to write.

My film crew 😉

I’ve been asked by the Youth Media Agency to join their network and have been searching for someone to create a logo for me. I posted up on Facebook and asked if anyone could create one for me and unfortunately none of my friends could, however, the people I’d met on my quest for kindness knew people who might be interested. In the end, a lovely gent, Chris, someone I’d never met, spoken to or even knew existed made a beautiful logo for me which you can see on this here blog (I also edited some templates and their HTML to include some of my own pages and links to my instagram and twitter accounts which I’m super proud of!). A huge thank you to Chris for doing that for me and to Naomi for introducing me! 🙂

Karma has been blessing me with multiple opportunities recently. Most notably I was chosen to be the case study for vInspired’s Big Give campaign. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the team at vInspired to feature in a video about my journey from school to my job now! It’s a fundraising campaign to raise funds for more programmes like Team v which has helped me in crazy good ways. I had some fantastic people helping out, friends from school, from volunteering and more. A big shout out to my favourite kiwi, Zahrah and Q for helping out with the shoot as well as the other vInspired staff for chipping in! Keep an eye out for the video coming soon. I even got to film some of my songs with Tristan, who was willing to get his gear back out, mics, lights, camera to film my self-written songs. Once I hit 1000 page views I might even post them up! 🙂

All in all, this post was a little bit about karma, a little bit about people I know and a little bit about the great things I’ve been able to achieve by being kind. So, be kind, genuinely kind and you’ll notice the kindness being returned to you in spades.

Also, you might even get to see views as spectacular as this.

A

The Power of Positive People

I’m currently still buzzing from going to see Paolo Nutini in Newcastle last night with two extremely inspirational women and felt the urge to write a blog post. Obviously I’ve mentioned multiple times about the love that I have for music and gigs etc. so I’m not going to write too much about that again. Instead I want to have a little natter about people.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received from volunteering was the people that I met along the way. Some of them have become colleagues, some have become my closest friends and others have unfortunately disappeared from my life, but everyone has taught me something about myself and about the work that we do and why it’s so important. Besides the learning that I get from my peers, friends, family and colleagues, the main thing that I’ve gained from a lot of them has been health.

People often underestimate the power of positivity and how important it is to surround yourself with people who can help keep you positive. Some of the people I used to acquaint myself with felt a constant sense of entitlement, a belief that they were destined for great things, but another belief that they shouldn’t have to work for it. All that they thought about was what they didn’t have and trying to understand why they didn’t have it.

The people who I’m closest to now couldn’t be more different. I’ve cut negativity out of my life as much as possible and it’s brought me along so much. The people I know now are people that I admire greatly for so many reasons. For one, they’re people that just care so much about making the lives of people around them better. They work tirelessly to make sure the people they love are as happy as humanly possible. I’ve spent a couple of days with a family who inspire me constantly with their unity, strength and drive to make the most of their lives and the cards that they’ve been dealt.

Another reason I am constantly in awe of most of the people I know now is that they’re grateful for every little thing in their lives and it really is the little things that make a huge difference. A nice cup of tea, a bit of time with family and friends, a nice walk along the river. They’re appreciative of having a roof over their heads and having food on the table. They take nothing for granted.

The third thing that I’m so happy about is that the people I know, know that praise is an incredible tool to lift someone out of a slump. Praise is something that is earned and shouldn’t be doled out any old time. However, when it has been earned and when it is deserved, it shouldn’t be awkward to dish it out. This blog post is praise to all the people I know, respect and love and hopefully you should know if this applies to you.

Respect – another thing that must be earned. It’s hard to earn but so so easy to lose. However, I treat everyone I meet with respect even if I don’t respect them. Everyone should be given a chance to earn respect. People make mistakes, it’s human nature, it’s how you learn from your mistakes and how you deal with them that earns respect. No one is perfect, not even the people I respect the most, but they can acknowledge that in themselves and others and that’s so important. If I struggle to respect someone I struggle to talk to them and I struggle massively to keep in touch with them.

The thing I love most about the people I’ve surrounded myself with is all of these things and more. Their resilience, passion, hard work and general being good fun, fill me with positivity every time I see them, makes me a better person and keeps my mood up which believe me can be tough. All I have to do now is try to pass on the positivity to others.

To close, I’d encourage everyone to consider this little quote.

“Don’t be a drain, be a radiator”

If this baffles you a little bit I’ll leave these here too.
Radiators – People who give out warmth, kindness, love, honesty, positivity, energy, enthusiasm and all the good things which people need and respond to.
Drains – People who are negative, downbeat, suck the energy out of others and don’t like themselves.

A