The Recovery: Depression is all in your head

So over the last few days I’ve not really been able to do… well, anything.

On Tuesday evening, on the way home, I felt very very faint, started sweating, hyperventilating and shaking quite violently. This was, you guessed it, the beginnings of a panic attack.

By the time the train pulled into my station I’d had to call my mum to come pick me up from the station. When I got into the car I burst into tears (I know right, a guy crying. /s) and didn’t stop for a full five hours. After that, I passed out. I didn’t wake up until the morning. I’ve had loads of panic attacks over the years but this was a panic attack followed by a physical and mental breakdown and it was the worst I’ve ever had.

Over the years I’ve heard lots of people talk about how mental illness is all in your head. I beg to differ. So the main thing in this post is going to be a list of all the things I experienced over the last few days. Here we go:

  • Constant muscle pain

  • Constant joint pain

  • Extremely sensitive eyes and ears

  • Extremely low energy

  • Inability to walk, talk or even lift my arms

  • Complete loss of appetite and the feeling of being sick whenever eating

  • Extreme pain when swallowing

  • Swollen eyes

  • Blocked nose

  • Hot and cold flushes

  • Migraines

  • Erratic sleep patterns

  • So SO sweaty…

These are just some of the ones I want to list today. The most crushing thing that I’ve had to do over the last few days though, is cancel plans with some wonderful people who I’ve not seen in ages.

Today has been the first day I’ve been able to walk around the house with no support or leaning on things. It’s also the first time in a few days I’ve been able to open the blinds, listen to music, sing (it was about four bars of humming). I’ve yet been able to leave the house though.

So to anyone who thinks that mental illness is all in your head and doesn’t actually affect your body at all, you’re so so wrong.


P.S. Thank you to my mother who picked me up, looked after me, literally supported me to get to the doctors, shopped for me and cooked for me.

Also a huge thank you to all my friends who sent me get well soon messages and also those who I had to cancel on for understanding but a special thank you to Kate (and her boyfriend Carlos) who sent me a box of nerdy things. 20160813_213325[1]

Also also, when you’re barely able to move and spend almost 24 hours a day in your room with no windows open, blinds closed and lights off, your room ends up smelling quite bad…

The Recovery: Panic Attacks and Breakdowns

So first thing to address, I’m getting rid of the numbers. By the time I get better completely, we’ll be at a silly number. So from now on this little series of blogs will be just known as “The Recovery”.

Now, onto the juicy bit. Panic attacks. They take on many different forms and can be caused by loads of different things. Some of the more serious causes of panic attacks and breakdowns can include (but are not limited to):

  • Severe stress
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Problems at work
  • Exhaustion

Sometimes, though, the causes of panic attacks and breakdowns can be the most ridiculous things. The last two days have been like that for me. I’m feeling somewhat better at the moment but have had some rather silly breakdowns over the last couple days.

I’m writing this particular piece to hopefully give you all a bit of a chuckle and also hopefully show you all that anything at any time can cause a panic attack or breakdown and that’s okay. It’s not your fault. It’s  normal. It’ll pass. I promise. I’ve had 2 breakdowns and about 5 panic attacks.

Here are some of the things that have caused me some distress the last two days.

  • Not having the right berries in my local Tesco
  • Running out of Bonjela
  • Getting below 60 frames per second on a game
  • Dying in a game
  • Not being able to decide how I wanted to build my house on the Sims
  • The thought of seeing people in a social setting despite them being friends
  • Sleeping too late
  • Not sleeping enough

All of these things gave me reactions of varying severity. All of these things may seem like minor things to people. And even to me, on a good day, these things are pretty minor. But in the moment, at that exact time, it’s a huge problem and causes me to not function properly.

One thing that’s hard to do though, is remember that it’s not your fault. I constantly question whether or not I’m being pathetic. I regularly think that it’s my own fault and that I deserve to not find the right berries or to have an ulcer or to die in a game or anything more serious.

I have to tell myself over and over, “it’s not my fault” just as I want you to say it’s not yours. Panic attacks and breakdowns are unpredictable, horrible and so tough to prevent. I’m not going to tell anyone how to prevent panic attacks in this post but I will tell you how I prevent my own panic attacks eventually. I just wanted to remind everyone that if you have a panic attack, it’s okay.


The Recovery Part 8: Success In Selflessness

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the f*** is this guy sauntering back onto the web to tell us things when he ditched us for so long. Well that’s totally fair. I’ve been pretty shitty when it comes to blogging the last few months (not that I was particularly consistent before).

Well the short version is that I was taking a break from blogging as I’d run out of things to talk about. I’m sure everyone was getting rid of hearing about my recovery (though I’m clearly writing about it still) which is still ongoing, though I am doing better. Panic attacks are limited now to bed time when I have too much time to think (so I’ve been playing retro Pokémon games to fall asleep faster with less panics). Social anxiety is lessening, though please don’t put me in a room with a whole load of people I don’t know and tell me to socialise. I will cower in fear, hide in a corner and most likely hyperventilate.

My reason for writing this post is that I feel as though I’d lost my way with this blog recently. It started as a blog about volunteering and has become more about my mental health than anything else. I am certainly looking at diversifying the content that I put up here to include things that I find interesting (I hope you’re all ready for Nerdpocalypse) but again, lots of it won’t have anything to do with volunteering.

However I have a few projects in the pipeline which will be happening in the next few months and I’m super keen to share the first one with you. I’ll soon be turning 25 years old. A quarter of a century. I’m really lucky that, at this milestone, we generally don’t start to have gammy legs and broken backs. I’m reasonably healthy and able. So for my 25th birthday, my friends and I are coming up with a list of 25 random acts of kindness which we’ll carry out on my actual birthday. 25 is quite a lot and there are only so many hours in the day so we’re looking at doing small, thoughtful gestures. Here’s the list so far:Diem.jpg

  1. A meal for a homeless person
  2. Help an old person/person less physically able with their shopping or cross the road
  3. Sing for the sick
  4. Sing for random people to put a smile on their face. 
  5. Write and distribute positive notes to strangers
  6. Tape some coins to a vending machine for the next person
  7. Give strangers a flower
  8. Pay for a coffee for the next person in the queue
  9. Community clean up
  10. Pop up yoga session for people
  11. Give Blood
  12. Give random people a compliment

We only have 12 things so far so we’re needing lots more! I’m hoping for a huge group of people who can help me tick off every item throughout the day and I’m reaching out to everyone on the internet to help out. It’ll be taking place in London on Sunday September 4th, likely starting from Croydon first thing in the morning. I’ll surely need help carrying things from my  house through Croydon and into London.
If you’re interested at all, just pop a comment down and/or email me. 🙂 I would love to get someone along to help to document the day via video and social media as well.

I’ll be tweeting out using the hashtag #SelflessSunday.

It’s sure to be a Spectacular September Sunday of Successful Selflessness so please join me for part of or all of the day and help me celebrate my birthday in the best flipping way possible!

I hope you’re all feeling happy, healthy and loved.


The Recovery Part 7: Slips, Trips and Mental Flips

It’s been a while (as usual) since I’ve posted. I’ve been so busy running around the UK for work, travelling back and forth back home and planning and running a gig with some friends. Last month was pretty great but it has left me in a state of exhaustion. Hayfever is kicking in as well now which has left me feeling extra lethargic.

That’s actually the biggest problem I have right now. My eyes are constantly sore and my nose is clogged up. This in turn is preventing me from sleeping properly and that then affects my moods. I’ve been finding conversation extremely difficult this week which has then given me panic attacks. Even with some of my closest friends, I’ve been struggling to even say a single word.

When I do manage to utter a word, my brain has gone into overdrive thinking about whether or not I said the right thing or spoke appropriately which again can send me into either a frantic panic or a quiet “I’m just not going to say anything” panic.

All of these things have caused my mood to slip. It’s caused me to go from having a really great, exciting month in May, to an oil covered slide into my own broken brain. I’m trying my hardest not to slip too far and am trying to make sure that I’ve got interesting things to do and to work towards.

Several times, I’ve tripped over my own words, my own thoughts and my own feelings this month. I’ve flip-flopped on so many decisions and allowed myself to fall into old habits. For example, my old kryptonite, takeaways. I fucking love a good takeaway but I know full well that they’re neither thrifty or healthy.

These last two weeks or so have been exceptionally difficult for me to function but my mental flips are but a temporary affliction I’m sure. I’m going to try my best not to let my mental flips control me. If you’re having slips, trips and mental flips, just stay strong and remember that none of this is not your fault. You are not and will not ever be alone. If you need to take some time to look after yourself, do it. You’re number 1 always.

The Recovery Part 6: Celebrating Serotonin

Today was a good day for me. I did something which I’ve been wanting to do for years. I got a tattoo. I spent months trying to figure out a tattoo that I could get which I would love on my body for the rest of my life and would mean something to me and hopefully mean something to other people.

The tattoo I chose was this: 20160502_190830.jpg

This is serotonin. It’s one of the “happy hormones” and it’s something that my body and brain sorely lacks. It’s one of the causes of my long term depression and so it’s something that I’ve always tried my best to understand. Needless to say, I’m super happy with this.

“I know some people aren’t a fan of tattoos and they may think that this is a pretty extreme way of getting to talk about mental health and you may well be right but sometimes you need to do something a little bit strange to get people talking.”

Obviously this is primarily something for me. If I don’t have enough of this stuff in my body, I’ll get it tattooed on me in the hopes that it brings me a smile when I see it. I will never be without again. In fact this was the first time I’ve been genuinely excited about anything that I’m doing for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but this was for me and it’s one of the rare times I do things just for me.

However, there is another reason for this particular kind of tattoo. It’s not something people see very often and so people will hopefully ask about it. When they do, it gives me the chance to talk about mental health, my experiences and the experiences of countless other people who have mental illnesses. It will help to open up the discussions that are so often taboo.

“It gives me the chance to talk about mental health, my experiences and the experiences of countless other people who have mental illnesses. It will help to open up the discussions that are so often taboo.”

I know some people aren’t a fan of tattoos and they may think that this is a pretty extreme way of getting to talk about mental health and you may well be right but sometimes you need to do something a little bit strange to get people talking. This to me, isn’t just a tattoo. It’s a message. It’s a statement. If I can get even one person who looks at my tattoo to think a little bit differently about their mental health and the health of those around them then it will be worth it.

Let the conversations begin.


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.


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.


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.

The Recovery Part 4: Being Your Real Self

I used to spend absolutely ages trying my hardest to hide parts of my life that I thought were uncool or weird. Even things I absolutely loved and really enjoyed. There was only one thing that I didn’t hide as much when I was in school and that was my love for Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I was amazing at that game.

I used to absolutely love anime, video games, manga, cartoons. All the nerdy things. Over time my nerd interests grew to include comic books, technology (in particular mobile phones and computers) and science. But throughout most of my life, I was absolutely embarrassed by all of my “awful” interests.

I’m not what you’d call “conventionally cool”, hell I’m barely even unconventionally cool. But I’ve been trying really hard over the last few months to appreciate myself in a way that I’ve always struggled with. I’m embracing all the things that make me, me. I’m trying to find my “Inner Babe” (T, I’m still working on it!) and I think it’s going well.

I’m actually sitting here watching some anime as I type and I’ve got to the point now where it’s more exhausting to try to hide my nerdy habits. I’ve got comic books next to my bed, Marvel bunting with my name on it (thanks V) and video games and controllers all over the place. Wireless charging pads litter my desk, Bluetooth headphones accompany me everywhere, my smartwatch (which is arguably entirely pointless) is part of my daily outfit. I have a cupboard full of old computer parts and a desktop computer which I’m slowly but surely building up to be a beautiful piece of kit.

That’s not everything that defines me though, I’m a musician, an illustrator, a youth worker and a singer. Those parts of me I never hid as they’re a little bit “cooler”… But all of these things are what makes me, me. I’m celebrating everything that makes me unique.

I hope you’re able to appreciate yourself too, all the bits that you don’t often consider to be excellent. All the bits that society wouldn’t generally consider to be cool, all the nerdy things, all the lame things, all the weird things. Love them all! If people judge you based on your harmless interests then screw them!

I’m trying my hardest to be my real self. I hope you get to be your real self too.

If all else fails, my mum says I’m cool…


The Recovery Part 3: Dating With Depression

As you may well have noticed, I’ve not been on for over a month! I’ve not been 100% and have been really struggling to focus on anything in particular. However, I’m back now with a “no pain no gain” attitude and twice the amount of Fluoxetine in my system.

I want to start off by saying thank you to all the people who have been getting in touch with me over the past month and sharing their stories with me. That’s exactly why I write about my experiences. I want people to be able to talk about their anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses openly, confidently and proudly. It’s a big step to take, and though it’s a big part of your life it doesn’t define you. Please continue to encourage others to talk about their mental health and please get in touch with me if you want to talk about yours. You’re never alone and I don’t want you to ever feel like you are.

While I’ve not been posting very regularly, I have still been talking about my depression and anxiety pretty openly. So over the next few days/weeks I’ll be covering various topics of discussion that I’ve been over.

I’ve spoken to a couple people about this over the last month and have had some very frank discussions about depression and dating. I’ve got some great people around me who have spoken with me very tactfully about it all. I’m obviously single and have been for quite a long time now and I’ve been quite down about being single for a while. Why? Who knows, maybe it’s because I feel like I should be in a relationship because so many of my peers are in them. Maybe it’s because I’m “getting on a bit” and am “running out of time”. Maybe I just want someone to validate me. It could be one, none or all of the above!

But really? Is this at all productive? Answer: no.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t still think about all of this stuff. I do and it’s still affecting me BUT I’m working my butt off to change the way I think. Why should I be in a relationship just because other people are? Why should I be in a relationship just because I’m getting older? (I’m 24. That’s not even close to being old.). And most of all, why should I be in a relationship so that someone can validate me?! I shouldn’t.

One of my very wise friends said to me:

“Are you sure you’re ready for a babe? You haven’t even found your inner-babe yet.”

She’s totally, 100% right. I’ve not found my inner-babe yet. I haven’t even got to the point where I’m happy with who I am, being in a relationship isn’t necessarily going to fix that.

I’m not saying I’m going to stop dating and seeing people, but my main focus has to be me first. A big part of that is pushing myself to talk about my good points and speaking to people that I might actually want to date rather than assuming they wouldn’t be interested. Low self-esteem is tough to overcome but it is possible with hard work, reflection and appreciation.

I know I’m not the only person who has this problem. Social anxiety is a fucking nightmare already without throwing depression in the mix but they go hand in hand. So to conclude, you’re absolutely brilliant as you are. We aren’t perfect, but our flaws make us interesting too, they make us unique.

I have a lot of love to give, as I’m sure all of you do too (apart from you people with your frozen hearts and dark, evil souls of hatred) so why not point that love inwards and learn to appreciate yourself a little more?



The Recovery Part 2: On the Mend

So it’s been a few weeks now since I’ve started on my tablets again and put a lot of plans in place to make myself better. Some of my key goals have been small easy wins and some are slightly longer term and a little more difficult to achieve.

The small easy wins that I’ve managed recently are:

  1. Read! I’ve recently bought a poetry book by Sarah Howe called the Loop of Jade. It’s a great collection and focuses quite a bit on her dual identity being half Chinese and half English. (Similarly, I’m a British-born Chinese person.) I don’t read anywhere near as often as I used to so it’s good to be reading again.
  2. Get out of my room. This one seems silly but it’s so easy for me to lock myself away in my room and play video games all evening and ignore my housemate and the world outside of my bubble. But just trying to sit downstairs more often, staying for a chat for a half hour is a huge deal for me and often leads to me sticking around for much longer and enjoying myself.
  3. Be more creative. I’ve been trying my very hardest to set aside more time in my day for creative practices. Music (as always) is my number one, go-to creative activity. I’m singing more often, louder and with less inhibitions! Living in a house with another singer and musician helps greatly. I’ve also been trying to illustrate more as it’s something I always used to love doing. I try to create things I can give away to people and make them smile.
  4. Get to work. For the first few weeks of the year I couldn’t work. I could barely get out of bed, to be fair. But I found that the extreme anxiety of going back to work after so long was short-lived. The anxiety is still there but as I get used to it all again it’s fading quickly. The first week I was back I came in a little later and left a little earlier. Now I’m back to working full days and am easing myself back into delivering sessions and workshops.

While these are huge steps for me, they’re such simple little things for most people so I’ve added them to my small easy wins. Getting out of bed at all should be on there for sure. Little things add up and make a huge impact. I’m still far from feeling well. I still get bouts of feeling very sick, spikes in my anxiety and still quite often it takes everything in me to not have a panic attack. All of this and trying my very hardest to keep a smile on my face for the sake of my work is extremely tiring. I finish most days exhausted and by the time I get home and have cooked and eaten, that’s it for me and I hit the hay and the struggle to wake up and get out starts all over again.

It’s important for me, and for lots of people recovering from mental illness to find a routine, find small wins, celebrate those wins and slowly build up to bigger things. My mood may dip multiple times a day but I’m confident that with everything that I’ve been putting into place I’m going to get better. I hope you’re all able to find something to get you back on the road to recovery and allow you to take control of your body and mind again.

Please feel free to get in touch with me and let me know if you have any routines and activities that you use to keep your mood up! 🙂

Yours sleepily,


The Recovery Part 1

I’ve been on tablets now for 11 days. It’s not been the smoothest of sailing. My appetite has been very up and down. Some days (or even parts of the day) my appetite would be so huge. I would be starving until I took that first bite then I’d feel sick instantly. Other times I’d not be hungry at all despite not having eaten for hours.

My mood has also been equally up and down. Some parts of the day I would absolutely not want to speak to anyone and other parts I feel almost like myself again, able to hold a conversation and able to laugh at jokes. The evenings I feel a little more relaxed in the new place. I have my own space for the first time since I was born (excluding that year at uni). My housemate is very understanding if I want to just sit in my room and recuperate.

I’ve also been back at work for the week. After two weeks off at Christmas, two days working from home, one day in the office and leaving early, then a week and a half off sick, I found it really difficult to go back. I was desperate to get back into a routine but my anxiety was also sky high. I felt like all eyes would be on me and there would be tons of attention my way. Luckily the team at work are also pretty damn good at understanding my moods. I’ve not been able to manage full days so I’ve been getting to work a little later than normal and leaving a little bit earlier but it’s definitely helped me ease back into a routine of some sort.

I’ve also been trying to make myself commit to some positive actions for my physical and mental health.

  1. Play more music. Record more music. Listen to more music. Sing more. – Do I even need to say any more? Music is the greatest healer, the best comforter and the number one thing to relax and bring a bit of joy. It’s also a powerful tool for social change. Case in point – Akala.
  2. Be sociable – Even if that means dragging people to the new house which is my comfort zone at the moment.
  3. Cook more – Making my own food is not only tasty and healthy, the process of cooking is also extremely therapeutic for me.

I’m still not even close to getting back to my normal self. I find it extremely exhausting trying to be “normal” for other people. It’s tiring to smile when I don’t want to. However, I’m actively forcing myself to take positive actions to improve my health so that I am smiling for real. It can be really hard and extremely scary, panic attack inducing even but it could also massively aid you in your recovery if you start to force yourself to do things that you’re scared of doing even though you know it’s good for you.

I’m determined to get better and I hope sharing my experiences will help you get better too.




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