Mental Health Awareness Week: Tag

So it’s come round again pretty swiftly but we’re slap bang in the middle of MHAW.

The delightful Becca has tagged me to talk about my mental health. You should go check out her post here. First things first, thank you to Becca for sharing her story, answering these questions and helping to make talking about your mental health normal. Now, I’m sure regular readers will know a fair bit about my journey but here goes! (Warning, this is going to be a long one.)

  • What mental illness do you have?

I have depression and anxiety.

  • When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18 and still in college. The anxiety was when I was around 22.

  • Who knows about it?

Almost everyone I know. I try to be as open and honest about it as possible though that doesn’t always happen! The first person who knew was my ex who to this day I’m grateful to for supporting me and getting me the help I needed. We don’t speak anymore but I’ll always be thankful for helping me to get better! The first friend who I told about it was one of my closest friends and my sister from another mister. That was the hardest thing for me, just coming to terms with it all. I was so scared that it would alienate me from other people because I wasn’t normal.

  • Do you receive treatment for it?

I’m currently on a pretty decent dosage of Fluoxetine (I think it’s called Prozac in the states). I’ve been on more different tablets than I can count and have gone to counselling multiple times but believe it or not, the idea of talking about it to help me recover is still quite scary.

  • Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything?

My anxiety and depression stop me from doing a lot of different things. Though I’m outwardly a very chatty person, I despise meeting new people fearing that they may hate me. It regularly stops me from going out and socialising with friends. So often, I decide to stay at home rather than see people I really want to as I’m so scared of talking to people that I don’t know. My mental illnesses also stop me from doing some really basic things too. It often leaves my body completely exhausted and I sometimes struggle to get out of bed, speak, eat, drink or even breathe sometimes. I’ve also (not for a while, thankfully) once left a restaurant because I couldn’t decide what to eat.

  • Is there anything in particular that has helped you?

Music, art, comic books, videogames and volunteering. Oh and food. I love food. Music is my favourite way to unwind and calm myself down. I love to sing and play. There’s something very therapeutic about creating something. Whether it’s a piece of music, a piece of art, a delicious dish. Or just saving the universe from monsters and aliens. Of course the other huge thing that helps me is having good people around me. Friends and family are not to be taken for granted. Whenever I need it, I seem to get a text or call from my best friends. Whenever I go home to see my family, we chat all night, we eat and watch Grand Designs. My work also helps me greatly. It’s a job I love and getting to work with and support other young people to help their communities and themselves gives me endless pleasure.

  • Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness?

It feels like a prison of thoughts. Every single interaction I have, whether professional or social is an absolute ball ache. I go through all the possible scenarios that could possibly come out of this interaction. What if I say something that offends them? What if I say something embarrassing? It’s exhausting. It’s a constant feeling of ineptitude and inability to function normally. It’s comparing myself to everyone else in society and to societal norms and trying to fit those molds. It’s like an elephant standing on my chest and daggers poking my brain. It’s more often than not a complete numbness to everything in the world. Pleasure is an uncommon thing and it’s very rare that I feel truly happy to be alive but I want to get back to being happy again.

  • What is a common misconception about your mental illness?

That it’s as easy as flipping a switch to turn it off. The number of times that I’ve been told to just get over it and stop being so miserable is impossible to count. It’s also the least helpful thing in the world. If I could do that I would do that in an instant. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who would want to suffer with depression and anxiety. I know so many people who I’ve worked with, volunteered with, spoken to online who are fighting the same fight as me and it’s probably the most common thing that is said to us. 13245324_1854977518062911_6991456438909472387_n.png

  • What do you find the most difficult to deal with?

The guilt. It’s unfounded, unfortunate and irrational. I would never feel guilty for breaking my leg and not being able to do something yet for some reason, not being able to bring myself to go out and see people because of my mental illnesses fills me with so much guilt. I feel guilty that I miss birthdays, gatherings, parties, dinners. I struggle to do any of that stuff unless I’m in control and I’ve planned every detail and know exactly who is and isn’t going to be there. I feel so guilty for letting people down and disappointing people but if it was the other way round, I wouldn’t ever feel like they were letting me down. They’re just looking after themselves.

  • Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

First, thanks for reading this far! It’s always a struggle to talk about these things so openly but it’s important that I do. I would love for more people to do the same so that I can make sure that we’re not going to be stuck feeling bad about our illnesses. As always, just make sure that you ask your friends how they are. Offer to support each other, look after each other, be kind to one another and make sure that there’s always love and compassion at the forefront of your mind.

Also, just generally don’t be a dick.

As this is mental illness tag, I’m tagging everyone who’s reading this. Drop it in the comments below if you’re comfortable doing it or write a blog post of your own. Otherwise, please feel free to like, comment and follow me for more mental health posts. 🙂

A

We need to talk about your kids.

Dear adults,

I’m 24 years old, working at a charity aiming to get more young people involved with social action and I love my job. Outside of work, I try to volunteer as much as I can, I play music, I sing and I try to make people as happy as I can, however I can. I love to learn about science and technology. I’m a smart phone tinkerer and computer enthusiast. I love comic books and I love food, cooking and eating. When I’m not at work I’m an introvert. I’m happy in my own company and big groups of people I don’t know make me extremely anxious. At work, I’m more than happy to make myself look like an asshat so that the people I work with don’t feel the way I feel in new situations.

Your children, your friends children and the children of the people you barely/don’t know are just like me and also completely different. Your kids share a lot of my hopes, dreams and passions and also a whole lot of my fears, worries and anxieties.

I’m writing to you to try to convince you to allow your children to make their own choices in life. Chances are, you’re good parents who only want the best for them. They have unlimited potential that they can only reach if they have someone believes in their vision, their decisions and their passions. I worked with a group yesterday who told me so many stories which inspired me and broke my heart at the same time. They feel pressured to follow traditional education routes when their passions lie in the creative fields, they feel pressured to make money to become “successful”. The men in the room feel like they can’t be themselves, show their emotions and show they care. The women in the room feel like they either have to sit quietly and act “ladylike” or have to shout and be a “bitch” to get their voices heard. But when we debate together with peers, there’s a mutual respect for everyone’s beliefs.

These are the values that you’ve managed to instill in the current generation. But these are also values that we all fail to respect and show. The young adults that we have in this country and all around the world are not the lazy, rude, apathetic people that your peers may paint us to be. We are proud, passionate, creative people who are fixing the problems created by generations past. We don’t care all that much about who caused these problems in the first place. All we care about is that everyone whether they created the problems or not, work together to fix it. They’re doing their bit. What are you doing? Convince your peers to listen to reason. To talk to our young people. Work with us. Respect us. We are well informed. We dig around and find facts that aren’t often reported in traditional media. We’re the experts in the digital age, the age of information and we’re happy to help.

I alone, have thousands of ideas floating in my head. I find it hard to articulate them all in this post. But I can guarantee you, your kids, your friends kids, kids you don’t even know have even more. One of the young people I spoke to yesterday said that we’ve always been told that you need to play the game to change the game. After a little discussion we decided that we’re no longer going to play your games. We’re making our own and it’s about to become very popular. We know full well that there are textbook answers to issues in the world but we’ve read the textbook and clearly they’re not effective. We’re writing a new one. We could use some support.

If, after reading this, you’re not convinced, at the very least, don’t forget that we’re going to be the ones that will be looking after you when you’re old. It’s much much harder to do if we don’t have everything we need to do that.

Yours Sincerely,

Alex Quang

 

Do you have anything you’d like to say to the “adults” of the world? Drop it in the comments and let them know!

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

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

#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! 🙂

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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

A post shared by Alex Quang (@alexquang) on

On Your Mind update and the new challenge!

It’s been a long long time since I last posted! Sorry to all who read, but I’m hopefully going to be back on track pretty soon.

As you all know, I’ve been working on collecting some stuff for a new project #OnYourMind which is still happening! It’s just taking a bit of time to collect a bunch of stories. It will be launching pretty soon and it’ll be a limited run of hopefully around five or six posts!

I’ve also set myself a new challenge on Instagram which you can follow me on from the top of this page called the #CheerUpChallenge. One of the reasons I’ve not been posting as much is because my depression has been extremely trying recently and once I finish work I don’t have enough energy to do anything else. The challenge is going to be simple. Make a conscious effort to do the things that make me feel better!

If you’d like to take part too, feel free! @ me on Instagram and use the hashtag #CheerUpChallenge!

I will be back soon, I promise!

A

Neglecting Blogs Is Bad For The Soul

Again I’ve neglected to write on here recently. I’ve been trying hard to relax and take it easy and completely forgot to blog! I’ve definitely felt a bit of a hole in my weekly schedule without the blog.

So today, I’m going to go back to the idea behind a previous post of mine. Appreciation. I’m going to be writing about the things that I’ve appreciated over the last week or so. These can be the big things like a huge event or the little things like someone smiling at me in the street. So lets get started.

1. My Basic Human Rights

I’m well aware that my family and I aren’t super rich. But we earn and we have everything we need. Food, water and shelter. I’m able to live comfortably with a fair few extra luxuries as well but I never forget how lucky I am to have these things. 
I’m also free to say and do what I like (with the obvious exceptions of murder etc.). People won’t always agree with my opinions but it’s their right not to. I can belong to a faith if I so choose, but at the same time, it’s totally fine if I don’t. 

2. Music

I’ve been diving back into going to gigs recently with tons more to come. There’s nothing better than live music. That feeling of the bass hitting you right in the chest, the anticipation of the act coming on stage, the buzz you get from the crowd. You can’t beat it! Even if I’m not at a gig, I’ve been writing, recording and singing lots of songs. It’s a relaxing task which I can do at home whenever I like! 

3. Science and Technology

There’s no denying that technology is taking over. People are spending more and more time on their phones, computers, tablets and games consoles these days. Scientists have even found that people suffer from lack of concentration and increased anxiety when they’re separated from their phones for even a short amount of time. It’s not all good, but what I do appreciate is the time, energy and effort that goes into developing technology and science. Phones these days have more computing power than the systems used to send humankind to the moon. When I think of the huge steps in innovation that people are achieving these days it fascinates me, especially when we think about the real world applications that are possible!

4. The Tolerance of Society

Another thing that I really have started appreciating is how tolerant people are these days. Sure, in isolated incidents people are intolerant, even with the rise of less tolerant political groups, they’re still outnumbered. I’m also very appreciative of how intolerant people are of bulls***. #FoxNewsFacts took over twitter recently and it showed how people were absolutely unwilling to accept the rubbish “news” that Fox news are spouting. 
Don’t forget to appreciate the little things that happen throughout the week! We’re powered by positivity. 
A

Blue Christmas

Christmas is a holiday which is widely associated with a fantastical magical feeling of good will, gift giving, love and joy. But is it always? Not for plenty of people.

There are Thousands less fortunate than me who are going to be sending Christmas alone, be it in a big empty house or on the street and we should try our best not to forget that. Remember all the things we’re grateful for and try not to take anything for granted. Health included.

I bang on a lot about mental health and in my opinion its for good reason. Mental ill health can make even the most joyous of occasions dull, horrible and scary. For the last six or seven years or so I’ve struggled at this time of year. Lots of people do but for different reasons.

This time of year is where I feel loneliest, despite the good spirit and the family that I have around me. I love my family and I know my family loves me, but I never feel comfortable with them. I’ve virtually nothing in common with any of them. It’s something I’ve felt for a long long time, but it’s extremely clear and very obvious when I’m forced, one day a year to spend it in the sole presence of my family.

It’s something I just can’t explain. That’s the place that I feel most alone, when I’m surrounded by people who love me most. However, while I’m uncomfortable, lonely and horrendously awkward at this time of year, I am still grateful.

Grateful to have family at all, grateful to my friends, grateful to have food on my plate and grateful to be alive. I’m not a fan of spending Christmas day with my family. But for one day a year, I’m happy to sit through a day of good food, bad games and even worse music and tv. It’s significantly tougher than even the most taxing days at work, but it’s worth it to see my family have a good time. Besides, it’s not unusual that the more I pretend to have a good time, for parts of the day I do end up enjoying myself.

Other people have it much tougher than I do though. Mine is just one example of depression and mental ill health taking over the holidays. If you know someone who’s going through a particularly tough time this holiday season, make sure that you’re there for them. It’s always easier to get through things knowing you’ve got someone in your corner.

And for those who struggle with these kinds of things and particularly over-thinking which I’m sure plenty of us do. Have a look at this little gem, courtesy of CollegeHumor.

Christmas is always blue for me, but blue isn’t all bad. I really get time to reflect on what’s important, who’s important and what I can do to get to the point I can genuinely enjoy the holidays again. Besides, blue is one of my favourite colours.

A

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