Don’t Meet Your Heroes… Unless They’re Wonderful.

You know how almost all of us have people we want to meet? Usually it’s celebrities. Sports stars, musicians, scientists, you know the type. But when was the last time you had someone “regular” that you wanted to meet? A regular Joe/Jane. A person who you’ve seen around or maybe spoken to once or twice online?

It doesn’t happen often does it? But for me, it happened! It all started with one of my favourite people [A] in the world who’s always supported this blog, my videos, my life in general including supporting me through break ups, awkward encounters, my lowest most depressed and anxious moments.

She knew someone who had been struggling with their mental health [B] and she put us in touch. She also shared my posts on here, Facebook and Instagram. We started chatting nearly 2 years ago on and off and she is fantastic. Life has dealt her a bit of a shit hand but she has always powered through. Despite everything that she’s gone through, she is still going. And one thing I really, wholeheartedly, absolutely respect her for is sharing. We’ve had a fair few conversations about mental health. About her own and about mine. She spoke really openly and honestly with me very early on in our friendship and she knows exactly how much strength that takes. How much energy it takes to do that. How terrifying it can be. But she did it. And I’m so glad she opened up to me because I am so proud and honoured to consider her a friend.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog is fully aware how much I value the sharing of all of our mental health struggles. It’s something that I think we all need to do more to help remove that stigma. It helps us all feel much more comfortable sharing our struggles. It doesn’t have to be public like what I’m doing. It can just be sharing with one person you trust, but please do share. It will lighten the load.

Anyway, back to the point. Yesterday I got to meet Miss B and she is just as amazing and inspiring as I knew she would be. Everyone always says “don’t meet your heroes, you’ll only be disappointed”. But you know what? Sometimes you can and should meet your heroes. Miss A is one of my heroes and she introduced me to Miss B who is now one of my latest heroes and I’m very grateful for it. A little extra joy was brought into my life today and I am very glad I met one of my heroes.

Twitter Time!

So I’m a big fan of I Fucking Love Science. I think it’s a great website/Facebook page that busts myths and shares knowledge (and also have some very entertaining articles about flat earthers).  But the other day, they shared a post about a tweet. This tweet:

So according to her Twitter bio, Hattie is a lifestyle writer at Metro UK and writes regularly about mental health. This is one of her recent articles which I really enjoyed reading:

An open letter to anyone currently struggling with their mental health

I am now officially a Hattie Gladwell fan and will be looking forward to seeing more of her articles!

But that aside, the tweet above is what I want to talk about. Hattie set the wheels in motion a very long, sad but also reassuring thread all about the things that people have said about mental health. The responses range from things friends and family have said, to doctors and other mental health professionals. Some of the things are heart breaking and rage inducing. Like this one:

Now, I’ve not had any comments this extreme about my mental health but I know full well that this kind of comment is all too common. I’ve had tons of friends tell me stories just like Amy’s. As I was reading through all these tweets, all I could think about were all the people who have made shitty comments to me. Comments like “If you really wanted to get over your depression, you would have by now.”. There’s so much shit going around and I started to think again about how people are arseholes. But then I started reading through responses to each comment and it reminded me how wonderful the mental health community is. Almost every post had messages of support and reassurance (and a lot of “oh my God, I had the same thing”).

If you’re interested in mental health, which you probably are if you’re here, I’d highly recommend reading through this thread. It’ll help remind you that you’re not alone. Lots of people go through the same thing and this may help you realise that sometimes you have to exorcise toxic people from your life.

One big thing that I did notice though, was that the majority of the tweets were from women. I looked through close to 100 of the responses and found very few men. This makes me pretty sad that so few men were on this thread when the statistics show that adult men are much more likely to commit suicide. I would love to see the stigma disappear so that men would be able to feel more comfortable talking  about their mental health.

Anyway, I’ve had a job interview today and I’m tired. I’m off to get some sleep. Please check out the Twitter thread and please remember, you don’t have to put up with bell ends talking shit to you.

 

 

Brain Freeze

So I’ve not really been on the radar much over the last few months. I’ve barely written on here, I’ve not made a video for over six months and I’ve not really even seen any of my friends.

Now the vast majority of my friends know what’s been going on with my life and completely understand why I’ve not been around but I’ve not really spoken much about my mental health and how that’s been affected.

So if you’ve read any of my most recent posts, you’ll know a lot has been going on. While I try my best to stay positive and keep my mood up and keep going with everyday things, I am finding it extremely difficult. This is neither a call for attention or a cry for help. I’ll be fine. However, I’ve always believed that sharing my experiences may help others who are going through a similar situation.

Right now my brain is a big ol’ pile of scrambled nonsense. My memory is shocking. Long and short term memory has suffered a lot recently. My brain has decided that remembering things isn’t what I should be focusing on right now. I’ve forgotten things from years ago which people have been telling me about and forgotten things from yesterday which I need to know to get shit done.

My body and mind are constantly tired right now and while I’m exhausted, I’m struggling to sleep. There are a lot of evenings where I’m too tired to even eat, but too buzzed and awake to sleep. This has made work really really difficult. In my job, I’m required to be cheery, happy and personable and right now, I’m just finding that really tough. And that is by far the thing that drains me the most.

My motivation is at an all time low. I don’t want to do anything other than sit home and play videogames. I don’t want to think, I don’t want to work. I am so exhausted, so drained and so demotivated that the idea of applying for a new job is inconceivable.

At the same time, I’m being made redundant. Which you’d think would be good considering where my mind is at the moment. I know I want to take a break from work to look after my brain but at the same time, my brain is in overdrive worrying about where my next paycheck is coming from and what I want to do with my life.

Finally, I don’t want to see people. Even my closest friends. On the flip side, however, I want to be with my friends and want them to know that I’m not avoiding them and that I’m not angry or upset with them. This is arguably the hardest. Logically I know my friends are the most supportive people in the world and won’t ever think that but there’s the other part of my brain that worries that if I don’t see them, if I’m not in contact with them, they’ll not only stop checking in on me or stop inviting me to things but also that they’ll forget me entirely.

Now I know that all of this is a big mess in my mind. Thoughts that can’t be sorted, feelings that can’t be organised. But in time, those feelings and thoughts will sort themselves out. I just need to let my brain remember how to function. I just need to let my brain take a break and reboot. My brain has crashed and I just need to take the time to ctrl-alt-del my life back in order. And that’s okay.

A

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

So I’m not going to write a long post today. I’m very tired and very ready to go back to bed for about 9 days. It’s the time of the year where I (and many others) feel the most pressure to go out, get pissed and have a “good time” paying double for drinks and being crammed into a venue or someone’s house.

For the last few years at New Year’s I stayed in. On my own. Playing games and watching Jool’s Holland and I’m going to do that again this year. I’m not going to feel guilty for looking after my brain on this day and I don’t think you should either! Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go out and party, by all means go for it! We should all be able to do what we want without any guilt and without any pressure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-42411707/staying-in-this-new-year-you-re-not-alone

I was recently in this video with the BBC talking about New Year’s with two other people with mental health problems which I think  you should definitely check out if you can.

New Year’s is just another day.

Either way, whatever you decide to do, happy New Year!

A

2017 – A year of ups and downs.

So if you’ve read my most recent posts, you’ll know that life has been a bit mental this year. I was made redundant from a job, someone I respected passed away, my gran became really ill. More recently I found out I was being made redundant again and my gran passed away this weekend. All in all this year has been a bit of a shitter.

However many downs there have been I think it’s also important to remember the ups too. Good things have happened this year and whether they’re big or small, I think they’re worth mentioning. So after four days away seeing some amazing people in Newcastle, I’m trying to refocus and re-evaluate life. Before I start spilling my brain all over this blog though, here are some of the big and little things that I’m grateful for.

The Big Stuff:

My Friends

The fact that I know I could go to Newcastle and stay with two amazing people any time I need to is amazing. The fact that so many of my friends have been checking in with me and have been kind enough to offer me beer, food, a comforting ear, a day of singing and music or a conversation to take my mind off life is massively appreciated. One of my friends is even spending Christmas with me this year and will be flying over from Australia. Most importantly though, none of my friends have made me feel bad about skipping out on social things to take time for my brain and my family.

My Family

No one likes their family 100% of the time but I really think most people genuinely love their families. I really do love my family. I don’t always show it and I definitely could do more for my family. But if this year has shown me anything, it’s that my family is great (not that I didn’t know it before). Whether it’s the family a few doors down or family from across the world this year has made my family even tighter than before. I appreciate my family a lot.

My Job

Okay so I’m being made redundant but one thing I’m really grateful for is how flexible they’ve been with me. I’ve been allowed to work from home whenever I need it and leave at 5pm and finish the day at home. My colleagues have been amazingly understanding and I’m really grateful that I ended up in such a good team.

The Little Things:

Video Games

So the little things might seem trivial but I’m going to start with video games. I love video games. I play with people I’ve never met online and I play games that friends have recommended me and I talk to them about the game constantly. It might seem silly for a lot of people but for me, especially this year, videogames have been a fantastic escape for me into a fantasy world or twelve.

Internet

Okay so I’m not talking about social media or YouTube or anything. I’m talking about broadband and WiFi. I was paying a silly amount of money for internet that was barely working. But I changed WiFi provider and I now have super fast super reliable internet. So yeah it allows me to enjoy things like Netflix and YouTube which is another great escape.

My Camera

I’m not the most active on YouTube any more and I’m not the greatest film maker or photographer in the world but fuck me, taking the camera out for a day of shooting video or doing a photography tour is absolutely amazing fun.

Sidenote: If you’d like to come along on a photography tour of London with me for the amazing Project Parent come along to the event page here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/181144485778845/

So as I mentioned at the start, 2017 has been a bit of a shitter, but it’s not all been bad. Thanks to everyone who’s made my 2017 slightly more bearable and occasionally a whole lot of fun. Still though, fuck 2017.

Insomnia strikes again. 

As I’m writing this it’s 2:26am. I’ve been lying in bed since just before 10pm and sleep has eluded me once again. I had around 3 hours sleep last night. I’m meant to be getting up in under 5 hours for work.

Life has been a bit of a shit storm in 2017 which you can read about in a previous post somewhere on my blog. It feels like there have been more downs than ups. It’s hit me hard. I’m struggling to focus on anything, my depression has got infinitely worse and my anxiety is through the roof.

It’s a classic combination. Depression exhausts me physically and mentally which makes my anxiety worse. My anxiety then makes me too anxious to sleep and so I get more tired and my depression gets worse. My insomnia has reached a point where I can’t sleep at any time of the day.

Usually if I’m a bit knackered I can nap any time any where. Recently, even if I’m in my comfy beanbag with a duvet on listening to asmr keyboard sounds I can’t nap for shit. At night in bed I’m constantly tossing, turning and thinking. And that’s the problem. I can’t stop thinking. My brain is on overdrive at the moment and it’s absolutely crushing me. I’m sure there’ll be people telling me I should switch off my phone, stop writing this post and just get away from the screen but I did that for hours to no avail.

Insomnia for me is one of those things where I know the causes but even when I put things in place to prevent them or solve them it just doesn’t seem to work. I’ve even exhausted myself to the point I’ve cancelled all of my social plans this week. 

One of the things that worries me the most is my job. They’re supportive for sure. But in my head all I’m thinking is that they’re going to be angry at me for not coming in, that they’re talking about me behind my back when I’m not in and that I’m taking the mick. I’m constantly worrying about the people I may be letting down and the things I feel like I should be doing.

But what should I be doing? Part of my brain tells me “stop. Rest. Recover”. The other, louder part of my brain just keeps telling me “ohhhhh man. You done fucked up this time. Work is going to crucify you. They’re going to be so mad. You better get your shit together. Also you suck at life.”

I have to constantly remind myself it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to be ill. It’s okay to feel like shit and to be completely and utterly broken. One day, some time soon (hopefully), I’ll be strong enough, well enough to fix myself. And for those of you going through the same things, you will be too. 

A

The Inexplicable Rage of Alex

So recently with all that’s been going on in my life I’ve noticed a bit of a change in myself which I’m not particularly happy with. I’ve found myself becoming angry over some of the smallest things. I feel like my senses have grown more sensitive to smells, light, sound and touch. So whether I’m sitting in my office or on my train I’ve been keeping my sunglasses and my headphones on to try to block out as many external factors as possible.

I think I know some of the factors that are really affecting me are the crazy personal circumstances that I’ve got going on right now and the distinct lack of quality sleep. Insomnia is a big factor but even the nights where I’m able to sleep I wake up several times. Even though I know the issue, I’m finding it pretty hard to manage it and it’s affected how I deal with regular every day situations. It’s made me grumpy AF (that’s what the cool kids say right?).

So here are some of the regular every day things that I am finding rage inducing at the moment.

  1. Being able to hear people eat even if they’re quiet.
  2. Having to speak to pretty much anyone.
  3. Someone sitting next to me on the train.
  4. Said person being inconsiderate enough to repeatedly hit me with her bag and constantly nudge me as she gorged on the worlds biggest bag of crisps.
  5. Every time anyone in the office says anything.
  6. People saying literally anything that I disagree with even slightly.
  7. People who walk slower than me in the street.
  8. The sound of a train approaching the platform.
  9. Trains.
  10. Not being able to decide what to have for lunch.

So yeah, some of these things are pretty irritating. But while I haven’t had any outbursts yet, I get very very agitated over them. Disproportionately agitated. The loathing I feel for the people/objects is unreal. I’m trying really hard to manage this anger and make sure that I don’t lose it in public but that’s proving very very difficult.

My question to you all is, if you’re ever feeling angry about the smallest things, how do you calm yourself down?

A

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.