Adulthood

Adulthood is a weird thing. I’m turning 27 pretty soon and I have achieved very few of the things I wanted to when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty proud of the things I have achieved but lets be honest, how many of us can ever say that we’ve achieved everything that we wanted to by the time we’d “grown up”?

When I was a kid, I expected to have done all of these things by the time I was 25:

  1. Own my own house
  2. Own a car
  3. Be married
  4. Have a kid on the way
  5. Have a super high paying job where I didn’t have to be in an office but also didn’t have to do much work. (I didn’t understand how jobs worked back when I was 8)
  6. Go on 2 holidays a year
  7. Have a group of friends like in F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Now looking at my wishlist today, it’s kinda funny to think about how few of these I’ve managed to achieve. I am no where near owning my own house (I live in London and work in the charity sector. I’ve basically given up on owning a house in London…). I have no need for a car living and working where I do. I’ve been single for years which pretty much ruins the whole “be married and have a kid on the way” thing and I currently have a job where I’m currently in an office and do a lot of work and get paid less than I’d like. I only went on my first holiday in 10 years this March. I don’t really have a single specific group of friends but I do have incredible friends all over the country.

Some of these I’m more fussed about not achieving them than others. Some I’m kinda glad about not achieving and some, I have mixed feelings about.

Going on a few holidays a year was definitely something I’d have loved to do. But I spent years focused on trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I still haven’t figured it out so I’m pretty sure I wasted a bunch of years just waiting around.

I really wanted to own my own house. Or at the very least, I wanted to be living away. That said, I tried it and I didn’t do so well. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who was built to live with other humans. I would much prefer to have my own place where I could invite people round if I wanted to but also have my own space if I wanted to as well.

I’m super stoked about the friends I have so I’m not fussed about number 7 at all. I also don’t have the most well paid job in the world but the work that I’ve chosen to do is important and is hopefully making an impact on the world.

I’m single as someone can get and have been for a while. But for a long time, I wanted to be in a relationship because other people were in them. Now, I just don’t care. If I end up in a relationship, awesome, I’d be stoked. If I don’t, that means I can use all of my time and money and energy focused on myself and take risks and do what I want, when I want.

Adulthood is nothing like I expected it to be. I never expected to have mental health issues as an adult. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that my childhood views of adulthood were warped. I set myself a time limit and was disappointed when I didn’t meet them. But why are we all in such a rush to grow up? Why do we feel like we have to have done certain things by certain times? So what if someone you know is already married? So what if someone else has their own car? That doesn’t make your life any less awesome as it is.

The only thing that I’m super disappointed about in my life is that I’ve played it safe. I have played almost every part of my life safe for over a decade. The one thing that I need to learn to do is take more risks. And that is definitely something that I’m going to be working on this year.

My main message for this meandering, rambly post though is don’t be disappointed that you haven’t achieved everything that you wanted to at this point in your life. Life isn’t that easy. It throws curveballs your way all the time. There is no time limit for success. You can define success any way you like. Just don’t judge whether or not you’re successful based on other people’s lives.

A

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.

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

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.

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

High Functioning Anxiety and Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A

 

 

 

 

Introverts, Extroverts And The Weird Ones In Between

So I’m up in Newcastle at the moment, staying with some friends over the next few days to catch up, relax and enjoy the city that I love so much. The people here that I’m visiting are amazing. I love them like they’re my own brothers and sisters. They ground me, lift my confidence and my spirits but are also not afraid to take me down a peg or two if I’m being a knob. They’re perfect friends. I met almost all of them through my old volunteering days and those are the days that made me do a whole lot of thinking.

DSC_0018.JPG

Seriously, look how majestic this place is. 

As I’m sure you’ve read in the title, I want to talk about the types of personality there are. Particularly introverts and extroverts. Now, a lot of people just think that extroverts are highly social party animals and introverts are recluses who don’t mix well with other human beings. Occasionally that can be true but I personally feel like it’s a little more complex than that.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it (it was most likely on a random post on Facebook) but the post said that extroverts get their energy from other people while introverts get their energy from themselves. I like this way of thinking about it. Extroverts are in their element when they’re around other extroverts and sometimes may struggle to spend extended periods of time in their own company. Introverts relish their time alone and that gives them a sense of comfort and contentment, but again, they may struggle when dropped in a large group setting.

Almost all the people who know me would consider me an extrovert. When I’m around people, I’m generally very chatty, I can be loud, brash and a little rowdy (especially after a few pints). I’ve always considered myself an introvert. It may be due to my mental ill-health, it may not be. I love my time alone. I make sure that I give myself time to just be with my thoughts or to do simple little things just for myself. Sometimes, if I’m already at home, I flat out won’t make plans so I can stay at home. When someone else cancels plans with me, I’m almost always pretty pleased about it as I can throw on my pajamas and watch a film. Obviously I’d have loved to have seen the person or else I wouldn’t have made the plans but cancelled plans just means I have more me time. I’m not even a fan of texting or calling people anymore. Like, I won’t flat out ignore anyone, but I’ll avoid checking my messages for a few days at a time.

Recently though, I’ve begun to think about myself as an ambivert. A nice balance between the two. At work I’m usually upbeat and lively, especially if I’m delivering a session/working with a large group. And even though my anxiety usually skyrockets and eventually leaves me physically and emotionally drained, for a short period, I get my energy from being around those people and working with them. But then as soon as I get home, I just want to eat, play some games and sleep with no more contact from the outside world.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense right now as it’s 11pm and I’m half asleep, but to me, being an ambivert (or at the very least, moving from introverted to ambiverted) strikes a perfect balance. It’s what I’m working towards. I am not naturally extroverted, despite what others may say about me so I’m trying to learn to be that way. It’ll allow me to meet more amazing people, experience new things. I’m also trying to stay true to my introverted roots by allowing myself to shut away from the rest of humanity.

When I was volunteering, I was super introverted at first. I never approached anyone until I got to know them. There were 100 of us at a training weekend and that terrified me. I waited for people to approach me and was even more scared that no one would approach me. Luckily I attracted amazing people, the people I’m visiting right now. They managed to start pulling the extrovert out of me and I’m grateful for it. Without them I’d not be transforming into an ambivert and to be honest I’d probably be a proper hermit by now.

There’s nothing wrong with being either an introvert or an extrovert, but for me, I am really looking forward to being someone in the middle. It’s a fine line for me, but I’m prepared to walk that line if it means it’ll help me become a better, more rounded and braver person.

Also I need people to go see films with and eat nice food with. Mainly that.

A