Chris – The Interview

What condition(s) do you live with?

I currently suffer with anxiety and depression.

How long have you been living with it/them?

I have suffered for longer than I probably thought if I am honest with myself. It is probably nearly 10 years now I look back at how I acted and how I felt. I did the typical male stereotype of pushing down feelings and pretending not to have any.

How does it affect you?  What does a good day look like?

On a good day I could be the most optimistic person you could meet. I have always had a dream of having a novel published. However, I do let myself down in my belief that I can carry it out. Even when I am happy and smiley deep down I am still overthinking every person and every action through the day. Even on a good day the effects are still there but just less prominent in my mind. 

What about a bad day, what does that look like?

A bad day for me is the worst day for people to see me, even friends, family and partner. I will get sunk into a low mood that will take hours or days to get out of, whether it is how I am treated certain days or an aspect of life that I am not happy with. I become very short tempered and irritable, this is an aspect I really do not like even when I feel bad for the people I aim this towards.

Sometimes I will not do much on a bad day, even as a fitness instructor and someone who enjoys being active, all of that will be drained from my mind and body. I am very emotional, but I try to hide this hence the short answers and frustration towards people, not in actual anger towards them but inner anger of myself for letting myself feel the way I do.

Some days that the problems life throws me (in my opinion) is all too much. I feel like I want to just end everything and just make it much simpler for myself. But I know that on myself, my partner and family that would be a selfish act.

How does it affect work/family/friends/etc

My condition affects my partner greatly. I don’t like to see her upset or frustrated in the fact she cannot fix the problem with me as quickly as she would like. However, I would like to say she has been my rock through all that I have gone through and would not probably be here without her. All of my family have been supportive which I am truly blessed for as I know not everybody has this support system in place when they go through something like this. But the overriding feeling of both family and my partner is frustration. They want to help and fix what is wrong it’s just human nature I feel. I do not like making them feel this way but that is the unfortunate way of this condition it makes you very selfish in terms of centring everything going on around yourself.

My work place has been very hard to be around during this low period as it is a lively place where people expect you to be up and energetic. Again, the unfortunate part of this is you do not feel like being that person on a bad day. It is hard to focus on daily tasks and being around so many people during a work day makes me even more conscious. I had to take a 16-week absence from work to try and fix myself and get the help I needed. I do not feel workplaces are equipped to deal with this issue in house and I did not feel able to open up and carry on working during this hard period around 4 months ago.

What kinds of methods or treatments do you use to cope?  What is most effective?

The simplest method I use is straight forward. I talk. My partner is so understanding and such a good listener to everything I have to say. Even when I feel I may be sounding like a broken record with the same issues repeatedly. I know I am lucky again to have this close support by me and I know it is not available to everyone. I realise I am more blessed than others to be in the situation I am.

Another method I find helpful is writing out the issues I had each day. This helps me to pour out all that is rattling around inside my head. This allows clearer thought which is what I need when I am having a bad day, and everything seems to be piling on top of me. It can be any issue however bug or small, I just jot them down in my pad and get all my moans out for the day.

What is least effective?

The least effective method I used was prescribed to me by my doctor. He could not prescribe me anti-depressants any quicker if he tried when I explained what was wrong. That was after he belittled me and said how can young, good looking (not sure if he was being sarcastic) man be depressed about anything. That straight away put my barriers up towards him and stopped all forms of communication with him. The medication may work for others but for myself I found no benefit. I think everyone must be treated as an individual and not just tick boxed a pill and hope for the best.  

If there was one thing you could say to someone going through the same condition(s) as you, what would it be?

My advice to anyone suffering with this horrible condition is please do not suffer in silence. Somebody cares, and somebody will help you. It may not feel that way some days and I know that all to well. The worst thing you can do is ignore the way you feel and hope that it will go away, it won’t. Like I said before I am no expert in this field and I will never claim to be, but I know what worked for me. If that could work for someone else, then fantastic.

There are services out there that I have used provided by the NHS for counselling and advice on how to cope, or even if you need someone to lend you an ear for your problems. Use everything possible to try and resolve your underlying issues as that is the only way that you will ever be able to break free of pain and become more like the you, that you used to know.

What would your advice be to people trying to support people with your condition(s)?

First off, anyone trying to help someone in this condition, well done. Without those who try to help, the one’s who suffer would be left in a pit of despair. Again, I can only use my experiences to guide my answer. I would say just be there, it’s that simple. If the person wants you to listen to sit and listen they don’t always want advice they just want to know that someone cares enough to give their time to listen to them. Patience is a virtue, if you have it then again that is a bonus. Listening to someone that has the same issues day in and day out could be exhausting to listen to.

Please don’t get frustrated with those suffering as these issues are the crux that holds them back to being themselves. I know it will be hard to watch and hear someone you love or care about dwell and stoop into a pit of unending light. You can bring them back. If you struggle, I would advise again to use the NHS services provided as they helped me when I had no one around to talk to.  

Have you got any final thoughts?

I feel that men’s mental health has too much stigma around it. It needs to be treated as a seriously as an illness would, however I do see any mental issues as an illness. The suicide rate in young men scares me, the fact that so many young men feel an easy way out is better than trying to work out their issues. I think it’s time for men to drop the bravado of having no feelings and see it is acceptable to struggle with daily life. The phrase ‘man up’ is thrown around all too much as it is seen as weakness to have any issues. Shut up and carry on culture is far to dangerous now.

It’s time that people spoke to each other, whether virtually or over a coffee. Drop the act and be human beings. We’re not the machines we use daily we are people with feelings and problems. There is nothing wrong with that. More coverage and exposure need to happen around men’s mental health issues. I am just using my own point of view and experiences. It was hard for me to find the right channels and to build the courage to ask for that help but once I did I found it far much easier to cope. YOU CAN DO IT!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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