“I suffer from some rather interesting mental health disorders (panic disorder, GAD, depression) that have changed the way I live my life. I’m 33 now and live with my wife and baby daughter in Cheshire. I currently produce a YouTube channel called “Vlog Therapy” documenting my mental health, sharing tips and techniques on how to deal with and improve your mental health as well as raising awareness and removing the stigma attached to mental health.
My channel is supported by a new and innovative, forward thinking UK mental health charity called Anxious Minds. I work closely with the charity and facilitate peer group sessions on behalf of the charity through google hangouts allowing other sufferers to get together twice weekly to share experiences, techniques for recovery as well as just letting each other know that we are never alone with mental health.
Let’s rewind to 2007. I was a young professional working in a high paid legal job. I would leave my owned home in a morning in my designer suit, make sure my shoes were shined and the knot in my tie was perfect before getting into my new car and driving to the office. I would spend my days fighting legal battles in court and with a 100% success record over a number of years. I was as confident as could be, well liked by my company and directors. I was happy and outside of work, I would be the front man in a successful band with venues full of people cheering for me. Everything was great. I had enough money to enjoy a hobby riding sports bikes and enjoyed around 3 holidays a year. The holidays are the last thing I remember about this life, in particular, my last holiday in this chapter of my life.
I woke up on the morning of my holiday boosted in the knowledge that in a few hours I would be sat on a beach somewhere miles away from work. I put my bags into the taxi and started to head to the airport. I’ll remember the next part until my dying day.
As the taxi headed towards the airport I looked out of the window and watched the world go by. All of sudden I felt my heart skip a beat and immediately after I felt short of breath like I was missing important breaths and having to remember to breathe. I started to panic and then out of nowhere, I felt the most incredible overwhelming urge to pee. Was I going to pee myself as an adult in a taxi? How far is it to the airport? What if I pass out? Oh my god I think I’m going to pee myself right now.
The trip to the airport, getting through security and boarding the plane was a cocktail of sweating, nearly wetting myself, nearly collapsing and enough suspicious awkward behaviour to attract the attention of some of the airport police. I could not control the sensations of panic and I didn’t know what to do.
A few weeks later I was off work, unable to leave the house and diagnosed with panic disorder. All I could think was what the hell am I going to do now? I’ll never work again, I’ll never leave the house! I’ll always be afraid. Why me?? I don’t deserve this. This only happens to other people. I’m too confident and doing too well in life for this. This cannot be happening to me now.
For around 5 years I tried multiple different drugs prescribed to me. None of them worked for me personally. I’d heard stories that drugs had worked for people and they enabled them to enjoy their lives and cope. But my drugs just made me angrier or like a zombie. Some drugs made me suffer from additional depression or lack of energy, some allowed me to function for part of my life but then created side effects like sexual dysfunction or unwanted aggression. It was such a confusing time as I would trust that the next wonder drug would be the one for me and then after going through the never ending transition from one drug to another I would be disappointed that my body just did not benefit from them. I would often become annoyed and jealous of other people’s success stories with prescribed medication. I just wanted to be fixed.
For a long time, I leaned on alcohol as a coping method. I started to work as a DJ and had a successful iTunes Radio show with over 500,000 subscribers worldwide. But when it came to performing in clubs I had no other coping strategy than to get drunk to perform. After a while, people started to notice that I couldn’t perform as well as I was drinking more to mask more anxiety and was getting too drunk to operate. I made the difficult decision to stop performing as a DJ and to stop drinking alcohol.
Around this time (2014) I found out that I was going to become a father for the first time. Wow! Scary stuff. But it was planned and welcomed. One of the hardest parts of being a stay at home dad with panic disorder was the lack of control. My daughter would decide how each day was going to unfold and I had very little control over deciding when I wanted to relax or when I wanted to sleep in. She was and still is a very active child that does not spend anytime in the day chilling out. She’s on the go constantly and being forced to care for someone all day began to chip away at me. We decided that nursery would work well for both of us. She could go and play with her friends all day in a safe and fun environment and I could do my own thing. This is when I started my YouTube channel and began volunteering for Anxious Minds charity. It was so nice to have the flexibility to spend as much time in the morning as I could with my daughter knowing she could go to the nursery and also if I got lonely and missed her in the afternoon I could pick her up early and play with her at home.
The Rock in all of this is my wife. She is the most understanding person and my best friend. We met working in a school for children with additional needs. I was a struggling teaching assistant trying to work and earn a living with anxiety and she was the headteacher. She had a full understanding mental health and was also young and beautiful which helped. Without her, I would never have been able to be where I am today. A person no longer just suffering from a mental health disorder, instead of a husband, dad, YouTuber, and volunteer, fighting panic disorder and winning.
Communication has been my best friend. By being open, honest and talking to people about my illness and how it affects me mentally, physically and how it affects my day to day life has made my life easier. Talking about your mental health is hard at first like any new activity but over time you get better and better at it, you learn techniques that suit your style of delivery better and eventually with lots of practice you become a pro.
I’ve shared a few of my deepest darkest secrets with you on here and I didn’t even think twice about it. I do the same in therapy and I do the same during my Google hangouts and on my YouTube channel “Vlog Therapy“. There are loads more to tell you and you will find more on my channel. The main point that I’m trying to make is that communication was the first step to finding my wife, becoming a dad, getting a new purpose in life, getting into therapy, getting better medication, learning about supplements and aromatherapy and all the other amazing things I have discovered that help me enjoy my life more. Communicating has enabled me to help hundreds of people feel like they are not alone and provided them with tips and techniques to enjoy their lives more or just relax more.
During the time I have had panic disorder, anxiety and depression I have had some extremely difficult times. But I have also achieved so much. My true self has always still been there. Fighting the illness and striving to explore, be creative and succeed. As a result, I have managed to get through a wedding, the birth of my child, being a stay at home dad, traveling around America having a successful YouTube channel, being a successful DJ, engaging with CBT therapy and much more. Yes, there were panic attacks and yes there were days where I felt like I was going to die. But I didn’t! And I didn’t give up and I never will. Because like you I can beat this negative pattern of thoughts.
I used to treat my illness like it wasn’t a part of me. Like is was a gremlin constantly trying to wreck my life. As soon as I realised that it was in fact inside me and that I could control it and change it and get rid of it slowly but surely I began to win and winning feels great. But the battle isn’t over yet. It will be a long journey. But you just have to take each day at a time and most of all stay positive and set achievable goals.
If you do one thing after reading this just try talking to someone about your mental health. It can help in so many ways and you will feel the instant relief from letting go. By making people more aware and helping them understand that it’s ok to suffer we can remove the stigma attached to mental health, adapt and move forward and everyone can be happy. Never lock it all in and never feel alone. We are all out here, going through similar issues and we are all on the same team. Let’s get together a bit more and support each other.
Thank you for reading. Positive vibes to you all.”
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