The Struggle is Real

by Jozef Hamilton

 

So, this is something I thought I would be writing in much better circumstances.

 

I had initially planned upon writing about my struggles with anxiety and mental health one year on from my previous article for the better. Funnily enough, that was the last piece of writing I have done in almost exactly one year to the posting date, so forgive me if these old bones are rusty.

 

I felt really good about opening up and I still do.

 

I felt really good until I was showing my GP fresh self harm scars a few weeks ago, something I haven’t done in over a decade.

 

I felt really good until I was legitimately worried that there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow.

 

I felt really good until I realised that maybe I can’t handle this alone.

 

Something that I haven’t been entirely honest with a number of people was how dangerously close I was to becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s no lie that I’ve punched in my party time throughout the last couple of years since moving to Glasgow. For a while I was legitimately using this as a form of escape, looking forward to that next buzz. Why worry about a lingering voice of self doubt and destruction when I can poison myself and become emotionally mute? Even if just for a few hours.

 

The name for my struggles was christened ‘Brenda’ in my previous post, a way for me to put a face to the monster that lives under the bed. I’m sad to report that Brenda didn’t suffer an unfortunate fall down the escalators in Primark or get done in by the young team outside of the McDonald’s on Jamaica Street. Nah, sadly Brenda somehow managed to source a megaphone and has whacked the shit out of me harder than an associate of Tonya Harding.

 

Reflecting back on last year’s doubts, it has become less a case of “You’re not good enough” and now a case of, “no one will give a fuck if you disappear, so why not just save everyone the bother?” And I’d love to say that I can always brush that off as just having a self destructive side to my character but honestly, being in a dark place for so long, you can only begin to see darkness and inhale the toxic fumes. Being trapped in a never ending cyclone of negative thoughts is a very, very exhausting way of existing and until recently, I was putting up a pretty decent fight.

 

Living in our social media dominated world isn’t exactly helping either. I’ve had to take a few breaks within the last year or so just so I can gather my own thoughts and process what exactly I’m dealing with. I’m consistently plagued with doubts about both my character and appearance.

 

Anyone who lives like this knows that depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand, its like Sock and Busking but instead of a grin and a grimace, there only exists a pair of deadpan faces telling you that you don’t deserve to breathe the same air as everyone else.

 

The unfortunate thing is that within modern society (as much as we would like to think we have progressed to a point where mental health issues are no longer stigmatized) that is certainly not the case. Within the last few weeks we have seen a number of high profile suicide rates, around 84 men a week take their own lives because of mental health issues and it is the largest killer of men under the age of 45 within the UK. In the wake of such tragic instances, we can at least acknowledge such a serious issue and begin pressing forward to ensure that these numbers see a dramatic decrease.

 

Enough is enough.

 

The problem, I feel, stems from those who are going through difficult times not expressing their concerns and feelings with their support network. I know from my own personal experience and from the words of those around me who have also been affected by anxiety or depression that they don’t want to be a burden on those around them.

 

Sometimes we need help and that’s okay.

 

I’d like to think that by taking the first step and admitting “I can’t handle all of this by myself” could see the path to overcoming these issues.

 

The hardest aspect about living with this is constantly being trapped within a web of self doubt about me as a person and my value. One of my worst fears is being alone and my anxiety unfortunately feeds off of that, my rational mind knows that most, if not all, of these feelings is the result of loneliness but the irrational roars are louder than rational whispers of reassurance. My anxious nature makes me over analyse the most minute of details; why has this person not replied to me? Am I bothering them by trying to engage? Why don’t they reach out to me?

 

I spoke to my boyfriend in relation with this not long ago and confided that I tend to focus on what’s wrong with myself and he advised I should reflect on what’s wrong with them rather than what’s wrong with me? I don’t necessarily think I’m a bad person but being suffocated with self doubt and feelings of worthlessness lead to toxic thoughts. Being alone with these feelings is the loneliest feeling you can imagine and I have been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone by extending my support network and re-evaluating who I can call friends.

 

This has been particularly successful in areas where I have now met one or two people who understand exactly how I feel, relating with similar feeling and anxieties, that certainly brings the loneliness down a notch.

 

Really what I’m trying to say with all of this is that it’s okay to fall over and have to pick yourself up, opening up to others about my thoughts, feelings and problems has been liberating. I feel particularly better now that my GP and workplace know about it and have been supportive. Most importantly however, I’m being honest with myself now, I’ve been struggling to cope and process my own emotions and feelings, not giving myself enough time, trying to bottle up and push them away by occupying myself (which is a really bad idea).

 

I’m now just over a month on Sertraline and I’m starting to notice a little bit of a difference, I also have a steady box of Propranolol to hand at all times just in case things start to amp up a little. Every journey starts with a step.

 

You’re not alone and neither am I.

 

We are all important. We all matter.

 

IF YOU ARE FEELING SUICIDAL OR WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE CALL:

Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87

 

If you are affected by these issues or want to talk, please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website.

 

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