A topic close to my heart – Mental Health. Part 1.

Over the past few months I have thought long and hard about whether or not I would post anything regarding this topic. I suppose, in the back of my mind, were a few things that caused me to hesitate until now.
Firstly, from a professional point of view, if I was to ever apply to work for someone else again as a physiotherapist, the stats say, that 1 in 5 employers would not would NOT employ someone who ticked the box of having a previous history of mental health issues (2006). I find that statistic incredible in todays society. Again, if we look to the stats, 1 in 3 of all people in Ireland will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their life. I would put a rider to this and say that, in essence, every person that lives in Ireland knows someone in their close or extended family that has suffered from mental health issues.
Secondly, I wasn’t sure about whether I was ‘ready’ to talk openly about mental health, and especially my mental health issues. When I look back on the person I was a few years ago, I remember meeting many people who ticked the box on the Past Medical History form that listed Depression / Anxiety. I remember thinking that they just needed to ‘get a hold of themselves’ or ‘suck it up and get on with it’, never mind the usual one of ‘pull themselves together’. Ultimately, I thought (and this makes me shudder) that they were weak – a chink in the armour of being a person, especially if they were male.

Lastly, I was worried about the possible blow back on my family. Somehow I thought that, by expressing myself openly about my mental health challenges, this would cause them to suffer.

When I looked deeply at the reasons listed above for not speaking openly, I found myself coming back to the same conclusion – that if a 35 year old, ex-rugby playing, 6ft 4in, physiotherapist cannot stand up and de-stigmatise mental health, then who can?

During the week I had the opportunity to put forth part of my story on social media. Anyone who has been involved in my life over the past 2 1/2 years would have known my story or what I have been through to get to this point, so it was not them I was wanting to tell. I wanted others to know that I have suffered with anxiety and depression of various degrees in the past and more importantly there are always ways to improve the situation that you may find yourself in. This is my attempt to give some of my background to my situation and what I found useful to take care of myself. If anyone takes anything from this, or it helps to explain someone else’s situation but they don’t have the strength / want to explain it to others then this is a success.

Most of you, if you have read my blurb, will probably have read that I used to live in New Zealand. I spent almost 6 full years there from 2007-2013. Everything in my life was pretty good, just got a new job and moved to Auckland to live the big city life after living in Hawke’s Bay for 5 years. Within 4 weeks of living in Auckland I started to develop anxiety. Not your usual ‘a bit jittery’ kind of sensations, but solid sweaty palms, unable to eat, nauseous, ready to run 10kms or play a competitive rugby match type of scenario. At the time I thought that this is just a ‘breaking in phase’ and it will go again once I settle in Auckland. Over the next few months, I began to become increasingly more anxious to the point that I struggled to go shopping or go into large social groups. I was enduring between 12 and 17 hours of what you might call nervousness (like before a big presentation) on a daily basis. Having anxiety attacks / panic attacks between patients, while still working as a physio 8am-6pm. As some of you know already, massive amounts of adrenaline / nerves doesn’t lend itself to getting to sleep easily, or in my case, at all on some nights. This, by far, was one of the worst side effects of the anxiety. I spent huge periods of time being unable to get any space from my thoughts, what to do about the situation I was in, how to get out of it, when was I going to feel better, am I going to be like this forever?? This is when I became very detached, as I tell people now, ‘like an astronaut floating around in space, with no connection to mother earth’. Anxiety likes isolation, so it can panic you without interruption, for as long as you let it. And I let it. I focussed all of my energy on trying to fix me, approaching my emotional problem with the passion and enthusiasm I would a patient that I was struggling to get better. Unfortunately, a logical front brain approach to an emotional problem doesn’t work. Ever. I got lost down the rabbit warren of problem solving. I went down the burrow again and again without hesitation. When I thought I had ‘worked it out’, I realised I was back at the same place I started. This was tiring….draining….and it went on for months.





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