Tag Archives: Mental Health

Couch to 5K – Day 2

So it’s only day 2, still early days, but I’m still feeling optimistic about the whole thing. Just to make this a little clearer, I have done a few 10km and 5km runs in the past. The problem was that I hate running, as I said. I have very little knowledge of running techniques or best practice so always just end up hurting myself and feeling it for weeks after. That’s always put a dampener on the whole thing for me. It was never any fun, I didn’t really enjoy it. I enjoyed the medals but always felt I was doing it wrong.

So this is where the couch to 5k will shine for me. Hopefully I’ll learn a lot more than I knew and make this form of exercise a life long thing for me. I figure that I owe it to my daughter, my wife and yes even myself.

I know, you’re all dying to know how we got on tonight, right? It was good. The important thing is that it’s broken down into manageable sections and we just go at our own pace. The people there are all there for the same thing and that feels good. There’s no pressure, it’s structured and there is support there for you.

In the past I only really liked to exercise alone, but I have to say that it is nice having the little lady there. We have a laugh, we talk, we joke and we support each other. That’s nice at the end of the day.

My advice at this stage is that if you’re thinking of taking a positive step like this then do it, what’s the worst that can happen? You go at your own comfortable pace and just get on with it. So grab some comfy runners and get out there.

The hardest step in this was getting started, that first night going up. But even now this early in I’m definitely glad I’ve started!

A Bad Week

So some weeks you have your good days and your bad days. The past week was a bad one for me. Unfortunately I did the one thing I told my (relatively new) wife I wouldn’t do and I kept it to myself. OK, so there are plenty of things I told her I wouldn’t do, but in terms of things to not tell her, that was a no no. Sure, I could go out and have the 10oz steak and tell her I had the side salad, but when it comes to mental health I think we’re both quite clear on the subject. Talk or it will eat you up.

I’m not saying we’re brilliant at the whole expressing ourselves thing, far from it really, but we are learning. We’re learning that keeping it inside often just makes the whole situation a hell of a lot worse. So it was a bad week.

In the grand scheme of things I don’t have it too bad. I have a wife who loves me and a child who lights up when she sees me. Somewhere along the line though I buried something and didn’t talk about it and then something else went in on top of that and then I piled in more on top of that. It was the second anniversary of my Fathers death last week and I guess that was the straw that broke the camels back. All I could hear was the doubt in the back of my head creeping in. All the negativity of the past year had just caved in on me and I was stuck under an avalanche of issues. Ya know, the usual worries and fears had come home to roost. Like a monkey on my back just tapping away at me:

Hey, why haven’t you gotten a career yet, loser? Still no sign of that house for your family, no? Ya know your daughter is going to be ashamed of you, right? You’re doing everything wrong, why are you bothering? That idea will never work, best to just give up! 

Some of those are actual questions (although phrased differently) that have been put to me over the past year. I’m not a weak guy, in fact, at one stage I could actually bench press more than my body weight (I’m also not a light guy). That doubt though, that monkey on my back, was like a weight on my chest, pushing me down into quicksand. I was sinking.

Eventually I cracked, it had to come out. Thankfully my wife was there for me and could help me and we hugged it through. So we settled on a few things:

  1. The negative voices are wrong!
  2. The negative people should be forgotten and be allowed to be miserable on their own time!
  3. My daughter will not care about what I do as long as I’m there for her.
  4. I need to revisit the idea of counselling.

That last one came as a sort of calming revelation. I had been to counselling during secondary school and briefly during my Masters and found it to be very beneficial. It’s not the kind of thing that you have to cling onto for life, but it certainly helps when you’re mentally hitting bottom. Talking things through always helps. At the very least I will not do this for me, but for my daughter. She needs a Dad and she needs one that can cope. Last week I was not coping. Admitting that was hard.

So, now I’ll go to counselling. Hopefully someone will read this and will maybe take a look at themselves and decide that f*** it, I could use a hand to get through this rough patch in my life right now. Counselling is like mountain climbing, you’ll only ever do it one step at a time. Strength does not lie in refusing help, but embracing it.

 

The Little Things

So Enda Kenny recently tweeted Twitter, it’s been a while… but it’s time to talk about the #littlethings“. Little Things, in case you don’t know, is the motto for the latest mental health PR campaign to hit Ireland and is run by the HSE. Ya know, the same organisation which manages our healthcare system.

So, Ireland and mental health. Yeah, we don’t even like saying mental health here, let alone do we like to talk about the issues surrounding it. It’s taboo, it’s worse than talking about anything else in the country. Mental Health issues? Nah, next topic please! The problems with these campaigns are that they never stick it out. The posters are left up for a while, the tweets flow for a little bit and the buzz words do the rounds on Kildare Street. We need a long term strategy to help the nation. We need to make our kids know that it’s ok to talk. That it’s ok to cry. That it’s ok to not feel strong all the time. Above all else we need to let them know that a permanent solution to a short term problem is not the answer.

What’s harder to ignore than mental health issues are the consequences of just presuming someone will be grand and ignoring the figures. For a moment I want you to think about how many funerals you’ve been to that were caused by suicides.

7. That’s how many I can recall right now. 7 funerals that were wholly avoidable if someone had just talked, or perhaps, if there was less of a stigma behind saying that you need help. 7 funerals. There were whispers at each one, whispers met with glances which clearly meant we don’t talk about that sort of thing. I heard an interview on the radio years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. A lady lost someone to suicide and she said something which has stuck with me ever since. As long as we keep whispering suicide we’ll still be dealing with suicide. As long as we keep denying that suicide exists we’ll still be dealing with suicide.

I am of the opinion that we are not a mental health friendly country. It’s all fine and well to show the public face on these things. It’s great, it definitely makes it look like we’re doing something. But are we making it more acceptable to stand up and say I need help? No, I don’t think so. We’re all supposed to grin and bear it and have our problems on our own. After all, we don’t want to make someone uncomfortable, do we?

It’s an unfortunate situation and it’s a high pressure one. For me the strain is starting to show. I’m getting married in less than a week, I’ll have my first baby in less than 5 weeks and I don’t have a steady income at the moment. It’s not that I don’t want to work, I have looked and applied and I have been rejected countless times. It’s killing the confidence, to be honest. So much so that I have a serious amount of doubt in myself at the moment. I find myself thinking;

Did I just waste all those years in college? What was the point in getting the masters? Why bother applying, you don’t have the experience, they won’t want you! It would probably be better if I wasn’t here!

It may sound crazy, but these are thoughts which flow through my head every time  I apply for jobs or even consider applying. These thoughts are made much better when it’s suggested I should just get a job (somehow I don’t think lack of applications is where I’m going wrong here).

I found myself at the recent open day for CarTrawler looking at jobs I was really interested in, but when I got in there I had a panic attack and I could not wait to get out. I put on a nice suit, brought copies of my CV, polished my shoes, had a haircut (Thanks to the lovely Michelle, without whom I would lose my freaking mind altogether) and even cleaned the car. As soon as I got in there I convinced myself I did not belong and thought about nothing but getting out. That was alarming. It felt like the weight of the world was on my chest and I could not breath. This has happened before so luckily I was fairly certain it wasn’t a heart attack. I just stayed in the car for 15 minutes, calmed myself down and kicked myself the entire way home, as you do.

The truth is that I’ve never really stopped kicking myself. It stops when it gets bad and everything just kind of comes to a head. Luckily I have Michelle and my Mother to read me like a book and help me through the rough patches. On the whole though, I’m a stubborn Irish man and I believe that I should be able to just get on with things. I should be strong and silent, but I’m afraid to talk about my mental health, that’s why I stay silent on the matter.

I’m afraid to talk about it because there is still a stigma in Ireland around the whole matter. Depressed? Nah, you’re just feeling down at the moment! Stressed? Nah, probably just a hangover! Suicidal? Sorry, eh, that’s my phone, see ya later!

I don’t know what’s crazier – Admitting I’ve thought about ending it all (I don’t anymore, I couldn’t do that to my wife-to-be or unborn child) or being afraid to ask for help for fear I might be shunned like a leper! 

Why would I be so open about this? Hopefully this might ring a bell with someone and make them feel less alone and less hopeless. Hopefully it will make someone look for The Little Things in their life which make them happy. So what do we need? We need to have a long term view on this. We need to be able to stand up and say “FUCK IT! I’m not alright!”. We need to teach the next generation that it’s ok to talk and that it’s ok not to be strong all the time. It’s ok to let someone else take a bit of the burden.

We need a change in thinking and to destigmatise mental health issues. But overall, we can only do this by changing little things as we go along. It’s easier to move rocks than it is to move mountains. Little steps, little things.