I talk to a lot of other Dads online. I take part in Twitter chats such as #dadsmhhour and #pnddaddies and yet I’ve never been diagnosed with any form of mental health condition myself. Now before you look to cast me aside, hear me out.
I am not claiming to have any specific mental health condition and would never seek to align myself with one without having first being diagnosed. However, I struggle with my mental health as many men, women and children do and furthermore I struggle to be able to define that. Mind.org.uk suggest that ‘1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health problems each year’ but does not mention specifically how many are diagnosed and treated.
Like many men, I’ve struggled with my mental health for so long without being able to put a term on it and so I’ve found my own methods of maintenance. I have acknowledged that I have ups and downs. For me these are not so severe these days with the system I have in place.
A few years ago, I had no system in place and I had no idea what the hell was going on. I began to have suicidal thoughts in the build up to my son’s birth, but thankfully never acted upon these. I didn’t even know what 'mental health' was, it was just who I was.
Unlike many men my age (I'm 32 as I write this) I’ve since approached my GP who informed me of a 6-10 months wait just to be assessed. I decided I couldn’t wait that long. I decided that I could find private help quicker. However, I couldn’t. I could find many counselling resources I’d need to pay through the nose for, but I struggle to bring myself to approach them. So I keep struggling along.
I have struggled through being a new parent as many do and my priorities changed. For a long time, I put my own feelings and emotions aside to support my wife and care for my son. When this started to even out and I had more time on my hands, I found myself struggling again. Once more my brain was going into overdrive and my mental health was impacted.
Luckily, I was starting to become more aware of what mental health was and how to deal with it. For me, the problem has always been over analysis and self-deprecation. Put these two together and you have a recipe for disaster. These are then supplemented by fear and anxiety, leading to panic attacks. My first of which led me to think I was genuinely going to die.
So, being aware that I have mental health problems, I have some power now to start doing something about it.
First, be honest with yourself. What’s your benchmark for being ‘OK’? What is the cut-off point before you say enough is enough. Whatever that point is, be honest enough with yourself to say ‘I need help. I need to do something about this’.
For me, the biggest relief has been talking about it. I know fully well that this is not so easy for everybody. By knowing I don’t need to deal with it alone, I find it relatively easy to open up to people when I’m struggling.
People want to help.
Nobody wants you to struggle alone. I can assure you that there is someone who’s willing to listen. If you feel otherwise, then please seek out professional support such as: Mind, Samaritans, Sane, ReThink or Time to Change.
Part of talking about it is finding someone to be accountable to. This doesn’t need to be your partner, as I know all too well the feelings of not wanting to burden your close significant others, but finding someone has been key for me. This is a person, night or day, that you can text, call or WhatsApp to simply say ‘I’m not ok’ or ‘I don’t feel right’.
And finally, give yourself some breathing space. Take some ‘you time’ occasionally to enjoy life. This is not selfish, this is essential. We live in a pressure filled world and letting off a little steam is good once in a while. Try not to let too much of it build up so that there’s a full blow exposure but, if you feel it rising, let it go.
I’m aware I still need professional help. I have recently seen my GP for more support and hope to get support as soon as I can. However, in the mean time I have enough systems in place to both recognise when my mental health is low and to seek to lift it.
Some fantastic words of advice from Ryan and if anyone has read his own website, they'll know that he knows what he's talking about. Has anything Ryan said helped you or given you motivation to get some help? Let us know in the comments below.
You can keep up to date with Ryan and the fantastic work he does on his own website over at www.dadsapp.org which includes his own blog. You can also follow him on Twitter, where he's @dadsapp or via his Facebook page.