The Right Direction
Hi, well here we are again, sadly I’m not behind the old trusted pink laptop with the letter 'P' missing from the keyboard, unfortunately the old fella is now in laptop heaven, so here we are behind a nice new fresh and pristine number. Which I’m still not convinced with. What a start to a blog eh?
Spent all day trying to think of something enticing and captivating and I rock up with that. Apologises. Please stick with me though, I’ll improve slightly, I promise, I hope.
I struggle to start these pieces now as I’ve done that many and I’m now at the stage where I’m trying to avoid repeating myself and boring you all to tears. For the people who are reading my work for the first time, hi, I’m Weasel, I have PTSD and all the lovely conditions that go with it such as, social anxiety, health anxiety and irrational fears.
I’m nowhere near as bad as I once was and my condition has allowed me to achieve so much in terms of helping others. It has also seen me returning to university to study psychology, appear on TV and generally just gave my life some purpose and meaning. Anyway, I don’t want to go over too much old ground, you can read my previous ramblings, read about my thoughts and feelings, and follow my journey through my CBT and exposure sessions with my psychologist Laura via @Weaselblogs on Twitter. There is some good advice in them and it’ll also let you see how far I have come and possibly give you a little hope and encouragement if you are going through a tough time just now and feel in a hopeless and never-ending cycle with your own thoughts.
My previous blogs have varied in their messages and content, they’ve been used to open up to friends and family about my illness and battles. To inspire others going through the same and, at times, they’ve been used in a therapeutic manner to allow me to clear my thoughts and connect with others who are going through similar.
It’s incredible the amount of people going through similar to yourself, however your mind will try to convince you that you are alone and weak for having these thoughts. You aren’t. It’s perfectly natural and perfectly normal. As are intrusive thoughts and overwhelming thoughts. It’s when they take a grip and become a regular occurrence and have a negative effect on your life, that they become a problem.
I feel bad here, maybe I should be going over more of what I’ve went through and letting you see how bad I was and where I’ve got myself to now. I’ll summarise, that’ll work eh?
I thought I was going nuts, I couldn’t see an end to my thinking, I cut myself off from the world and friends, family and my girlfriend at the time. Staying safe and making sure the world couldn’t see how weak I was became my number one priority. I was constantly in a state of high alert. I couldn’t stop intrusive thoughts entering my head. “why are you so weak man?” “look at you, what a joke of a man!” “Everyone will be better off without you!” You get the idea?
I couldn’t stop thinking, sometimes I was even thinking about the times that I wasn’t thinking. One day I realised I couldn’t take any more of this carry on and went to see my GP and told him about these intrusive and overwhelming thoughts. Even told him that sometimes I wondered if suicide would be the best option for me.
After a few months of waiting, I met my psychologist, Laura. Laura advised me that I wasn’t going nuts, apparently if you are going nuts, sorry for any offence caused by this term, but this is how the chat went, I wouldn’t have recognised it, I’d have just went nuts. So, if you are sitting there thinking you are going nuts, you aren’t. See, told you to stick with me, if you only take one thing from my ramblings take that.
Turns out I have PTSD, It stems from being attacked outside a pub and nearly dying from blood loss. Who’d have thought it eh? Something traumatic can have that effect on you. Of course, it does! It was stupid of me to think that it wouldn’t and that I would just bounce back and be ‘normal’ again. What the fuck is 'normal' anyway?
To be honest, I’ve had a lifetime of traumatic events and looking back I think half of my anxieties were developed in childhood. It’s easy for people to label them the best days of your life, but childhood is also a right stressful time, kids can be cruel. I look at my early and teenage years and just see so many traumatic events and periods were there was so much pressure on me.
Some of my favourite relatives all dying close together, my parents divorcing, growing up with sister’s disabilities and watching her go through so much pain and suffering and the effect that has had on my mum. The pressure of fitting in at school, being accepted, not letting anyone down. Honestly, it's no wonder so many of us end up with mental health issues.
I can mind being told as a kid that “children should be seen and not heard”. I took this literally as a kid, told no one of my fears, my anxieties, the intrusive thoughts I had. I think in life we just expect ourselves to bounce back from things without it affecting us. If only life could be that simple eh? Be great if we could switch emotions on and off when we wish. We can’t, we’re humans, it’s what keeps us alive and makes us all individual and unique.
I don’t really know what I’m hoping to do with this blog or the message I’m trying to convey to you. I just hope that what you can take from it, is that your mental health issues and any irrational fears, thoughts and habits that you have aren’t a sign of weakness. Or that you are hindrance or as I used to refer to myself, a 'fruitcake'.
What you are is someone, who is experiencing something perfectly normal, something that is more common than society and your mind wants you to think. My psychologist Laura told me that “you wouldn’t stick a plaster on a broken leg and expect it to heal okay, would you?” That is how I now like to think of my mental health. There’s periods where it isn’t working correctly and I need to use the right methods to allow it to heal. How do I do this?
I stay connected, I go for a pint or 10 with my mates and chat about what I’m feeling or I just shoot the breeze in general. I boost my self-esteem by giving a bit back to the world by volunteering with victim support and helping folk who are going through experience similar to what I have went through. I get active, it’s amazing what triggering those old endorphins can do for you. I challenge my intrusive and irrational thoughts, there are various ways to do this. I like a simple method of asking myself a series of questions, “What are the chances of this happening?” “How will I feel about this in 5 years’ time?” “What is the worst that can happen?” and finally “what can I do to change this, is it within my control?”.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this blog, is that your illness at times will be your greatest burden, but it can also be your greatest strength. Mine has allowed me to help others. I’m now doing a job I enjoy, working with adults with autism. I’m studying a degree in psychology and loving every minute of it. None of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for my meltdown.
I still have periods of incredible and overwhelming anxiety. I have ridiculous and incredibly irrational thoughts at times too. Last year I took 3 tests for HIV as I convinced myself I had it from giving a homeless guy pizza. What I do have now are the skills to cope with it. My openness has enabled me to speak to people about these irrational thoughts. Please don’t sit there and bottle things up and feel alone, stupid or weak, as you certainly aren’t.
I think what I’ve learned is that life is hard, we place all these expectations on ourselves or have them placed on us and expect to just plod along without blips. It is easy to sit and compare ourselves to other and pick faults with ourselves, but what I’ve found through my openness is that the people we see as the most confident or the strongest are going through similar. They maybe just have the ability to hide it better or the skills to cope with it.
Anyway, I’m going to wind this up now as it seems rather long winded and I’m not sure it’s any good but I hope that you’ve taken a bit of hope from it. Do not hesitate to contact me if you require any advice or simply want a wee rant from time to time. Keep on keeping on.
All respect for Kevin for taking control of his mental health and forging a path to a life he can be rightly proud of. Does anything about Kevin's story ring any bells with you? Do you recognise the self-care strategies he uses or do you have any of your own that work? Let us know in the comments below.