A positive male perspective from a fighter against anxiety and depression.
So, I have been living with diagnosed depression and anxiety for over ten years now. It’s something which can be so hard to understand or even see as it is an illness related to the mind. There is still a stigma attached to mental health, especially in men as it can be seen as a sign of weakness, and something that somehow makes you less of a person. For staters, this is absolute rubbish and an opinion which needs to be left in the previous century. Mental health is important to everyone regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race etc but so often we forget to look after ourselves and our individual minds which make us the people we are.
When I was first diagnosed there was a sense of relief that the feelings and thoughts I had been having had some form of justification attached to them. Often I was told to ‘just cheer up’ or ‘smile more and it will all be better’, sadly that is not the case. With the diagnosis came its own new set of worries; What do I tell people? What is the best treatment going forward? Will this affect my learning? What about work? All these questions were buzzing in my head and only adding to the building negativity which lingered with this condition. In short, there are no correct answers here and everyone deals with mental health differently, it is very important though to make choices which will benefit yourself the best. It is your mind after all.
There are times where these conditions have provoked reactions which to anyone else would seem rather strange. I could be walking in town when a sudden loud noise startles me, a cold feeling spreads all over my body and feels almost like ice has suddenly replaced my blood. I become hyper-aware of my surroundings, wondering if people are watching or if I am shaking violently. I look at myself and I am not, but how can I be sure? I hold out both hands, maybe one is worse than the other but even though I feel frozen I am still moving. This internal question goes on for a while until I can settle from the initial shock and regain some control over my movements once more.
Depression isn’t necessarily cured, it can remain and fluctuate through our entire lives, but that doesn’t mean your life can be restricted by it. If you are having a day where your condition is getting the better of you then doing everything possible to look after yourself is the best route. You want to have a long bath with that fruity smelling stuff? Go for it! Maybe put some music on which relaxes you or a playlist of your favourite songs. Want to take a wander into the town centre and meet up with a friend? They can’t come. Go by yourself to visit all the shops you like, treat yourself to a new top or check out a place you’ve never been to before. Could even be as simple as putting your head down for a short nap, letting your brain switch off and your body to go into a relaxed state for a moment.
In regard to anxiety, it can be seen as simply a chemical imbalance which triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response to situations which trigger this. For example, I myself dislike crowded areas which seems to be much more apparent with the global pandemic which continues to affect our everyday lives. The ‘Fight’ response here may be to continue about your business and focus purely on your goal, grab those meal kits on special offer then head to the checkout and pay so you can leave into a more open space. The ‘Flight’ response here may be to just abandon your shopping trip and leave the store quickly, perhaps take a moment outside to collect yourself. Once more, whichever option benefits yourself is the one to go for and both have their advantages; get it over and done with or come back at a quieter time or when you are feeling calmer.
Regardless of the specific diagnosis given to your condition, opening up is key, be it to family, friends or even one of the mental health helplines out there. Not only does it provide relief to let these thoughts out but can help build a support network for yourself and can even allow you to explore other routes to go down to seek help. One thing men don’t like to do is cry, but boy this is the best thing to do when your mind is in the dark places it can be. It’s even been scientifically proven that crying can cause the brain relief and even swing the emotional pendulum back into the positive zone. There are many people out there who suffer from one form of mental condition at least, each have our stories to tell and advice to give. At the end of the day, you do what’s best for you and know whatever steps you take in your path to wellbeing that you are never alone.