Throughout my entire life I have had to battle against physical and mental health issues which threatened to take away everything I have worked hard to achieve.
The first time I ever needed help with my mental health was when my parents’ marriage broke down. At the time, I was 5 years old and even now at 23, I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. I won’t go into too much detail but for a while I blamed myself for what happened as I told my mum what my dad had been doing. Without seeking help, I would never have accepted that I was only a catalyst for something that had been brimming for a considerable amount of time. Whilst I am at a much better place mentally regarding this issue, on the anniversary of my dad’s departure (Mother’s Day), I always take a moment to reflect.
Since the age of 3, I have been back and forth to hospitals or my local GP surgery to battle numerous physical health issues that I have. The one thing that really bugs me about all of my conditions isn’t about how they affect me but the fact that all of them are invisible. On the outside, I look like a normal healthy young man but on the inside it’s like there is a war going on between my conditions – all vying for my attention. All my health conditions are lifelong so I will be plagued with this feeling for the rest of my life.
There were times when I thought that everything was all in my head and the only time I was able to reassure myself it wasn’t was by test results coming back as abnormal.
The biggest test of both my mental and physical health occurred during 2020
During 2020, I was diagnosed with a lifelong condition of Crohn’s Disease. This is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system. People’s experiences with the disease can be very different. For me, as no one had listened to me previously, the damage inside my body had become too severe to be treated with medication. This is why the only other option was to have major surgery to remove the parts of my diseased bowel and be fitted with a temporary double-barrelled stoma. This surgery took place on 3rd November 2020.
In both the lead up to surgery and afterwards, there were times when I had thoughts about suicide. Fortunately, I was able to seek help quickly from my support network and my university’s counselling team. Whilst I never told anyone about these thoughts, going for counselling really helped me to talk about what was going on both on a physical and mental front.
When I was going through my initial diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease and being left with no option but to have major surgery, I was also completing a degree in Business and Management at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Throughout, I was having to lean very heavily on my support network to ensure that I was still able to meet deadlines and contribute to classes etc. Even though I took three months off to recover from my operation, I was able to return to finish my degree and graduate with a First-Class degree with Honours. Without the help of my support network, I truly believe that my degree result wouldn’t have been achievable.
My advice to anyone struggling with either a physical or mental issue would be to seek help from their friends, family, GP or support schemes within their local community. The biggest things we all need to remember so that we are not alone, there are always ways through things and being open and honest is especially important.
It has become increasingly apparent in recent years that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. A trend that has emerged is that men are far less likely to speak up about any health problems that they are facing to avoid people around them perceiving them to be weak. This mindset has simply got to change. By doing so, men will be far more comfortable to open up about their struggles and seek help sooner, rather than later.