Mental Health Can Make You or Break You..

For most people, there is a perception that mental health destroys lives and changes them for the worst. In some cases, yes that is true however, for everyone there is an opportunity to turn what is considered to be a burden into a positive change.

When my mental health was at it’s peak, I believed everything around me was ruined. Nothing was ever going to be the same, my character had been shattered and my image would never be painted in a positive light. It is very easy to surrender yourself to your demons and to see no future ahead.

Mental health often presents itself when we least expect it. No one can ever be prepared for the impact of a break down and it can occur for a reason or no reason at all. Some people experience traumatic events, some people become overwhelmed with stress and some people, who may be perfectly fine, suddenly find themselves in a deep situation full of turmoil.

Mental health does not always need a reason to latch itself on to us. There is a common ignorance that people who have everything they could need have no reason to be depressed. You only need to look at some of the many cases out there that began with an average person to realise mental health can be triggered in anyone.

I strongly believe that everyone has an element of mental health issues within them and it is possible it could strike out at them at any time. This may scare some people but it really shouldn’t. I do not regret or even resent my mental health whatsoever and I think that the first positive step is to accept your condition as part of you.

This took a long time for me because I feared I would become one of the many statistics across the world that often succumb to their demons. I was afraid that I was never going to recover and I would be burdened with my illness for the rest of my life. It was very difficult to look at this in any positive way.

However, when you do, you soon realise that perhaps your burden could be your gift. I believe that everything happens for a reason and sometimes these unexpected changes are changes meant to happen. The way your character changes in the aftermath is because that’s the person who you are.

Anyway, I will make my point. What has mental health done for me? Besides inspiring me to write thoughtful posts such as this, it has helped strengthen my character, reaffirmed my principles and ultimately made me a better person. I am not weak and I am not broken. I have been made and I am prepared for the challenges ahead.

I have opened my mind to the world and I have developed a lot of empathy for those suffering, an understanding for those struggling and my compassion for people has became my strength. These are factors about me that I am very proud of.

Finally, if I hadn’t of suffered a break down, then I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. My anxiety and depression sparked a journey into my life to discover the world and make the most of my qualities.

All in all, mental health can make you or break you. It is down to you to decide and the first step is believing you have the power to do so.

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Why Anti-Depressants & Medication Is Not Always The Answer!

Do you ever feel like an extra on The Walking Dead? Or the pills you’re popping is just numbing your brain to silence the pain? Doctors are often too quick to subscribe medication and it isn’t always the answer. Besides adverse side effects and adaptation, you patiently wait to see what benefits it actually has.

I’ve been prescribed medication on three occasions. The first time was when I was 18 years old and I had began to start putting on weight. I took them for four days before I decided it was a pointless exercise, as I didn’t feel any different and at that age you’re pretty impatient. The second time was before I started a new job and I was concerned about my trouble with sleeping however, I didn’t want to risk feeling ‘out of it’ during my probation stage so I just dumped them. Finally, the last time I was prescribed medication was when I was 21 years old and my anxiety was at it’s peak.

I was taking the medication on a regular basis and I informed my employer. The side effects of the medication were most common ones such as hallucinations, nightmares, tiredness, loss of appetite and even suicidal thoughts. Between November 2015 and January 2016, I slowly drifted into a zombie-like-state and instead of feeling upset, I wasn’t feeling anything. This became the problem because rather than feeling happy or upset, I barely felt any emotion and instead I just existed in a state of what I would describe to be an awakened coma. I was awake but not alert. My presence was in a deep sleep.

After I attempted to commit suicide, I was advised by my doctor to stop taking the pills. I wasn’t weaned off like most and instead went straight off them. I became a bit rattled at this stage, with phases of excitement and other times exhaustion. If I had been on them as long as most then I think I would of reacted far worse.

I haven’t touched medication since and I firmly believe that psychology was a far more effective treatment. Instead of subduing the feelings, I was able to open them up and explore them, with expert guidance and practical advice. Instead of fighting my anxiety, I was understanding it and we all know knowledge is key.

In some cases, not taking medication isn’t always the solution and I would always advise doing what is comfortable for you. Severe depression (which I did not consider myself to have), schizophrenia, psychosis, personality disorders and other complex illnesses can become dangerous if they aren’t controlled. I’m referring to the average patient who suffers with depression or anxiety.

The problem with medication is that it doesn’t always help you progress or recover. You can often become dependant on medication and it becomes very hard to ever get out of that cycle. Popping pills, numbing the emotions and carrying on. It can often lead to a miserable shell-like existence.

Most of us who feel depressed or anxious, seek an answer or solution. We can’t cure it but we want to be in control of it but you can’t control something you have no understanding of.

So why do doctors prescribe medication so quick? Often, once adapted to, medication can help balance the chemicals in the brain and this is the purpose of them. They don’t, in my opinion, have the time or resources to explore alternatives and this is why people can be referred to a specialist. However an article in the Huffington Post warned GPs were too quick to prescribe medication and other options, such as recommending exercise should be explored more.

Medication may help you balance the brain and feel more stable but do you really want to depend on it long term, if there are other possible solutions? All you are doing is subduing the emotion but you are not always dealing with the issue.

I would recommend that anybody who goes to speak to their doctor about how they are feeling, make an effort to encourage their doctor to explore other alternatives and options, as opposed to just going on medication. For some cases, medication is necessary but if you’re one of the fortunate ones who may not need it, then consider your options.

I found learning, educating myself, reflecting and understanding the events and factors that led to my mind set was the best way to take steps towards a more positive change.

As always, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This is just my opinion and if you are currently taking medication then I hope it is helping you in the best way possible. If anyone has a story, advice or opinions to share then feel free to contact me directly or comment below.

Thank you for reading!

Be the change you want to see.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to write this post. How often I’ve tried to put it into words or how to describe it. This is the kind of story I’ve always thought of writing about, perhaps on the day I have truly made it or become successful. However, in this life there is no certainty and with all the problems we have today, as human beings, I feel it’s a subject important to touch on – that subject being mental health.

These days I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many caring and cool people. I’m lucky to have a personality that seems to rub off positively and make people laugh. But those closest to me know this wasn’t always the case and I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve with this but it’s something I’m passionate about.

I can’t exactly remember when I first thought of the concept of suicide or why I did exactly that. I think I was around 14 years old and at the time, I wasn’t really happy in school due to bullying. I’ve always been different in the terms of acting a bit strange, having unusual interests and displaying what some may say was an idiotic personality. During this time I even considered myself to be a rapper and tried to replicate Eminem’s music. I look back on that now and laugh but at the time it caused me a lot of torment and humiliation, which ultimately led me to hate myself. Another factor in my life was my strained relationship with my dad, which has never improved and now we don’t speak at all. That wasn’t my choice and at the age of 15 years old, my dad told me he wanted nothing to do with me. That hurt. But what hurt even more was the fact other kids in my school used that against me and it was nothing but cruel. Although I’ve tried to let that go and I’ve moved on from my dad, I’ve never truly forgiven him or those who used it as a weapon. All of these problems combined always gave me the urge of wanting to end my own life because I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was different but I couldn’t see that in a positive way and I would often fantasize about ending my own life. No person should ever be thinking like that.

Over my teenage years, there has been a lot of growing up and things have changed since school. When I was 16 years old I got into community radio and by the time I was 18 years old, I won an award for my efforts and met some very big celebrities, from Professor Green to Nicole Sherzinger. However, equally I had some knock backs too, from break ups to being fired from an apprenticeship. When I was 17 years old, I was jumped in a park during broad daylight and had the hell kicked out of me and needed to go to hospital. So there has been some amazing and also some traumatizing experiences. You win some and lose some, right?

Fast forward to being 21 years old and I had been promoted to a department in an international company I was working for. I was on decent money for my age and everything was going fantastically well. My life had been on the up for some time.. until it hit me.

One day I woke up with a lethargic and fatigue feeling. I had put on weight and I hadn’t shaved. The back of my head felt heavy, like a brick was hanging from it. My clothes felt tight and every step I would take felt uncomfortable. The worst bit was the cold feeling I constantly had and it felt like my joints were squeezing together. I fed fuel to the fire with binge eating and drinking unnecessary amounts of alcohol, even when I was alone.

I went to the doctors and spoke to my GP about how I was feeling. He diagnosed me with anxiety and prescribed me setraline. On the side there was information and one possible side effect would be the need to commit suicide and having suicidal thoughts. I may also feel docile and confused at times. Due to the fact I had just been promoted into a job role that I had worked so hard towards, I felt it would be wise to inform my employer and so I went and spoke to my manager and informed her of how I was feeling.

My manager was quite supportive and encouraged me to go along with the prescribed treatment. She then altered my shifts to suit me whilst I was adjusting to the drugs. However, the drugs soon began to have the negative effects on me and instead of feeling like I was on the right path, I was hallucinating, panicking frequently about the possibility of losing my job and even waking up in the night with horrific nightmares.

Christmas came and went, and at all the family gatherings I just wasn’t myself. My confidence and personality felt like it had been sucked from my soul. When I was in an awkward conversation or any signs of confrontation, I felt like I couldn’t even speak and I was holding my breath underwater almost. The worst part was the constant reminder that this wasn’t a condition that could be cured but instead a part of me I would be living with for the rest of my existence. Involved in my job role was dealing with benefits and the amount of stories I heard and some of the situations I often found people in was just too much for my emotions. I couldn’t live like this any longer.

One night in January 2016, I went out in the town with my friends and got incredibly drunk. We booked out a private table in a night club and I was going for gold with the amount of alcohol I had consumed. Suddenly I noticed a group of lads who had bullied me in school. For once in a long time, I felt that same sick to the stomach feeling that I had felt everyday at school. I was done.

I went home and took a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard and sat on my sofa, opening my mum’s laptop to type a note. Now when I was 19 years old, there had been a few occasions where I had taken a load of pills but then phoned a friend to tell them. I had never been truly able to do it and that was partially because I was weak, but mostly because I didn’t want to do it. However, those episodes were I had attempted had not only affected those around me but more importantly my mum. A single mother who has always done her best to give me everything I could ever need or want.

But this time I was serious. I didn’t want any help and I didn’t see there being any come back from the position I was in. How I saw it was I was never going to change and my life was going to be an up and down rollercoaster for it’s remainder and I just couldn’t cope with that. I wasn’t strong enough.

I took all my medication and consumed the whiskey. I tried to describe the best I could about how I was feeling and finished the note. I left the laptop open and went to sleep. I thought my mum was going to find me dead in the morning.

At 10.00am, my mum woke me up and told me to go to bed. She had assumed I had falling asleep drunk and sent me to bed. But as soon as I got into bed, I heard her shout up; “Son, what have you done?” I just cried.

My mum stood there crying, confused with emotion and not able to understand why I truly wanted to die. And it’s hard to make anyone understand that. My uncle came to pick me up and took me to hospital and I was put on a drip. The nurses were concerned about how the medication had affected my heart (as I already had a dodgy tinker) and kept me in overnight.

The following days were difficult for my mother and she found it difficult to trust me. I immediately went into work and had a complete melt down. I was signed off and referred to occupational health for counselling. I spent the rest of the year trying to get over how I was feeling. I was having two phone appointments a week with a counsellor and I was trying to focus on work. It was awful because everyone was prompting me to get back to my old self but I just couldn’t. It just felt fake. What do you do in that situation?

The energy in work had changed and I felt such an emotional wreck that I just felt like an inconvenience to everyone around me. I felt like my manager and all of my colleagues saw me as a pain in the backside and I went from being involved in multiple projects to feeling like I couldn’t even be trusted just in case I had another break down.

I was 17 stone.

And a year ago, February 2017, I did just that and I could no longer hold that mask up in front of my face. I went into a small room and cried my eyes out. One of my colleagues came in and I just let it all out. I cried my eyes out because I couldn’t do it anymore and I was in an environment that I just wasn’t happy in.

Surprise, surprise, I was signed off work for two weeks and I decided to seek psychology. It was something I hadn’t done before but it was something I was willing to try. I didn’t want to feel like I did anymore so I was willing to try anything to fix that. I was more fortunate than some to have insurance and because of this I was able to select my own psychologist.

I enrolled myself into the gym and I began to cut back on my alcohol. I wanted to change but in order to do that I had to be the change I wanted to see.

I had several sessions with my psychologist and at first it was intimidating. They dig into everything and you even find them looking for information that may not be necessarily relevant but is important so they can get the widest image possible of you.

One major thing I had discovered was the fact I wasn’t happy in what I was doing. My job, my environment and my lifestyle wasn’t helping my state of mind. My job role felt morally conflicting, I felt there were no opportunities for me and I was 17 stone. I was doing everything so that people would see me in a positive light but I wasn’t looking out for myself.

I decided what I needed was an opportunity to put myself in a situation that I would be forced to deal with the stress, rather than run from it. My psychologist agreed and now all I needed to do was put my plan into action.

So one day at work, I began googling jobs abroad. Travelling was always something I wanted to do but I was too anxious to try it. However, I managed to find a job role with a highly popular travel company and I decided I wanted to apply for it. The money was poor compared to what I was on and I would be walking away from a role that I was determined in obtaining.

The other problem was the fact I tended to talk a lot but I could never do the walk. So I forced myself to apply because I didn’t see the harm in doing so.

First it was the application, then it was the video interview and suddenly I was being invited to the assessment day. Could this really be happening? Quite possibly.

I booked the day off work and went along to the assessment. I told those around me and myself that I’d only consider it if I got offered the job. The assessment day was tough and you had to be very vibrant and outgoing. I had to push those anxious thoughts aside and pull out my true personality. Those who were performing poorly were being sent home before the day was out. I was not going to let that happen to me.

The next day I received a phone call with an offer for the job. I swallowed my breath for a moment and I considered telling them that I would need time to think about it. Then suddenly a thought came to the back of my mind, telling me that the more I thought about it, the less likely I was going to do it. So I just said yes.

A few days later I handed in my notice at work and suddenly felt this sign of relief. Like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I was a 23 year old who had been living in a 43 year old’s body.

My family threw a big leaving party for me and all my friends and old work colleagues came to say goodbye.

I did my first season in Tenerife and at first it was tough, and there were moments I was ready to quit but the end result was summer 2017 was the best time of my life. Even better was the fact I lost three and a half stone and I was my old self again.

Now a year on from my break down, I’m living in Lanzarote and I am becoming stronger every day. People are embracing my personality and I’m learning something new every day.

So why did I want to share this? Well I became the change I wanted to see and this doesn’t mean that I still don’t get down days but I’m now in a position to accept and deal with it when I do. I also try to uphold myself to certain standards that I would like to see in everybody else – be kind, caring and compassionate. Treat people how you want to be treated and most importantly, be yourself. You only get one chance to do so.

And if you’re going through something similar to what I went through then my advice would be to take a look at your circumstances and change what is making you unhappy. It may be hard, time consuming and come with a cost but if it means you will be happy then it won’t hurt to try.

My final piece of advice is the only aim you should pursue in life is to be happy and make others happy. That’s why I am the idiot I am today. I’m proud to say I’ve inspired myself and I hope this inspires you too.

Much love!

– Tommy Dunn