The end of 2018 for me was a rough time in my life. It felt like every area of my life was causing me to feel stressed out. I began suffering from quite bad anxiety which would leave me feeling deflated and low. Although I appeared as a confident person to my family and peers, inside I was often a wreck of nerves and worry. I was living my life in a state of fear; fear that the worst-case scenario in every situation would be the scenario to occur. My relationships were being negatively impacted by my low moods. I became very irritable and emotional. I became fed up of always feeling so miserable and began to accept that I had to make a change.
Exercise and self-care
Throughout my teenage years, sport has been the most important aspect of my life. When times got tough, I would train as much as my body would allow. Running was used to clear my head, the gym was my stress relief, and the Mixed Martial Arts gym became a place where I could be worry free. Personal problems ceased to exist when I was exercising and this is still the same today. However, in October 2018, I suffered a knee injury that would put me on the side lines for two months. My mental health definitely began to deteriorate during this time, but by December I was back running and working towards new goals. I was dealing with stress better as I used running as therapy. But I was still nowhere near 100%. I would still get annoyed over the slightest inconvenience, my mind was constantly racing when I was not training, and my ability to focus was almost non-existent. In the first week of January, I dislocated my knee. I understood that it would be a long time until I would be able to train again and my mental state hit rock bottom.
Reaching out for help
In the start of January, after having a breakdown in my room, with tears streaming down my face I made one of the most difficult phone calls of my life to date. I rang my college’s student health centre to enquire about getting therapy and counselling for my anxiety. There were two reasons why I found this phone call difficult to make-
- I believed that asking for help off a professional was a sign of weakness, especially as a male. I have always been encouraging of men talking about their feelings but having to make that choice myself was extremely difficult.
- Enquiring about counselling felt like I was admitting that I had a problem with my mental health and that I was giving up my battle with my anxiety.
I cried my eyes out before the phone call, sobbed as the lady on the other line asked me several questions, and kept crying after she hung up. However, it was possibly a phone call that saved my life.
My first counselling session
My first counselling session took place in the end of January. Through seven one-hour sessions, my therapist and I began to uncover the root causes of my anxiety and low self-esteem, positives that I could take from my situation, and ways to help cope with my mental state. In my opinion, the most important piece of advice that I was given was to stop blaming myself for constantly worrying, feeling stressed, feeling down, and being overly emotional. None of it was my fault.
In the beginning of my journey to improving my mental health, I often convinced myself that I was weak for talking and for needing a therapist. However, looking back now, none of this was true. Talking takes a huge amount of strength for any individual. To be able to openly discuss your feelings, fully open up to a stranger about every aspect of your life, and to constantly work on improving yourself is far from easy. It takes more strength than I ever could have achieved in the gym.
Talk to someone
Talking about your feelings does not make you any less of a person or any weaker of an individual. At times, we all need to talk. Life is not perfect, and you will have to live through periods where it feels like everything has become unbearable, but it will pass, and during these periods help is always available. It is ok to talk. It is ok not to be ok. But it is not ok to feel like you have no help available. There is always someone who is willing to listen… always.
Four months on from my first counselling session, my mental health has improved so much. I now control my anxiety, it doesn’t control me. I’m still not perfect, extremely stressful times are still difficult, but I know that help is always available to me when I need it.