When I was first diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder, the following excerpt was brought to my attention. It’s taken from ‘Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong’ a book by Dr Tim Cantopher:

“What happens if you put a whole lot of stresses on to someone who is weak, cynical or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong person on the other hand reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves way beyond the limits for which their body is designed. When they start getting the symptoms of depression they still keep going, with the inevitable result that eventually their limbic system gives way. If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse there is only one possible result.”

Dr Cantopher’s observations are backed up by scientific theory. “When a part of our brain called the limbic system malfunctions it manifests as depression. Our limbic system is a complex system of nerve fibres configured like a computers circuit board, controlling numerous systems around our body including our moods. It copes with our everyday life stresses very well, but it does have a limit. When pushed beyond breaking point (usually, but not exclusively, by a traumatic event) it will effectively blow a fuse. This ‘fuse’ is our transmitter chemicals, seratonin and noradrenaline, and their levels drop rapidly when the circuit blows. Without the correct levels of these two chemicals the electrical impulses that our brains nerve fibres need also drop, which in turn causes our ‘circuit board’ to abruptly stop working i.e. depression.”

In those early days, I took great comfort from those words. Because they resonated with me. I’d always been considered mentally ‘strong.’ Exams and performing under pressure didn’t bother me, I was great in a crisis, I never got too high or too low in my emotions, and I was superb at helping other people through their own troubles. So it all made sense.

I was also aware that emotions and reactions to mental inputs didn’t just materialise in thin air. They were caused by chemical reactions in the brain. So once again, it made sense. I had overworked the physical functions that moderate emotions and now I was paying the price.

Time passed, and I got worse. My anxiety rendered me unable to speak, my hands shook uncontrollably, and physical ticks presented themselves. Depression led me to self harm and suicidal thoughts. I had the worst time of my life. The worst time I’ll probably ever have. I tried different medications, extensive therapy. Eventually, I came out of it, and today I find myself in a relatively good place.

A little while back, I made the conscious decision to approach my life as if anxiety and depression no longer affected me. They were conditions that I used to have, and may occasionally relapse into, but they were no longer my present. They no longer defined me. And then a couple of weeks ago my medication was changed (in the hopes of leaving me feeling like less of a zombie in the mornings) and I went to shit.

Once again, I was wreck. Just when I’d seemed to be getting myself together, I fell apart. The stammer came back, the ticks and twitches reappeared and I locked myself away, afraid of the world. I was advised to stop the new medication and go back onto my old medication. I worried that I’d set myself way back. It had taken me the best part of 18 months to get to where I was. How long was it going to take to get back there this time? Miraculously, it took just over a week.

Somehow, I managed to retain the lessons I’d learnt and the thought processes I’d implemented. I’m back to feeling pretty straight again. When I went to therapy today, my therapist was surprised at how well I’d done to bounce back in this fashion. She mentioned my “resilience.” She said that I’d been through an incredibly tough time, faced another battle, and yet here I stood, having overcome it all.

I disagreed. I didn’t feel resilient. I saw it like this. I wasn’t resilient, because I was weak for succumbing to all of this in the first place. It was self imposed. The suffering I’d caused myself and the people around me, was all my fault. It’s not like somebody had told me to be anxious or depressed. I’d come up with that myself. I was the cause. I was to blame. Nobody told me at 16 to become borderline emotionless and bottle everything up, I’d done that, even if it was subconscious, it was me. Nobody told me to develop IBS either. I caused it.

Quite rightly, my therapist told me that I was wrong. A common theme in our sessions has been her belief that I’m too hard on myself. I set these rules and expectations upon how I should act and feel, and I pass harsh judgement on myself if I think I’m not up to scratch.

So I think it’s time that I accept what she’s saying and acknowledge the truth. She is right. I am resilient. And I shouldn’t be ashamed to feel that way. I’ve faced battles that have killed other people, that have nearly killed me, but I’m still standing. It wasn’t weakness that got me through it, it was strength. And despite it all, I’m here and i’m looking toward the future.  A couple of close friends of mine have got Crohn’s Disease. I wouldn’t tell them they’ve done it to themselves. It’s something that has appeared within their body, over which they had no control. My illness was no different.

My depression and anxiety were the result of environmental factors, of chemical reactions. I didn’t choose depression. I didn’t choose anxiety. When I was 16 and my parents split up, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the emotions I was experiencing. I thought that being strong and not falling apart was the right thing to do. When I was new to the police and being bullied for the first time in my life, I didn’t choose to become anxious. I tried to keep my head down and persevere. By ploughing on forwards and not letting myself fall, I wasn’t being weak; just ignorant about what I was doing to myself.

Now when I look back, I won’t see myself as being weak for having had depression and anxiety. I’ll see myself as being strong and resilient for overcoming them.


Self loathing


Some days I am consumed with self loathing. There are countless reasons that I feel this way. For example, I hate myself for putting my wife through this. She doesn’t just have to get herself through the day, she has to get me through it as well. I have to be coaxed into going anywhere. It’s never a simple “yes I’d like to go”. It’s a whirlwind of anxiety. Where am I going? How am I getting there? Who is going to be there? What if I’m in a bad way in front of them? Can I get home if I want to just leave? Plans and arrangements are constantly changed, tailored to my needs. Everybody else has to work around me. By trying not to draw attention to myself and my problems, I only end up doing the opposite. It’s hard work being married to me.

Yet I still can’t find the words to express how grateful I am. For sticking with me through this, for picking me up, for moving to a completely different country. Just to make me happy. For not giving up on me when any other sane person would have. To say more than just “I love you” and that I think I’d probably be dead without you. But I can’t find the words.

I hate myself for continuing to put me through this too. Nearly two years on and I still have days where I just want to give up. Why can’t this be like any other illness? Why can’t it be cured or just kill me? It lingers. I work myself into a frenzy and my brain feels like it’s going to explode. I see stars. Seriously, my head spins so much I see stars and lose my balance. I’m tired. Why do I have to keep experiencing this? Why won’t it stop? Why won’t I stop doing it to myself? And then I hate myself for feeling sorry for myself.

I’ve quit my job, moved to another country and tried to carve a out new career. But the slightest setback sees me crumbling. Giving up. I can’t do it. I’m not capable. This isn’t going to work. I lose focus. I don’t achieve anything, my brain gets stuck on repeat. I think over and over about something that doesn’t even matter. I’m useless. So I hate myself for being useless.

There’s no happy ending to this. I just hope that putting the words on a page and out of my head, will help clear it. I fear that it won’t. I think today is a day where I’m irredeemable. Because I hate myself for being self indulgent enough to write about hating myself.

Self loathing

Challenge Complete

It’s done. Completed. Over with. Fin. Snowdon and Llyn Padarn have been put to the sword. The cycle ride has been shredded, the hike stomped to dust and the kayak swept aside. The fundraising total has been smashed to bits – the Incredible Hulk couldn’t have done a better job. Our total is a massive £3,256. That’s more than £1,000 over our target of £2,250. It’s astonishing. With gift aid we’ve raised almost £4,000 for Mind and I could not be prouder.

I have been amazed at the generosity from you, our sponsors. We may have done the challenge, but without the sponsorship money we wouldn’t have achieved a thing. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. The money that you have donated will make a huge difference to people suffering mental health problems. You can find out just how much of a difference here.

As you will know, I have been building to this moment for quite some time. For me, the challenge was about more than just raising money. It was about giving myself a reason to confront my issues and share my experiences, in the hope that I would not only help myself, but also help others to avoid what I had been through.

A week on, I feel better able to describe the physical and mental challenges presented to me during our cycle, hike and kayak. So here it is…

6.45am, Saturday 8th October 2016, The Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis. Frankie’s alarm goes off. “Oh shit” I say. I am already awake, the ring of the alarm serving only as a reminder of my lack of sleep. At most, I had managed to doze for about an hour. My night had been spent tossing, turning and coughing. Endless coughing. Sleep was always going to be hard to find – my brain caught up in thoughts of the challenge ahead – without the additional problem of feeling like death warmed up.

We had arrived the afternoon before; myself, Frankie, Bertie and Emily making the short hop across to Snowdon from Tarporley. One look at the car told you that we meant business. Three bicycles on a rack adorned the rear, whilst the interior was loaded up with walking boots, jackets, cycling gear and endless amounts of sugary snacks and energy drinks. Brad and Ant were already inside the hotel having driven directly from London and equally looking like they’d burgled a Moutain Warehouse store.

Chatter abounded and a loose sense of anxiety hung in the air. We knew roughly what we had to do: cycle 17km/hike 15km/kayak 4km, but we had no idea as to exactly how we would be doing it. Eventually talk turned to dinner plans. I stewed. I felt conscious that people were “there for me” and it made me uncomfortable. Despite finding it easy to be open about my struggles in my blogs, I still find it difficult in person. Having a group of people all in one place, because you’ve had depression and anxiety attacks, is a strange position to be in. Nobody acknowledged it directly, but we I knew that without it, none of us would be there.

The evening rolled in and we had a briefing from one of our challenge leaders before dinner. Plans were laid out. We would depart at 0830, cycling our way along the shore of Llyn Padarn before chucking a left and circling the bottom of Snowdon. We would finish up at Llyn Cwellyn at around 1000, where we would embark upon our hike up Snowdon via the Ranger Path. The hike would take between 5 and a half, to 6 hours, to complete. We would head down via the Llanberis path and make our way to Llyn Padarn for the final part of the challenge, the kayak across the lake.

I went to dinner feeling reassured. As a group we seemed in good spirits, ready to conquer the challenge that lay ahead. As an individual I felt out of sorts and exhausted. I excused myself from dinner, having hardly touched my food and headed to bed, determined to be in the best shape possible for the morning. Usually I would take my anti-depressant medication about an hour or so before bed and it would send me off into a deep sleep. Unfortunately, the stinking cold that I had been carrying for the past week seemed to be preventing this. That is why I found myself lying there awake at quarter to seven in the morning.

I showered and dressed in my cycle gear. I double checked my rucksack and kit bag, ensuring that everything I would need for the hike and kayak was present, then headed down to breakfast. Whilst everybody else indulged in a hearty breakfast, I managed half a bowl of cereal. I was too anxious to eat anything, convinced that I would be physically unable to complete the challenge. What would I tell people? Thanks for donating and that, but I felt a bit ill and hadn’t slept for a few days.

After breakfast the group at large (I think in total there were 18 of us undertaking the same challenge but for various charities) began to congregate outside the front of the hotel. Bikes were lined up, chains checked and tyres inflated. Kit bags were piled up, ready to be placed in the support vehicle. People were milling around, they were ready to go. I stood to the side, coughing until I heaved.


We had a group photo and then it was time to go. I froze, overwhelmed by the fear that I wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge. I told Frankie to set off and that I would catch up, I didn’t want to delay the group and bring the focus onto myself. Then I did a runner, headed to the gents and locked myself in a cubicle.

After several frantic minutes I composed myself and decided to take it one step at a time. I was sure that I could complete the cycle, no matter how bad I felt, so I focussed on the cycle and nothing more. Get through it, then reassess.

I emerged from the hotel to find my team waiting for me. The main group had set off, but Frankie, Bertie, Emily, Ant and Brad had decided to stay behind and wait for me. We had entered the challenge as a team, so we would complete it as a team.

We set off and I immediately felt better. I hadn’t cycled for a long time (although I had put in plenty of miles on an exercise bike) and had forgotten the sense of freedom you can find with a bike beneath you and the open road ahead. We hit the first hill, I stood up from the saddle and began to climb. I felt good. I looked behind to see how the others were doing… Frankie and Bertie had stopped. I turned around to see what the problem was. Thankfully it was a simple one, Bertie’s chain had slipped off. I managed to slip the chain back on the cog and we set off up the hill once more. Overcoming that minor problem gave me confidence.

The more that the cycle ride went on, the better I felt. I was comfortable in the saddle and distracted by the scenery around me. I was a fluorescent green blob and I was on the move. And then we hit the big climb.

Once again, I stood in my saddle and pedalled like I was wearing the polka dot jersey in the Tour De France. The climb went on… and on… until it was only Brad and myself left cycling. We had been forewarned that most people got off and pushed their bikes up part of the hill. I decided I wouldn’t be one of those people. I pushed myself, getting hotter and hotter with each turn of the pedal.

I had been prepared for the cold, but here I was overheating. The climb continued to wind upwards in front of me. At each corner, I convinced myself it was the last and that I would find the top of the climb and be able to rid myself of the jacket that seemed to be preventing all heat from escaping. At each corner, I was wrong.

Eventually, I stopped, I couldn’t take it any longer. My legs wobbled beneath me. I made a conscious decision not to get off my bike as I was worried I wouldn’t get back on. The jacket was removed, rolled up and tied around my waist. I pushed on, determined to reach the top of the climb by pedal power alone.

I gathered momentum and rounded the next corner… and found myself staring at Brad and the top of climb. If only I had convinced myself to continue for one more corner, I would have made it without stopping! I pulled alongside Brad, we admired the view and waited for the others to catch up.


The descent was much more fun than the climb and I embraced the opportunity to travel as quickly as possible. Once we hit the bottom, the scenery got even better. The route to Llyn Cwellyn was beautiful, we eased our pace and took it all in.


We reached the car park and the rest of our group, with barely enough time to change into our hiking gear and grab a coffee. Then it was off to the start of the Ranger Path and a quick safety briefing before our hike. At this point we were joined by my brother in law Steve, who had decided to come and do the hike with us.

For the first time in several days, I was beginning to feel confident about the hike. The cycle ride had distracted me from my coughing fits and I had convinced myself that my old biology teacher was right, the best way to get rid of a cold is to sweat it out. I was going to carry my mentality over. Focus only on the hike from now on. We started climbing… And I started doubting.


I immediately began to feel the effects of the cycle in my legs. My cough returned. My lack of sleep loomed over me like a dark cloud. So did a sense of panic. My doubts came flooding back. What the hell am I gonna do? It’s going to be so embarrassing when I give up, a quarter of the way up… I am not capable of this. I am too tired. Too ill. And that’s how the hike went on. My legs battled the ground beneath me whilst my head battled the anxiety that swirled around inside it.

Whenever the incline levelled out slightly and the gradient decreased, I would find myself able to take in the spectacular views. But as soon as the climb got steeper, I would find myself retreating, unable to take part in the conversations around me. Whenever we paused for a rest break, I would stand aside from the group, consuming energy gels and flapjacks in a desperate effort to replenish my energy reserves. In my head, Snowdon had somehow become Everest and my cold had become pneumonia.

At the 3/4 mark I thought I had finally reached my limit. I couldn’t move my legs any further and breathing was nigh on impossible. My body was conspiring with my mind to defeat me. The group took a rest break and I collapsed onto the ground. Within seconds I was freezing and placing on my additional layers of clothing. Before I could zip up my jacket we were off again.



The slope reached its steepest point and I slipped behind the group. I was finished. I stopped and took what I thought would be a final look up. What I saw changed everything. About 100 metres ahead of me, I saw clouds. There and then I determined that I was going to finish the climb. I wasn’t leaving without making it above the clouds. I whipped out my phone, stuck on some tunes and stomped my way upwards.

We had been lucky with the weather throughout the day – it was dry and mild with little wind. When we reached the summit, we were even luckier. The clouds around us seemed to part and the sun shone brightly. The views were spectacular and we all headed to the very top to take pictures. We had made such quick progress up the mountain that we were given 30 minutes to pause and take it all in.

The descent was a doddle and my ailments were forgotten as Steve, Ant and myself hip-hopped our way down the mountain (for those who don’t know, the act of “hip-hopping” means to dance and do your best Snoop Dogg impression).

The hardest part of the challenge was overcome. I had done it, I had dragged my sorry, tired arse, up and down the mountain and overcome my anxiety. Now it was time for the bit that I had been looking forward to the most, the kayak across Llyn Padarn.

Despite being soaked through, the kayak was great fun and a final chance to take in the breathtaking scenery. Boats seem to be an ever present for big moments in my life – I proposed on a boat in the Lake District, we had a boat trip with all our friends and family in Malta prior to our wedding, and now this. So it was nice to finish the challenge as just Frankie and I, together in a boat. Yes, I had completed the challenge as part of a team of six, but I had finished it as part of my most important team – a team of two.

Our kayak was dragged ashore and we were presented with t-shirts, champagne and medals. It was done. The challenge was complete.

Once again, I’d like to thank everybody who donated. I’d also like to thank Frankie, Bertie (who flew back from Malta just to take part in the challenge), Emily, Ant and Brad for being by my side throughout not only the Snowdon Challenge, but the challenges I’ve faced over the past year. It means a lot.


If you haven’t already, you can donate here:




Challenge Complete

It’s okay to ask for help


I lay in bed, wide awake, sleep nothing more than a forlorn hope. Then it struck me, I have no interest in enduring another day of this. End it. End it all. Stop the suffering. For the first time in my life I plotted a way to kill myself. And I mean plotted. My plan was specific, calculated, it was achievable. No vague ideas for me.

Unfortunately, my first thoughts of suicide were not my last and had it not been for timely/lucky intervention at various points in the preceding months, I may well not be here today. So how did I find myself at the point of suicide? How did I get that far along? Primarily, by not telling anybody that I was on the way there. Sure, I was having therapy, trying my best to confront issues I’d never dealt with before, but that was with a stranger. My words and feelings were left behind, confined within the four walls where I spilled them. I wasn’t sharing them with my friends or family, to them I remained a closed book.

Maybe it was my upbringing? Maybe it was my job? Whatever it was, I was a man who did his best to avoid any show of weakness. Weakness was dangerous. Weakness could get you hurt. I believed that displaying my emotions was the biggest weakness, so I bottled them, pushed them aside and left them to be dealt with another day. Eventually though, the time came that I ran out of bottles. My emotions ran free, overwhelming me, drowning me from within.

I would suspect that there are many men out there just like me. Men unable, unwilling or simply too afraid to show emotion. Men do not want the stigma of terms like ‘mental illness’ or ‘depression’ hanging over their head. Men are strong. Men keep it together, they are providers, warriors. Men are misguided. Men commit suicide.

The latest figures released in 2015 by the Office for National Statistics show that 78% of suicides in the UK are men. That’s over three quarters of all suicides. That’s staggering. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for men my age. In England and Wales, 24% of all deaths for men aged 20 – 34 years old is suicide. Otherwise healthy men, are being cut down in their prime by suicide – and therefore issues with their mental health. Yet nobody really seems to be talking about it.

If you listen to the typical conversation of any group of men, you are likely to hear discussion about general health; exercise and healthy eating, or illness; flu and stomach bugs, or even sporting injuries; muscle tears, sprains, broken limbs… yet you wont hear talk of mental health or illness. There will be talk of death by cancer, disease or road traffic accidents… but no mention of suicide.

So how do we begin to address this problem, this epidemic? Firstly, we talk about it. If we have problems, we share them. If we know somebody going through a tough time, we ask them how they’re feeling. And if they tell us they’re depressed or anxious, we don’t baulk at the subject, we confront it. I know that can be difficult for men, it doesn’t appeal to our sense of machismo, but it’s time to step up guys.

Let me appeal to the logical, grizzly, manly man side of your brain. Imagine that you are shipwrecked on a desert island with a group of people. You’ve got a nice collection of firewood, but it’s starting to rain. The hut you’ve built to house the firewood is beginning to flood. You look strong, so the group asks you to hold the firewood to keep it dry. They start to pile it on… and on… and on. Until you begin to realise that you can’t hold any more, you’ve reached the limit of your strength and any second now you are going to drop it all onto the floor to get soaked. What would you do? Would you ask them to stop loading you up? Would you explain that for the benefit of the group, you need others to share the load? You would. So why should your mental health be any different? Why should you allow yourself to be loaded up until you break? Speak up, for your own sake and that of others around you.

The next step is to raise the message within the public consciousness, we do that by supporting charities like Mind, by fundraising or sharing blogs like this. By breaking down the stigma attached to suicide and mental health, we make it easier for people to open up about their problems. We also help support and expand the services offered to those who are suffering. The more help available, the more people who can be helped.

I say all of this from a position of experience, because the best thing that I did for myself was to open up. Only when I shared my emotions, did I begin to feel the load lighten and in turn spy a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I realise that it was the strongest act I’ve ever performed.

*This blog was written for Mind and also published here (with some slight amendments for the Mind website)*

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Twitter: @TheStevieE

It’s okay to ask for help



I feel exhausted. It seems silly to say now, but I never expected to be ill for this long. My initial estimation was a couple of months of regular therapy and I’d be ‘ready’ to go back to normal. I didn’t expect ‘ready’ to take so long. Like a cowboy builder, I was way out on my first guess. Before I knew it, a couple of months became six months… then six months became nine… and nine became today.

My wife, Frankie, has never pushed me to be ‘ready’. Her priority has always been to make me feel better, no matter what it takes. She never set a date and neither did my GP. A system of continuous and regular assessment was implemented. My line managers have also been fantastic, to the point that I almost feel guilty about it. Everyone just wants to see me get better.

But not everyone understands. You’d be forgiven for thinking, why are you exhausted? You’ve not been physically ill, you’ve not had surgery, what’s the deal? The deal is that I find myself here, a year down the line, completely exhausted by my emotions. Every passing day becomes a self contained hell. It doesn’t matter where I am, or what I’m doing, my brain quite often does what it wants. And what it wants, is to over analyse every single interaction that I have, replaying incidents from my past, making it expressly clear when I fucked it up and letting me know how I should have done better.

It doesn’t feel obliged to stick the to the past, there is plenty of thinking to be done about the future too. Making plans. Double checking them. Triple checking them. Checking to infinity. Nor does it restrict itself to complicated tasks. It worries about the little things, the mundane. Such as… Should I have that cereal bar before I walk the dog? Instantly, that question leads on to… Should I save it for when I get back, because it’s the last one? When I get back, am I going to be hungry for more than a cereal bar? Should I get some food to eat after? As I can’t take the dog into a food shop, should I walk her, bring her back and then get food? Should I go out and get food first? Will she need to pee soon though? Maybe I should just give her a quick walk, then go get food? Will she need a proper walk as she hasn’t had one yet today? Am I going to be really hungry by the time I get back? How long will it be until I eat? What can I get that’s quick to prepare? Where can I go that’s quick and easy? Should I get something healthy? Will I want to eat chicken and salad considering I had that for dinner yesterday? Have I decided to walk the dog and then buy food? And what about this cereal bar? And so on and so forth.

That is not an exaggeration. It’s a whole lot of questions without any answers, and I still don’t know if I’m going to eat the fucking cereal bar! Try to imagine having that train of thought, for every little decision. Beginning to see why I might feel exhausted? I used to feel blessed. I was always two steps ahead of the person who was two steps ahead, able to make a decision and foresee the consequences. I was aware of everything that was going on around me, I was the most aware person in any room that I stepped into. The King of seeing everything, able to explain miscommunications and settle disputes. Those abilities, are now a curse. I ruminate about rumination.

I’m currently at the police rehabilitation centre for a two week stint, taking part in group therapy sessions and one-two-one’s (I’m glad that back when I was able to make a decision, I made the correct one in choosing to pay into the fund that covers this place). The grounds are beautiful, there is a gym, a swimming pool, a bar (which I don’t use) for an evening tipple and a TV room for watching sport. You also get three decent meals a day. Surely I should be recharging my batteries? Unfortunately not.

During a recent group session, my explanation of how my brain works was greeted by a miffed response of “Wow, that’s a lot of thinking” – and that’s by people with similar experiences to myself. The self exploration and confrontation of issues, whilst beneficial, can be exhausting. Just getting dinner is exhausting – you walk into the dining room, desperately searching for a friendly face to sit with. Then you have to think of small talk. And nothing on this earth is more exhausting than small talk.

How then, do I go about preventing this exhaustion? Firstly, I need to retrain my brain to relax. Relaxation, or switching off, is a skill. A skill that I desperately need to learn. Much of what I’ll be practicing is grounded in mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment’. I’ve heard many positive stories from people that have practiced mindfulness, and although it’s clearly going to be difficult for me, I’m determined to give it my best shot. It’s time to live in the now.

I’m also looking to implement ‘go-to’ behaviours to utilise when my anxiety starts to build. For example, when the speed of my speech begins to increase, I’ll stop, take a big breath in through my nose, reset my brain and speak in a more considered manner to help prevent myself from stuttering. When my hands start to twitch, it’s very obvious to those around me and I can become embarrassed – which only serves to increase my anxiety. Instead I’ll focus my energy on something a little less obvious, like twisting my wedding ring. If things continue to escalate, I’ll excuse myself from a situation and find somewhere that I feel comfortable, where I shall stand still, close my eyes and listen. I’ll find a sound and bring my attention to it (I’ve chosen to focus on sound because I can choose what my eyes see, but I can’t choose what my ears hear!).

Will this all work? I don’t know, but you can be sure I’m going to try. Because putting in the effort and taming my anxiety, has got to be a lot less exhausting than the year I’ve just had.


*If you haven’t already, please sponsor me via the below link as I’m raising money for Mind, the mental health charity. Thanks!



Lessons learnt.


I felt that it was time that I wrote something positive, which in itself is a positive thing as it means that I am starting to open my mind to positive thinking (even if it is only on a sporadic basis).

So here are some of the things that I have learnt, from therapy, reading and life experiences.

I have learnt that; I should open up to people about how I’m feeling, instead of bottling up my thoughts and feelings and allowing them to fester. If I’m anxious, I should tell somebody.

… I shouldn’t make a snap judgement about somebody based upon their outward appearance, I don’t know what’s going on inside until I ask.

… the people who truly care about you will move heaven and earth to help you.

… asking for help is not weakness.

… being upset sometimes is okay.

… there are lots of people who are experiencing – or have experienced – what I’m going through.

… exercise, healthy eating and physical wellbeing have a huge effect on my mental wellbeing.

… opening up about my own problems, encourages others to do the same.

… there is help available, I just needed to know where to find it.

… hurting myself is a quick fix, not a long term measure.

… there is no quick fix for anything.

… having an achievable goal to work towards gives my life meaning.

… I need to open my eyes to the world around me and take it in, instead of ploughing on through with the blinkers on. Sometimes I need to stop, take a look around and listen.

… having setbacks is normal. There will be bumps along the way.

… life is balance.

… I shouldn’t be ashamed about what I’m experiencing.

… I should write as often as possible because it is one of the few things in life that provides me a true mental challenge.

… writing is a career I should at least attempt to pursue. It allows me to express myself in a way that I couldn’t ever do verbally, it gives me fulfilment and shows me that I do have at least one talent!

… I shouldn’t feel embarrassed to be myself.

… Each day is a new day, treat it as such.

… I am strong.

Lessons learnt.

Medicated. Pt 1.


Recently, I have been trying and failing to write a new blog post. Trying and failing to sort out the antiquated layout of my blog site. Trying and failing to stop being a burden to those around me. Trying and failing to stand up without feeling like I’m gonna fall down. Trying and failing to be rational. Trying and failing to see the worth in my own life.

A contributing factor for these failings is my medication. I will forgive you for thinking “hang on, isn’t medication supposed to make you better?”. Because you’re right, it is supposed to make you fell better. But when it comes to mental health, it often doesn’t. And when it comes to transitioning from one set of medication to another, it really, really doesn’t.

Currently, I find myself transitioning again and I’m trying and failing to find an eloquent way to describe how it feels… All I can come up with is, that it is the WORST (honourable mention to the losing contenders, “hella bad” and “the drizzling shits”). From what I have read on forums and message boards, I can only conclude that I am not alone in my experiences. So, given that this is my blog, it seems only right that I should inform you of these experiences.

Back when this all started happening (the anxiety and depression, not the blog) and it was becoming apparent that I had a real problem, I was reticent to go down the route of medication. This feeling stemmed from a simple and logical idea; I did not want to become reliant on drugs just to feel normal. I wanted to get through it using only counselling.

I hate not being in control of myself, it’s part of the reason I’ve never been a big drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I like a few drinks on a night out, but just enough to get me tipsy and relax a little. I freak out at the first sign that the room is spinning. And you certainly don’t want to see me under the threat of anaesthesia – most medical personnel are rightly wary of a fella who is 6’1”, 14 stone and kicking off about going under. It’s just the way I’m wired. I’ve always been this way, so becoming reliant on medication for my mental wellbeing was never something I would pursue easily. But as we all know, things change. And they changed for me.

I had been at a family wedding, consumed a few alcoholic drinks and enjoyed myself. I went to bed, the room wasn’t spinning, I didn’t feel sick, I wasn’t stumbling or slurring. I wasn’t drunk. I felt fine. And then suddenly I didn’t. My thoughts turned dark. Depression washed over me, no doubt aided by the alcohol – a depressant in its own right. I plotted ways to kill myself. And not in a vague “if I were to ever kill myself, I’d do it by…” way. I was specific. I was thinking about it in a “I’m gonna get the dressing gown cords, make them into a noose, hang them over the other side of the door and attach them to the door handle, then hang myself” way. Luckily, Frankie woke up, saw that I wasn’t right and nipped it in the bud.

Due to the actions of that night, my initial plan for a drug free recovery went out of the window. Clearly, counselling wasn’t enough. I was still suffering severe panic attacks, daily bouts of anxiety and my depression had grown to suicidal levels. I had to consider medication.

I went to my GP, explained what had happened and was informed that my first port of call would be Sertraline. Sertraline is part of a group of drugs knowns as SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). The following is directly lifted from the NHS website “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain). It’s thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep. After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nerve cells (known as “reuptake”). SSRIs work by blocking (“inhibiting”) reuptake, meaning more serotonin is available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells”.

I wonder if you’ve picked out the same thing from that excerpt as I did…. “It’s thought”. That’s right. Not known. Not proven. Just thought. And it gets better, “It’s thought that SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain”. So we think we have an idea of what Serotonin does, and we think that SSRIs work by increasing it!

SSRIs are mainly used to treat depression, but can also be used for anxiety. So, I proceeded… and it wasn’t actually that bad (aside from a few side effects – google them and you’ll see what I’m talking about). The depression kind of hung around, but my anxiety began to reduce and my stomach problems all but vanished, leaving me no longer bound by a need to be within walking distance of a toilet. Sertraline worked. Until it suddenly didn’t. And I mean it really didn’t. Seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself locked in the bathroom with a razor blade, cutting my arms.

To be continued…

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Medicated. Pt 1.