To coincide with Movember and to continue with our awareness campaign Men’s Wellbeing Matters, throughout November we’re sharing a series of mental health blogs written by men in order to break stigma and open up healthy and helpful conversations.
Our first blog is written by Allen, who reflects on the impact of mental illness on his life and the impact of not opening up when he first experienced mental health challenges.
“I turned fifty earlier this year and on my birthday, I remember having a cuppa and reflecting on my fifty years as a father, a son, a brother, a husband, a partner, an uncle and a friend. I wondered how my life may have played out if I didn’t have mental health problems, if alcohol and drugs had not played such a significant role and if I were able to understand and express my feelings and emotions instead of suppressing them for decades. For much of my life I chose to hide away certain aspects of my mental illness (auditory hallucinations, self-harm, night terrors and being bullied) and put a mask on whenever I felt vulnerable or sensitive as I was made to think men should not show signs of weakness. I never felt as a child or teenager that I could say I feel a bit sensitive today, or I am feeling sad and alone, or I am feeling emotions that I just don’t know how to process. So I bottled up many things and used alcohol and drugs to numb myself and self-medicate my emotions. But in adulthood, I hit rock bottom a number of times physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This has meant looking at my addictive behaviours, working a 12-step recovery programme, gaining knowledge of the mental health conditions I had been diagnosed with, seeking support from mental health teams, reaching out for help when I didn’t want to be here anymore, living with constant suicidal ideation, being prescribed psychiatric medication, having psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, being admitted to psychiatric units, attending peer support groups, using my local Safe Haven when in crisis and endless conversations with people who I could relate to and feel comfortable sharing my lived experience.
What I find amazes me is that, while my story is obviously personal and unique to me and my family, and every individual I have ever met all have their own unique and personal stories, we can still relate to one another in many ways, and if we choose to, we can learn from each other, be kind, compassionate and understanding.
For me, speaking with people with similar lived experiences has been so important along with medication I take daily. Sleep is another major factor in keeping myself well with eating healthily and drinking plenty of water but I struggle with these. Being aware of my emotions and feelings is something I try to regularly touch base with, as when I don’t, I become easily triggered and overwhelmed by emotions and feelings I struggle to process or simply do not recognise”.
Want to blog for us?
If you would like to contribute to this blog series, please email Connie, our Communications Lead at email@example.com. The blogs can be poems, song or videos – whatever format you feel most comfortable with!