I have had mental illness for over twenty years. It has disrupted my life, it has affected my career, relationships and attitude towards life and people. Unfortunately stress, anxiety, panic attacks and low moods have been a common part of my life. However the one thing that has really bugged me is that on numerous occasions I have been called grumpy and/or miserable. There are times when I have absolutely no control of my bloody mind, I am constantly battling my illness so being called grumpy has really irritated me.
I have always struggled to stabilise my mood swings, I seem to instead yo-yo between good mood and low mood days. When my mood is low I tend to worry a lot, have anxious moments, panic attacks and the same irrational thought going round my head for hours on end. Negative thoughts are attracted to negative thoughts and these just grow in my mind.
Can you imagine knowing that at least every two to three weeks you are likely to go back to this dark place? Where you feel that your head and your brain are being smashed in all directions, where there does not seem to be an escape valve and you have no idea when the dull headaches are going to end. So instead of someone who is ignorant calling me grumpy why don’t they take some time to talk to me and to find out what is wrong.
Thankfully the bad periods do end, for whatever reason the low mood eventually subsides and the anxiousness, panic attacks, irrational thoughts and negativity pass on for a period. This period of calm can vary in length and it’s during this time I feel great, I am happy and I can deal with anything put in front of me. I overcome problems, I take on challenges, I talk to people, I have a joke and a laugh, I realise how good my life is and how lucky I am. I feel human. Funny enough people talk to me and I am no longer called grumpy.
What triggers the low moods?
For me the ‘grumpy days’ tend to be triggered by a number of things: events like being asked to do something at work I am not comfortable with, dealing with or attending to a serious incident, an argument with someone, money worries, the thought that I may have an illness, a memory of something from my past like a traumatic event at work or thoughts of losing my mother and father.
Any of these things can trigger my depression or anxieties and then the cycle starts all over again.
When my mood is low it inevitably has a knock on effect on those around me too. My mental state not only affects me but it affects my wife, children, my family, my work colleagues and my friends. Deep down I just want to be the best husband, father, brother, friend I can be. I don’t want to be the catalyst that ruins family days or social events when
I am aware of how my moods, feelings, negativity and emotions affect others. I also know from the years of dealing with these things that talking to someone really helps me. So if you know someone who is in the same position as me, instead of labelling them grumpy, miserable or negative, talk to them and more importantly listen to them. Help them get out of there so called ‘grumpy’ mood. Be the escape chute for their problems, this is how I have progressed and been able to get better. Not just by talking to others about my illness but also talking to others about their illness. Sharing thoughts, ideas, setting goals and coping strategies - it works, and it helps. I listen to others, empathise, support and encourage. This makes me feel better and it makes me realise that helping others helps me.
Why should we talk about mental illness?
The problem for those wanting to talk is that talking takes inner strength. It’s a brave decision to open up about your personal problems but having someone to talk to, who will listen and does not judge you, is very therapeutic. If you hide your mental illness you are just going to make things worse, in the short and long term. You will continue to bottle your emotions, you will not face the issues that damage your mental health and you will not get better.
People do not talk to others as they feel they will be judged. I have spoken to people in the past who tell you to sort yourself out, that it is not that bad, that is will work itself out. This is not always the best reply. So yes I think you have to talk to someone who does care and will listen, but there are plenty of people out there who do have empathy and will help you. Ignore your fears and talk to a GP, a counsellor, occupational health, a friend, a colleague. Additionally I have always believed that those who are the best listeners are those have themselves had their own battles with mental illness. If you have been there and you have progressed then you are in a great place to help others.
The days of men, women and young people being scared to show their feelings have long gone. The so called British stiff upper lip should be a thing of the past. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing your feelings. We are human, we have emotions, we want others to care about us and we want others to listen to us. Talk and let it go, crying and letting all your emotions out does really help.
Are more people suffering mental health problems?
Is mental illness highlighted In society more?
Are we in danger of claiming that anyone with everyday life stress has mental illness? Probably yes to all three.
Anxiety and stress is natural in everyone and some people are better than dealing with it than others. Some of us can have a worry pop into their head, they become anxious and they are still anxious at the end of the day or even the week. Some people will get the same worry and 10 minutes later they have either dealt with it or forgotten about it. Regardless it is okay to feel rubbish, to feel a bit down, to just want to go home and slump on the sofa, watch TV and eat some rubbish food. What is important though is to get up the next morning, face the worry, work out why you are anxious and take it on. Talk about it, find a solution, set a goal and feel better.
Strength, Bravery and courage, talking take guts, I am not going to make it seem like it is the easiest thing in the world to do. Do I trust this person? Will they listen? If I expose my feelings and my illness will it help me? Well unless you talk you will never know. I would rather someone I know and care about, open up and talk to me rather than bottle it all up and possibly make things worse.
Talk about your mental illness. Ask for help, talking will help end the stigma in relation to admitting that you have a mental illness. There is nothing to be afraid off.
Paul Brown – Life Coach - Wellness & Nutrition Coaching
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