From as early as I can remember I experienced symptoms of what I know now was anxiety. Things were always worst at school when I was away from the security of home and my mum. I spent my days upset and waiting eagerly for home time. This continued on into secondary school and only eased a little around year 10.
I hated being the centre of attention, especially when we had to read out loud in front of the class. Another huge trigger was waiting in queues for things like concerts, not knowing how long it was going to be until we got to go in, the same thing applied for meetings or appointments and traveling long distances. I stress that I won’t be well. When going anywhere different, I always try to find out as soon as I can where the toilets are in case I need to go quickly at some point.
During my late teens and early 20s, things once again seemed to ease a bit but only until I became self-employed and started working from home. This built up a false sense of security in a way as I didn’t have to go out so much. This, of course, started to make things even worse. I ended up hardly going out at all, just being able to cope with simple things like popping to the nearby shop or visiting a family member. I used to be scared of doing anything out of my comfort zone and would often experience what I can only describe as a kind of ‘brain drain’. Luckily, I knew that if I slept, I would wake up the next day feeling a lot less stressed (unfortunately that’s no longer the case). I would panic at any trigger until I felt though I was about to be sick.
It was around this time that I felt I couldn’t take anymore, things had gotten too much. Not fully understanding what I was experiencing, I, like many others turned to the internet for answers. After very little research on ‘Dr. Google’, I realised for the first time in my life that I was living with anxiety. This was a breakthrough in a way as for the first time in my life, I saw my doctor and asked for help. Things were put into place and I was referred for counseling and then CBT. I was quite frustrated as I wanted an immediate cure, I wanted to recover straight away. This was not to be, and I soon realised that a long road lay ahead. The exposure therapy was difficult but it seemed to show the best results for me. On returning to my GP I was put on medication.
My wife and I planned to have our first child and I had hoped that would help matters, but unfortunately, it did the opposite and I struggled with having to look after a new baby, the main worry being, “what if I am ill and can’t take care of her? “, (this remains an ongoing fear for me). At this time I stopped the exposure therapy as I felt I was needed at home to be there for my daughter, I certainly didn’t want to risk facing the fears that might make me ill and if I was ill, I wouldn’t be able to function. The anxiety would leave me feeling physically sick, light-headed and unable to eat.
This past year has been the toughest yet. Many things contributed to this: I didn’t feel like my anxiety medication was working so I came off it, this was very bad timing as it coincided with the pandemic lockdown. My wife being home from work put the family unit out of routine and this just added to the stress. I then got a serious toothache. Due to my high levels of anxiety and a previous bad dentist experience I put off getting it looked at. In the end, it got so bad, I couldn’t eat or sleep, I was constantly panicking and making myself ill. Eventually, I rang both the doctor and the dentist. The dentist for an emergency appointment as by this time, the pain was unbearable and the doctor to be put back on medication to stop the panic. All these factors led to a breakdown, it was horrible and definitely the lowest I have ever been.
So what changed things for me? Well, I guess the biggest thing was taking up a hobby. Through mountain biking, I’ve found a new lease on life. Being outside in the fresh air and beautiful countryside has helped both my mental and physical health. I started TotalMTB to encourage others to get outside and feel the benefits as well. Through TotalMTB, I am not just leading a healthier way of life but have found some awesome friends that are extremely supportive of my anxiety. We do a lot of charity work on not only raising awareness but also raising money for mental health. We have a great T-shirt promoting mental wealth you can see it here: https://www.vinylbear.co.uk/product-category/clubs/total-mtb/
We also put together a charity Christmas raffle each year, if you would like to take part in this year’s raffle and win one of the 132 fabulous prizes, you can find out more here: https://www.totalmtb.co.uk/totalmtb-big-christmas-charity-raffle-2020/
I am slowly but surely building up self-confidence and now talk openly about my mental health. By speaking out and sharing my story and experiences, I am hopefully letting others know, it is okay to speak out. I may even reach those who are going through what I did and feel they are alone in their battle. I feel okay now but still not where I want to be. I still have tough times and worry that my problems are going to affect my daughter in some way or another. I still struggle with going to certain places. I still struggle with migraines and worrying about ‘what might happen’. I know for sure that I never want to go back and feel the levels of panic or stress I used to. The main lesson I have learned is, prevention and planning can really help reduce anxiety. So I will keep on doing what I’m doing and trying to break down stigma and help others where I can. I am so lucky to have such supportive family and friends.
Here at TotalMTB, we’re really pushing mental health awareness and raising money for mental health as it is needed more now than ever before due to what has happened with the virus, lockdown, and uncertain times we are experiencing right now. If you feel like you need help, reach out to family, friends, or a charity like No Panic. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe you should even try mountain biking?
You can visit TotalMTB website here: https://www.totalmtb.co.uk/