Mental Health Awareness Month - Alistair's Story
I spent all of my youth in sporting changing rooms. By nature they are places where strength, endurance and mental poise are the measure of a man. As a starting point, I’m no wall flower. In this environment I thrive. It allows the confident, strong minded and (some may say) brash part of personality to flourish. I also find this environment very challenging. Self-doubt, low-level anxiety and desperation to not let others down always played a part for me. I suppose my point being, my exterior always emanated strength, when often I was crippled.
For many years I thought I was having panic attacks. From being a young child, I’d have short instances of panic, which I couldn’t describe, during times of heightened tension in my life. Exams, Cup Finals, Job Interviews all being triggers for me. Everything would start with instances of anxiety. My heart felt like it had been coated in lead, which then manifested in to a grapefruit of lead in my chest, finally the grapefruit would transform to a basketball and the end result would be a feeling of non-existence. A feeling that the body I stood in wasn’t my real life. As I write these words I now understand why I never said anything to my family. How do you articulate feeling of not existing when you are a young lad trying to find his way? I buried it and it continued to happen!
I then joined the wonderful world of recruitment. A world where you are constantly measured, targeted, belittled, encouraged and then targeted again. Every day has its own pressures. You are selling a service with no product, often to people who aren’t interested. It’s a stressful job. The lead in my chest was there more often and my periods of panic and feeling of detachment increased. It came to a point where I couldn’t hide the panic anymore. I suppose someone seeing you crying and hyperventilating, whilst trying to convince yourself “this IS real life”, all whilst trying to brush your teeth shouldn’t be the trigger to talk. It was for me. I was in my late 20’s and this had been happening for 10 years!
I talked, I learned and I finally understood. I suffer from de-realisation, I’d implore you to google the condition as I have written my poise on the disorder a few times now, and it still doesn’t make sense to me. Anxiety is the cause, and anxiety is often a feeds on high levels of stress in my instance. I am not medicated. It does not affect me on a day to day basis (anymore), and is controlled by breathing techniques and working tirelessly on finding the perfect balance in life.
I spoke long and hard with my family about writing a piece. The old self-doubt popped his (or her) head up, I suppose. Are my problems big enough? Will people be interested? Have I been un-well enough? They all whole heartedly backed me and hopefully my words may help 1 person to gain courage and speak out.
Always here to talk about my experience. Hit me up!