19 May 2020

Mental Health

**Please note this blog post may contain references to suicidal thoughts, self-harm and may be triggering so please don't read if you feel it will set off any of your own thoughts - please visit https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/ for services that may be able to help**

This week in the UK it's Mental Health Awareness Week hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (please visit their website to read more about the campaign) so I thought now would be a good time to open up and talk about my own mental health and some of my struggles. I know us men are a little less talkative when it comes to our problems and struggles so I hope posting this may inspire others to even just open up a little more.

I guess a little introduction about me if you don't know me is a good place to start. I'm 28, I live in Leicester where I've lived all my life. I had a pretty standard upbringing - went through college, completed my GCSE's, and then left school. I went to Leicester College and studied Computing which I got a BTEC National Diploma from. After that, I started working, I've had a few jobs in my time, Warehouse Operative, Receptionist at a Doctors Surgery and Cast Member at Disney Store.

I think my first encounter with bad mental health came when my friend Lucy and I were assaulted as we walked back to her house. This happened back in 2009 and I guess before then I felt a bit indestructible and then this major event changed everything. Naturally, it was a traumatic thing. It was around 11pm at night as we walked back from my house to hers when we were approached by 3 men who asked for the time and next thing you know we're flat on our backs from being punched. I was dazed and had a broken nose and was bleeding rather heavily.

The whole assault drained my confidence for a time and I'm still very wary about being out at night when it's dark and for a while, I struggled in crowds - especially at football matches (I've had a Leicester City Season Ticket for on and off 22 years). I don't know what happened but just one day I clicked out of the darker place I was in and buried it a bit and kept going on.

Fast forward a few years and when my worst mental health struggles began. It was whilst working at the Doctors that I spiralled. I encountered a couple of aggressive patients - both over the telephone and in-person and I lost my confidence and then I hit rock bottom. This was in late 2016 and well fast forward to now and I'm still fighting things mentally.

I had my lowest times where I self-harmed, something I don't recommend obviously, I scratched at myself with a pair of scissors - thankfully I didn't do any damage but that evening when my now ex-partner came home I was marched to the local walk-in centre where I was assessed. Whilst I've struggled mentally that was the only time I've self-harmed physically.



My darkest moments were when I was suicidal. I haven't really talked about these times - except with healthcare professionals or my therapists but on more than one occasion I planned ways that I could do it. Even from just going out for a walk and walking into the road make it look like an accident or my biggest one was to throw myself the stairs. A few times I stood there at the top of the stairs staring into the void ready for it to end but I couldn't manage to do it. Again it's been a couple of years since these thoughts but at the time I always said it was the fear that held me back. Turns out I was even too weak to do it.

I've always been quite shy and people will know when I was younger I struggled to talk and would no doubt be quite quiet around them but then send them long messages after. I didn't realise until my therapist mentioned social anxiety that it was a problem. That sometimes I struggle to make small talk and get quite anxious about social occasions especially if it's with people I don't know very well. On the other side once I'm confident around you then you'll probably not shut me up which probably doesn't add up but yeah socially I can struggle and I think that's made me quite inwards and pushed friends away. I guess it's hard to maintain friendships when I'm quite reserved and I wish I was better with people. There are people I care so much about but I'm just almost too scared to message for fear of their reaction which I know is stupid.

I've had quite a bit of treatment for my mental health. Like I've mentioned I've had a full course of CBT and a lot of support from my doctor. The one thing I struggled with was medication. I have been on various things that tried to help. Some made me completely zonked out and sleeping all the time, some just did nothing (although in hindsight I think my GP changed them too soon), and one made me a whole lot worse and put me into a constant mode of heightened anxiety and feeling like I just didn't want to live. Since those last ones I've not had any more and the GP and I decided I'm better without the meds.

The one constant through all my struggles with battling against anxiety and depression has been theatre. Theatre has been my escape and my happy place for all my life. I've been going to the theatre since I was young and more so in the last few years. Last years I decided after doing a previous review website to make it more official and then I launched Beyond the Curtain. The last year has been so enjoyable covering shows at Curve, Haymarket Theatre, De Montfort Hall, Royal and Derngate and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Theatre just gives me a place to escape the real world but it doesn't always shut out all those darker thoughts but it certainly gives me hope for a couple of hours. During my darkest period, it was Half A Sixpence that quite literally helped me get back on the right track. I remember seeing it for the first time and just feeling the biggest joy in my soul. I was utterly transfixed by the whole production and went back a further 4 times. Charlie Stemp's Arthur Kipps was just a marvel. The way he glided effortlessly. The whole company including the likes of Devon-Elise Johnson, Emma Williams and Ian Bartholomew were stunning. I even wrote the cast letters thanking them for helping me mentally with their great work.

Another show that transformed things for me was, some of you won't be surprised to hear this, Amelie. The show felt like almost going through therapy. The power of the journey of these characters which were brought to life by the most talented company of actor-musicians. The show gave me a feeling like no other show has ever given me. I'm so grateful to the friends I made through the show too and the experiences I got to have with them. I'm so excited for the UK cast recording to come next month - although I'm guessing it might be quite triggering as I do miss the show daily.

Having this time during this lockdown has challenged my mental health quite badly. My 2020 had started fairly positively after a sad end to 2019 where my Granny passed away on Christmas Eve but yeah 2020 was going quite well and I'd just typically started a new job which is now on hold (although I'm hoping it's still there for me to go back to once everything returns to normal). Now this lockdown has left put me a step backwards with things. I have a mix of good days where I feel great and then I can just wake up feeling deflated and unmotivated. Last week I started a course of online therapy (as I naturally can't see my therapist at the minute in person) and hopefully that'll help me going forwards during this uncertain time and beyond.

On the positives during this time I've maybe been a little more connected with people, making phone calls (although less so recently - and I'm still waiting for someone to ring me rather than the other way around!), I've done Bingo and quizzes with my wonderful pal Emmie (you should check out her site Carpie Diem Emmie because she's magnificent) and even hosted three weeks of quizzing myself on a Monday evening.

I've struggled a little to keep on top of the theatre content that's been pumped out there. I've watched a few of the online productions (One Man, Two Guvnors, Treasure Island, Wise Children, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet to name a few) and I've really enjoyed those and I'm going to try to keep up a little more where I can. Naturally, without live theatre, there's a bit of a void for my blog too but I hopefully filled that a little with my Isolation Interview series of which there's currently 33 on the site. I hope people have enjoyed reading those - I may have some more coming soon.

But yeah, I hope that's given you a little insight into my mind and my struggles and battles. I hope it maybe can inspire others to open up too. It's important to talk. My door is always open, you can always message me on either my Beyond the Curtain accounts or my own personal ones. There are also brilliant services available that can help, from the Samaritans to charities like Mind (Please see the link at the top of the page).

Please look after yourselves and each other. Sending you all my best wishes and thank you for reading.

Post a comment

© Beyond the Curtain. Design by soleilflare.