My story isn't a particularly harrowing one — it's not filled with extreme difficulties to overcome, my mental health lows can't be attributed to a terrible childhood... With mental illness seemingly at an all-time high and suicide the largest killer of young men, it's clear that anxiety, depression, and a number of other mental health issues are not discriminatory. In fact, my story is similar to many others today, smaller difficulties piling up and not being dealt with, chipping away until suicide becomes a very real, seemingly reasonable option for release.
I have always felt like a misfit; an emotionally led person from a non-emotive family assuming I was weak for feeling this way. For years, I dealt with my homosexuality by suppressing it due to fear of being different and not being accepted. I grew up thinking there was one correct way of being and anything else was a failure. When things got to be too much, I would isolate myself. I dealt with years of depression this way. The problem with these coping strategies is that nothing ever gets fixed, the issues build, and the desire to take action only kicks in at rock bottom. That's when everything changed. I had two options, end it or fix it. With the severity of these options, thankfully I chose the latter.
Seeking counselling was one of the best things I ever did. That non-judgemental, confidential, guilt-free allocated hour per week with someone trained and paid to share the load of my issues made a huge difference. What once had seemed a desperate measure I then realised was in fact the easiest hour of the week, giving my brain a rest, unpicking the knots I had created over time. This was also where I learned new healthy coping methods.
Still, life likes to throw curveballs and a few months after my counselling had come to a natural end, I was faced with challenges... 2018 became the year I fought depression and won. The process of communicating with a counselor had been a real eye opener; slowing my brain down, ordering my thoughts, considering how to express my feelings had made a huge difference to my mental health. I utilised this newfound coping method: Sick of social media offering up images of happy people, couples in love, holidays and buff bodies, none of which I could contribute, I turned my Instagram into a Mental Health Diary. A means to order my thoughts and hold myself accountable. The process was as cathartic as it had been with a counsellor, but what surprised me was the number of people who contacted me to share similar stories and encourage me. I was no longer alone.
My openness and honesty was seen as brave and as a strength rather than a weakness as I had once thought. In fact it opened doors for me...friendships, a fantastic relationship born from an Instagram follow, a new job in the charity sector where my blog was seen as an achievement rather than a worry. I had reprogrammed my mind and am happy to say I no longer deal with ongoing mental health issues. I have had a clear head for well over 6 months now, I am able to be fully present in the moment, I can see the positive sides of life. I'm content. I am happy.
I am certainly an advocate of the time to talk movement, of counseling, and of opening up. My own experience tells me that old ideas of masculinity are changing and in fact, talking about your emotions is now deemed a strength. Don't suffer in silence. Treat yourself as a best friend rather than an enemy. Change can happen!
Written by Craig Bethel