It took me over 30 years to recognise that I needed help! Severe trauma from long-term and persistent, childhood mental and physical bullying had left me with social anxiety, self-doubt and a lack of self-esteem. As I got older this contributed to general anxiety and depression, and some episodes of paranoia. Most days I was low, experiencing body pain and headaches, a general ‘bone’ weariness, a lack of interest in doing things and an inability to concentrate. I would worry about interacting with people, I would sweat when in unfamiliar or stressful places and situations. Nearly every day I felt ill, sometimes just general tiredness, but more frequently like a hangover or the flu. I was hiding it behind a facade and internal walls that I had built to ‘protect’ myself, but it was affecting my work, and more importantly my home life and close family. On the surface I was faking it and giving out an impression of a calm and controlled person, underneath was turmoil and self-doubt – the proverbial swan analogy.
I had dealt with it internally in shame and silence. I grew up at a time when mental health issues weren’t talked about; where a man would be told to ‘Man up!’ or ‘Get a grip!’; where you had to be ‘strong’ and not show emotion or pain as a man. I personally felt ashamed of my feelings and unworthy of wasting people’s time for help with my ‘relatively minor’ issues. I told myself that it wasn’t that big an issue; I shouldn’t waste people’s time; I should just deal with it and stop being so fragile. Various interactions continued to reinforce those views, for example, a doctor telling me ‘everyone feels tired and down, just take some vitamins and do some exercise’; a boss telling me ‘what have you got to be stressed about’; amongst other things.
Finally, I found the courage to start facing it, investigate ways to deal with it and get some professional help. This only happened through being shown that I was not alone and that in fact a large proportion of the population experience similar issues. General awareness played a big role in that – Mental Health was now regularly in the news and was being more openly talked about, and my current workplace started a Mental Health employee group in which I became an active participant. This is why it’s so important that we continue to raise awareness in order to let people know it’s normal, nothing to be ashamed of, and that help is out there. Mental health has started to become a thing that people will talk about and awareness is rising, but we still have a long way to go, and endemic prejudices and social stigmas are not removed overnight.
Personally, I still have a journey ahead of me, but having taken that initial step I am on the road, and have seen a positive impact. In my quest for peace and understanding, I have received therapy and practised techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga and exercise, and of course journaling. Despite being originally sceptical of many of these, I found that they helped, and I was able to find techniques that work for me and build these into my routines. Initially, journaling was hard and I didn’t know where to start, but I continued to see and hear about the benefits, and with more research and guidance found it to be a very useful tool. I still struggle to express and talk about my thoughts and experiences in person – and still feel embarrassed about it! However, I find that I can write about them, using the outlet of journaling to express myself, and work through things or let things go.
I wanted to help raise awareness and provide information to others in order to help them find their own paths. My vision for Journalise is based on the intent to help raise awareness of Mental Health Self Care. Everyone will benefit from our tools and advice, but I particularly wanted to focus Journalise towards men, who are traditionally expected by society to be ‘strong’ and not to be emotional. I want to see us help normalise mental health generally, and to help men become aware that their feelings are normal. These things can be acknowledged, they don’t have to be bottled up, and help and support are out there. The aim of our products and site is to provide tools and information that will enable anyone that needs them (regardless of gender), on a journey of self-discovery and understanding of their drivers, motivations, goals and aspirations, in order to care for their Self and positively influence their lives.