During a heated and unpleasant argument with a colleague he made a comment which absolutely knocked me flat “the trouble with you Richard you can’t take criticism”!! For the next 30 minutes I was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of powerful emotions that made me want to punch his lights out – and then head for the nearest river! I did neither. But it didn’t end there – for my entire 2 hour car journey home, then for days, no weeks, I found myself revisiting his comment and every time I did, the same horribly painful, emotionally and physically draining feeling rushed through my body causing me to feel intense anger towards him for being, well, honest. But it didn’t end there. Every time he phoned, e-mailed or we met I was overcome with a powerful dislike verging on hatred towards this person who was responsible for causing me so much pain.
And then one day I woke up to the reality – I, not him was the problem. Throughout my life whenever my brain sensed I was under ‘attack’ it was automatically triggering a series of completely irrationally and crazy behaviour patterns in an attempt to protect me. A brilliant primitive genetic ‘tool’ when working as intended, but potentially devastating when it loses all sense of proportionality – which clearly mine had!
So I went in search of some answers which, initially was difficult because I didn’t have a clue what question to ask!
But slowly, by attending lectures, reading, listening to CDs and browsing the internet I began to find answers, solutions, to these ridiculous behaviour patterns.
In doing so, I discovered so much about the mechanics of the human mind that I felt compelled to put pen to paper in the hope that I might help others deal with their own but unique internal struggles – which as a ‘closet’ dyslexic meant that I was forced to expose a secret that had plagued me for my entire adult life – which transpired to be the catalyst to my roller-coaster journey through life …
Through a close friend, Julia, I met Stuart and then Paul and Man Stress began to take shape.
I am no stranger to mental health and stress problems, much of it relating to an undiagnosed food allergy, most from my childhood subconscious, which led to what I perceived as a toxic career: teaching English since 1987. I first became ill in 2001 when our first child was born, leading me to quickly reassess my workplace in Stoke, and doing what I thought was a solution back then, relocating to near where I was brought up. This first bout of anxiety, stress alarmed me as I’d had no health problems in 14 years in the classroom and put it down as a blip.
Little did I know that on moving to Norfolk in 2008, the cycle of depression, anxiety and stress would resurface on a much bigger scale.
I became lost. Someone who’d been a successful teacher and leader in education for years was now broken.
What triggered my malaise in 2013 and slow road to recovery until a career bombshell hit me in 2015? The subconscious. That part of my brain that had been formed in childhood made me both fly and fight, as a survival mechanism.
I got to a point where I was barely functioning – depression was so deep and anxiety so irrational and embedded that I sought professional help and made a decision to turn my back on teaching after I’d been what felt like, to me and others, being hounded out of the profession.
Hindsight though is marvellous and by becoming lost, by breaking, I found my calling – writing and web design, working freelance from home. I rewired my mind too.
Back from the brink, cutting out drinking, focusing on better lifestyle choices and changing career and leaving the backstabbing profession of teaching behind, I’m now in recovery.
It’s taken me 4 years to start functioning again from having a mind and body like a car crash.
I want to help others come to terms with their subconscious – those files caused me depression, anxiety and stress. I want to share my experiences with you, not in some narcissistic way, but openly so that you can feel comfortable sharing your struggles and doing us on this new journey.
Do I have doubts? None. I’m excited about being brutally honest with my struggles and what I’ve done to save myself and my family from me and my subconscious.
The past 4 years have been challenging and I don’t want anyone to suffer like I have. I want others to learn about the script. I want others to be part of this venture.
Web design has always been my passion, but I’ve been prone to moments of anxiety myself. Not earth-shattering, but still disturbing.
Meeting Stuart and later Richard made me recognise that it’s not unusual for men to suffer.
What is unusual is for men to talk openly about mental health issues.
When I met Stuart, he was incredibly open about his struggles and his mental health problems, which I found refreshing. We’ve developed a culture where men talking about depression, stress and anxiety is becoming more acceptable in 2017, whereas five, ten, fifteen years ago, it was not really allowed.
The idea of Man Stress was born when myself, Richard and Stuart decided to combine our experiences in sharing our stories and allowing men to share theirs, so the cycle of men not talking about depression, anxiety and stress is not stopped, but at least interrupted.
I find the whole topic of the subconscious fascinating and the idea that you can rewire or neutralise your brain files or script is a concept that interests all three of us.
When you read the statistics about stress in the workplace and the effect of working patterns, complex living issues and man’s common inability to talk openly, it became clear to all three of us that something needs to be done.
Men’s mental health has always been an issue from caveman days right through to modern times, but now, it seems to me, media awareness of it is rising and a willingness to talk about issues is becoming destigmatised.
The subconscious, formed up to the age of seven, feeds modern man’s issues with anxiety, depression and stress. The sabre toothed tiger of caveman days reappears in many of our lives daily, as a bad hair day, unsupportive colleagues, commuter congestion and we are all prone to taking drastic action, based upon those files in our subconscious.
As Richard says, this venture is not about us, but about you – and we want to see the site grow organically with you, as reader and contributors, on this journey.
I’m proud to be a part of this new venture, tackling the silent killer of men: stress.