Men & The Mindset Triangle
I have suffered with depression and anxiety for many years now. I’m not sure when it started, maybe I have always had it but it has been masked by other factors. One thing for sure – It got worse as I have got older, when stress levels are raised by having more responsibilities.
You may be asking what’s the point in me shouting out? It’s because for years I have been hiding behind bravado because of the stigma that is Mental Illness.
The MALE PRIDE prevents many men from outwardly displaying any perceived weakness because to be the man of the house, the father to the child and the husband to the wife, there is no place for weakness. I want to let other people know that it is okay to be depressed and to talk about it to lighten the load.
But, let’s be frank about this…it’s not just a matter of cheering up.
The phrase “You just need to cheer up” still rings in my head to this day. It took weeks for the wife to convince me I needed to see a doctor and dig deep. So, I pushed the male pride to one side and relayed the feelings I had and still have from time to time. On hearing my story, the Doctor took a deep deliberate breath, looked me in the eye and said “you just need to cheer up.” It goes to show I guess, that even if you find a way of pushing the male pride to one side, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other men have taken the same step.
It’s been a fair few years since I heard those words of wisdom from that doctor and now I have come to a place where I can feel the feelings and counteract them with positive stuff. Exercise and pushing my mind and body in different challenges is my way. There are 2 reasons for this, 1 being that the body releases the natural chemical endorphin’s when you exercise which gives you a buzz of importance and happiness and 2, would be the commitment of a challenge and raising money for a charity that keeps me focused and if you can get a world record like we did in 2011 even better still.
When I have a low day the best way for me to de-stress is to get on my bike. Only a cyclist knows how a dog feels with it’s head out of a moving car. The wind in your face, endorphin’s rushing around your body creating positive thoughts, the wonderful view of the countryside on a summers morning and the coffee and lump of cake you will inhale half way through your cycle is an experience almost second to none.
“Where is the dark side?” you may ask.
It’s the place you go to when depression gets you by the short and curlies. There’s nowhere like it. It has a gravitational pull where the duvet on your bed weighs about 20 stone and you just have no motivation to do anything apart from beating yourself up and finding every negative thought you have in the grey matter upstairs.
Whenever I have been there I can never put my finger on why I have the thoughts. I look back at what I was like a few years, back before diagnosis and to be honest it’s amazing that I have come out of the other side. Self harm and suicidal thoughts were a constant battle and happened quite regularly and I couldn’t understand why. Always on the search for someone or something to blame but could never find the answer.
I am completely different now and that has all came down to acceptance that ” I’m not wired up right” and that taking the tablets isn’t such a big deal. Believe me though when I first got the tablets I hated taking them and didn’t think they did anything – until I’d forget to take them for a couple of days and really notice my mood change. In laymen’s terms my brain doesn’t make enough of the right chemical and the tablets replace this. Simples. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t get a prescription for the drugs straight away I was completely against it. I first went on a psychodynamic therapy course of 12 weeks at the doctors, which worked great to put a lot of things to bed from the past when I was a kid.
What I am trying to say is you have to make the first step. I’m lucky to have an amazing wife that could see that I wasn’t happy even though when asked, the generic answer from me was always…. ” I’m Fine”. Don’t be scared to get help or ask for advice. I punished myself for years. All “jazzyhands and smiley Stu outside” and then a mess when in my own company.
Who remembers their lovely science class at school on the fire triangle, for a fire to burn you need Heat, Fuel and Oxygen. Without one the fire will distinguish. I work with the same principle for a healthy mind set.
Might sound silly living your life to a triangle but it works for me and it’s so simple to follow and stick up around the house like on the beer fridge or the draw that holds all the take away menus. Just to give you that second thought to change your mind of your actions. I find it really useful to reflect on why I feel like I do, if one morning the 10 stone duvet has got hold of me and won’t let me up I always look at the 3 elements first. EXERCISE, SLEEP AND HEALTHY EATING / DRINKING. 9 out of 10 times I hit the nail on the head within a few seconds and know where to make the changes.
I’m not saying you need to sign up for the next marathon or become an Ironman overnight but exercise is the best medicine for depression. Choose to walk to the shop instead of drive, take the stairs at work instead of the lift, take your kids to the park with a ball. There are many ways to get that endorphin release. It’s not until I am feeling down and can’t be arsed to go to the gym I notice my mood change, not straight away but if I am lethargic for a couple of days the first step is the hardest as it is with most things but once you do the rest of the steps will follow and you will feel better and motivated.
This is the hardest one out of the 3 as with the other 2 you can control. How is it, that you are tired sitting on the sofa so you go upstairs get into bed and you are wide awake for bloody ages? It’s not until your alarm clock goes off that you realise how tired you are and how heavy that duvet is. How can you help with this? Stop looking at anything digital I-pads, phones, T.V’s, laptops the lot at least 30 mins before you want or need to be asleep. It triggers brain activity and you will want to chill out and relax. I have never been much of a reader but I find chills me out and gets me in the mood for sleeping. I think routine is a good one as well, yeah…have a lie in at the weekend but in the week try and set the alarm to go off at the same time and go upstairs at the same time.
Healthy Eating and Drinking
My favourite subject but also the one that has the most temptation. Looking back over the years I’ve had depression but wasn’t aware at the time I used to drink a fair bit. I wouldn’t say I had a problem but if I was stressed or had a bad day, the offie would be the port of call on the way home. I also have the no pint or 10 pint characteristic to my personality. I’m not so bad now I’m older but in the past if I had 10 in the fridge I would of stayed up until they were drank. The trouble is with depression and alcohol is that alcohol is a depressant so with drinking a lot whilst being depressed, it just causes a firework display in the noggin. During the drinking part though it makes you happy and that you can take on the world or it does for me, I’m not saying don’t drink but you need to do it in moderation and know your limits or trust someone enough to tell you your limit.
Next subject is about what I love…….. FOOD, Cooking, eating and everything about it. I understand not everyone has the same passion but it doesn’t compute in my brain when someone says they can’t cook, or I haven’t got time to prepare a meal or the best one I don’t like healthy food. Same as the alcohol everything in moderation. No need for you to go on an “I only eat dust” diet, it’s just healthy living. A bit of planning and room in the freezer there’s no reason why not, it makes you feel better in yourself and goes side by side with the other 2 elements. Who knows you may even lose a couple of inches or pounds to top it off.
This is how I live my life by a triangle and if I can publicise this to all men to have a healthier life and to maybe in around about way working with other charities like MANMADE then the number of suicides will subside.