Inside My Head
My names Ben, I love Tennis, Sailing, Mountain-biking, well, anything outdoors and adventurous really. These things are who I am, they’ve made me the person I am today, but the path there hasn’t been straight forward and the reasons why, run much deeper than just love.
I’m just like you.
Except for one thing…
I’ve got a mental health problem.
Inside My Head
Into The Dark and Back Again.
Mental health is big news, everyone is talking about it, newspapers, celebrities, even royalty, but I don’t want this to be another story of someone’s struggles, how bad it is, how it has ruined peoples lives because help was hard to get. This is true, but doesn’t help anyone. I want to tell you about the other side, the other half of the story. Finding the way back from the dark, back to the world.
Having said that… Some light has to be shed.
Into the Dark…
2016 was my year, I was in my second year of university, and had never been more confident. I woke up each day and enjoyed being me, seeing my friends, playing my sports. Even better, Andy Murray won his 2nd Wimbledon title, get in! It’s a cliche, but life was good.
January 2017, something changed…
We all get stressed, angry, sad, but that’s normal. This was different, as months past, nothing changed and the feelings didn’t go away. If you break a bone, or catch a cold, people can see, it’s obvious. Mental health problems are much harder to spot. They effect everything - You, the things and people you love.
Mines called OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To cope with these feelings, I started checking things, windows being locked, doors shut, I didn’t think much of it… Before long, I found myself having to do everything an odd number of times, and certain numbers really freaked me out.
From there it got worse, checks got longer and more detailed, opening windows only to make sure they were shut… again, start walking only with my right foot first, and obsessing over objects in my room being in the exactly the right spot, even rubbish. I would check over and over again. My routines took longer and longer. These are just a
few symptoms I had to deal with. From my room, it spread
through the house where I would have to do specific things in specific rooms. It was like there were 2 voices, one voice saying, “You don’t have to do it!” and another saying “DO IT! Otherwise terrible things will happen!”.
I thought I was going mad… The only place I felt safe was the Tennis court, OCD couldn’t touch me, even if it did take me hours to get there.
After 2 years, I was struggling and I just couldn’t carry on, something had to give. I’d reached the pitch darkness, everything I was, had gone, I was a different person, thankfully from there it was only up.
… Back Again.
The hardest part of dealing with mental health problems, it’s so simple yet so hard but, talk to someone, you're not on your own, it’s the first and most important step of recovery; by no means an easy one.
There are other ways to come back. A crucial part of my recovery was I spent more and more time outdoors. Playing tennis, cycling, hikes, each time you get home covered in mud, would give a sense of achievement. (and not just from getting a record breaking number of swear words from your mum when you walk through the house with your boots on!) You feel free in the outdoors, you meet people, you learn new skills, but these were all in my comfort zone and just the shaft of the arrow. The arrows head was an entirely new sport. Sailing.
I know I know, it’s a bit posh, a bit… middle class, but bare with me! It was entirely new, new challenges, people, opportunities. It put me in new territory, a new space that was completely free of any OCD symptoms.
I went on trips with the club that forced me out of routines I’d developed and thought were set in stone. Yes, this was uncomfortable, I wanted to do the trips, but the idea of not being able to complete routines terrified me. The amount of stress and anxiety caused is incomprehensible for most. However, slowly but surely, all that came of it was proof. Proof I didn’t have to do any of those ridiculous routines, proof I could be a functional human being again, proof I could be free! Week by week I continued to grow, the weight was lifting.
Since then my confidence has come back, I’ve achieved things I was convinced were out of reach for someone as broken as I was. I’ll make no bones about it, recovering from severe mental health problems is not easy. It can take months, or in my case, even years.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, help doesn’t have to come from therapists or psychologists. I saw right through the idea of meditation and mindfulness CDs. Help comes in many forms. My dad was the one who caught me, he knew nothing about mental health. I encourage, if you’re struggling, talk to someone, they don’t have to be a professional, and if they’re struggling, be that person who listens, be that person who forms the
bedrock of their recovery and I encourage you or them to get out and about. It doesn’t have to be a sport, it can be much simpler, a walk, a sit in the garden, anything.
The great outdoors offers wonderful long term healing and happiness, that no medicine can bring. Surround yourself with good people and nature. Nature is our playground, now go and explore it!
They are here to provide advice and support and they campaign to improve services, raise awareness, and promote understanding. They are a charity I support, as well as the legend that is Stephen Fry.
Ben Gregory, Cohort 35, Junior Content Producer Apprentice at Duel Auto Care