Living with anxiety and mental health is debilitating. This is my story, and how my wife saved me from ending my life due to a boss who thrived on bullying. It might help others.
We all feel anxious from time to time, it’s normal and some say, quite healthy. However, for me, it’s unhealthy because the anxiety is never-ending. Just the thought of going out alone, being home alone, answering the phone and being in crowds frightens me.
Yes, I present a radio show so you might ask, how can this person who comes across as fun and bubbly be living with a debilitating mental health condition. Well, like many, I have the ability to hide my anxiety under a fake mask. Doing the radio is actually my therapy and does more for me than any anxiety medication.
Presenting a radio show is therapy for anxiety
It’s hard to explain, but I get to record a one hour show from the comfort of my home. My wife is next to me. It’s strange because I might spend the rest of the week in a low mood, but for that hour I can get into character. Deep down, I know its the real me trying to escape. We have such a laugh talking about all sorts of crap. Listeners seem to love it. I think it’s our natural bond that makes us so popular with listeners across a network of radio stations.
Phone interviews are a little more tricky. I might come across as confident, but if only you were a spy on the wall. The diarrhoea and sickness strike days before. In fact, I get into such as state that I often end up cancelling what would have been fantastic guests. The guilt and low moods then set in and you wish you could kick ‘anxiety’ up the backside, leaving your shoe wedged in!
Mental Health Ignorance
There have been so many mental health campaigns and the stigma surrounding what was once a taboo subject has improved. Sadly, some people still remain ignorant. Maybe it’s because it’s a hidden illness, or they are just too busy living their own lives to think about ohers.
I have heard so many people say things like, “pull yourself together”, “get a life”, “just snap out of it”, “go for a walk and you’ll feel better”, “you’re making others ill”, ”benefit cheat” and “get off your arse and get a job”.
I am far from lazy. For 25 years I worked for the police in a PR job which I loved. During my service, I received dozens of awards and commendations. I enlisted support from celebrities and raised in excess of £25,000 for various charities. During the evacuation of a City Centre, I went to work and was responsible for enlisting the support of special constables, working an 18-hour-day.
Police boss ruined me
Unfortunately, my last year with the police was a living nightmare. I returned from paternity leave to discover I had a new boss. From the offset, he was nothing more than a bully and used tactics that slowly and surely destroyed me. He would take credit for work others had done and eventually, my fake mask slipped lower and lower. Every day, I felt myself slowly losing control, arguing with family and suicidal thoughts were starting to become reality.
What made it worse was the fact that everyone I had spoken too who had worked with him had been affected in some way. No one was helping me. After finally getting the courage to speak to a colleague, it was all too late. I broke down into an emotional heap and in my head, all I wanted to do was end my life. It was now just trying to work out the best and quickest way to do it.
There is a famous quote:
“Sometimes it’s not the people that change, it’s the mask that falls off“.
My wife saved my life
During my sick leave, I had the opportunity to take Voluntary Redundancy. My wife encouraged me and didn’t care about the financial burdens. Her words were always along the line of your health is more important.
Yes, we struggled but I can honestly say that my wife saved my life by encouraging me to leave. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t escape. Sadly, the damaging effects still remain.
Friends or just colleagues
One thing I discovered was that people are not always there when you need them most. When I was off sick, only a handful of colleagues checked to see how I was. The majority have never made contact since. It’s a shame when you think I spent 25 years of being loyal and winning awards. They clearly didn’t give a hoot!
Chronic Anxiety struggle continues
I am still receiving specialist support and most of the medications to help treat my anxiety have given me unpleasant side effects. It doesn’t help when you’re taking various other medications for high blood pressure, as well as Tramadol for a cyst on your spine, degenerative spine disease and neck arthritis. I am 43 but feel 70.
It’s been a tough few years and as I said at the start, not being able to leave your home alone, answer the phone, or being left alone is hard to deal with.
If we have an argument which can be something so small, it’s as though something takes over my body. I lose control and go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. I just end up getting out the house, again with suicide on my mind. It scares me, it really does.
If I go to the supermarket and my wife leaves me for a few seconds, I can experience a panic attack. It’s the same feeling as having a heart attack. As a result, I have ended up in hospital many times.
Another example would be if someone I don’t know is coming to my home. I would experience bouts of diarrhoea. Not being able to get to the toilet in time is even more distressing.
For my anxiety, I now take 300g of Pregabalin, as well as Diazepam when required. I am about to start talking therapy too. It’s going to be a long process, but I will continue to do the radio show as therapy.