Now, I am no Charles Dickens and I hope that you do not have great expectations for this blog, but for two months, I have been experiencing some hard times. High levels of stress, anxiety and depression (we will not get into the reasons) have not made this the best of times and it has affected every aspect of my life.
My work has suffered (I am not currently at work); my friendships have suffered (I am not leaving the house); my fitness has suffered (I am not doing anything to keep myself active); my eyesight has suffered (I have developed Central Serous Retinopathy) and, I am struggling to complete tasks (I am not doing anything). I worry that I am a poor excuse for a partner, step-father and son. I have been unable to see the forest for the trees and I want to escape from myself.
Things like paying bills, making and attending GP and Optician appointments and yes, writing blogs are a chore. I have withdrawn from events and I have withdrawn from life. Even when I am feeling good, I am a procrastinator and not the most gregarious of individuals , so imagine me with zero motivation and little focus.
The only thing I have felt able to do is eat. Eating has always been a comfort and a joy to me (quickly followed by sorrow) and I am definitely someone who will run for cake.
In 6 weeks, my weight has suffered and I have regained 12 lbs through lack of moving anything other than my jaws. 12 lbs that I fought so hard to lose in the previous 12 weeks.
However, one thing that I am is self aware. Yes, I know that I annoy many of you with my selfies, my endless shoe pictures and my occasional humblebragging, but I also know that my physical and mental health cannot continue to suffer. I also know that this is a path which I been on for far too long.
Steps to Better Mental Health
There are no quick solutions. No magic pills (well, that is not strictly true) and no guarantees, but there are several steps that I have been taking to help improve my physical and mental health during a period of immense stress.
Firstly, I have been moving more.
I have been going out for 20 minute walks ( I hope to run soon) to the local park, where the feeling of the wind and the sun on my face; the hearing of laughter of children and the barking of dogs; the sight of the trees and the smell of recently cut grass always helps to put a smile on my face. Even in the rain (I do live in Glasgow).
I have also been getting wet at home by building up a sweat, using my collection of kettlebells and my Core Momentum Trainer.
As my levels of exertion and my heartrate increase, my levels of stress and anxiety dissipate (for a short time, at least). While swinging my kettlebell, I am lost in the moment and I am focusing on the movement. The events in my life that I am struggling with fall to the back of my mind and I can escape (for a short time, at least) from the thoughts that are dragging me down.
I am also talking more.
I have reached out to friends and I have sought counselling. I am being open and honest with my loved ones and hey, I am sharing with you, dear readers (or reader).
And I am looking at my diet.
Anyone who knows me well, knows about my aversion to vegetables, especially broccoli and brussel sprouts (they are the devil’s work, I tell you). It is my hope to move to a more plant based diet and I am eating more fruit, nuts, grains and vegetables, but I do know that I should be eating more.
I have bought some cook books; we have procured an extensive collection of spices and herbs and Teresa has made some fabulous soups. Soups that cunningly hide the source of their vegetable goodness. It is a slow road (for me, at least) to destination plant based diet.
However, I have also been popping some pills.
I do not want to go down the road of prescribed medication for my anxiety and depression, so I have been supplementing with Vitamin D (Glasgow, remember), Ashwagandha, Curcumin and Pharmaton Vitality capsules.
Now, the health properties of the first three are quite well researched and documented, but you may be unfamiliar with Pharmaton Vitality.
Earlier in the year, I was gifted a supply and although I was heavily suspicious of their claims that: “Pharmaton Vitality Capsules work by enhancing mental and physical performance” I discovered that without making any other significant changes to my life, I was more focused, more alert and getting more done. My weight loss increased (as I was more mindful about eating) and I felt more inclined to go for a cycle. The 28 days that I consumed them coincided with my 28 day cycle streak. Now, I know all about causation and correlation, so I will not be making any silly claims.
I also know all about the placebo effect
However, as I have reintroduced them (I used some Boots giftcards to buy the maximum 12 week supply), I have noticed that I am regaining my drive. It might just be the Ginsing, but I am working out again and I am writing again.
I am getting shit done.
Hopefully, It is only a matter of time before I am able to go out again; go back to work again; and start living my life again. It might take longer to see properly again (4 to 6 months, seemingly), but the Pharmaton Vitality tablets are also packed full of Vitamins A, B and C so every little helps.
At £10 for a month’s supply, they are not cheap. Add in the cost of my Vitamin D, Curcumin and Ashwagandha supplements and you might be asking if I would be better getting these vitamins directly from food.
And you would be mostly right. All Scots are advised to supplement with Vitamin D due to our lack of sunlight (especially in winter) and you would need to consume copious amounts of Turmeric to absorb the recommended levels of Curcumin, but most vitamins and minerals can be sourced from food (the Ashwagandha is a plant in India). My eventual goal is to make the behavioural and dietary changes that will facilitate a hopefully long and healthy life, but I know that it will take time and I know that the causes of my stress and anxiety will not disappear quickly either.
All I can do is remain positive, be strong and keep moving while introducing more fruit and veg into my diet and trying to stay in contact with friends.
I stole this image from Dr Andrew Murray, who posted it just today. For better mental health, I really think that the above encapsulates, for many, the key requirements.
What are you doing to keep yourself mentally and physically well? And if you are struggling, do you know how or where to go for help? Forget your pride and seek help. Speak to someone and maybe, go for a walk among the trees.
Listed are a few of the organisations that provide invaluable support and who will be glad to hear from you:
Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87
Samaritans 116 123
SAMH 0141 530 1000