Health: Your Stories - Simon


I'd like to introduce the first of my guest posts. Simon and I have been social media buddies forever and I love his honesty around mental health. Men's mental health is still such a taboo subject yet it is a very real threat to the lives of men. It's more important than ever for every one to feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about mental health. 

If you'd like to catch up with the first of these posts on mental health, click here.

My Mental Health World.

I am a man.
I have social anxiety.
I sometimes have bouts of depression.
I take medication.
I am 39 years old.

None of this is unusual.

I’ve never been shy talking about how I feel & therefore my mental health problems. I wear my heart on my sleeve, my chest, my face dammit & I’ll not change now. Just by talking I’m able to face the fact things are wrong and I can fix them. It’s been eye-opening the amount of people, men & women, who have come to me in private speaking of their own issues & telling me to carry on talking. Mental Health is certainly nothing new, nor am I cursed with the worst of it, but it affects us all differently; nobody should be afraid to talk or admit they have an issue.
I’m not a ‘bloke’, a ‘man’s man’ so the stigma of not talking about my feelings never occurred to me. Over the last couple of years have found so many things to help me; yes I’m a big believer in taking my medication, I know they help me. I spend a lot of time colouring-in; who knew how big a business it was! I have such a wonderful group of people around me, some I’ve never met face to face but who care how I am & regularly ask about my state of mind.
My suggestion to everybody I talk to is simply that: Talk.

How I ‘got mental’

I think it has always been there really, my mental health problems, I just thought of it as me being difficult or ‘hating people’. Just over two years ago though I had an accident at work & I collapsed in a busy bar leading to severe concussion.
The return to work after this was beset upon by panic attacks, jitters & a fear of even leaving the house somedays. I was eventually prescribed a small handful of drugs & signed off sick; originally for two weeks but which in the end lasted about three months.
I was a manager in hospitality; restaurants, bars, hotels etc. I’d done this for over 20 years in busy venues so to suddenly be unable to cope with people or sometimes even leaving the house was something of a problem.
Needless to say my job role had to change, but my brilliant employers, lead by one individual in particular, amended my work to best suit my needs and I became a part-time roaming manager. Less customer contact, more happy Simon.

Things changed & I improved. The business changed & I moved on, but after 18 months of drugs & gentle building work I felt ready to return to full-time restaurant management. Last Spring I did just this in Manchester city centre. Sadly it was not to be. Despite an enjoyable Summer, I struggled with the daily stress of serving customers & had my usual dark voice in my head “They think you’re a dick!”. A couple of panic attacks later, I took some time to get myself together. After having a short break with my wife I returned in the mindframe I could not continue down my career.
No more customers. No more service. No more unexpected situations. I had not felt this relieved in years after making this conclusion. I November I gave the bad news & walked away from hospitality management forever. But I was happy, focussed on getting ‘better’ & looking forward to whatever came next.
Unusually for me, I continued to struggle mentally with social anxiety. So for the first time I sought help & got counselling. It is used too often but this really was life-changing. I discovered the uses & techniques of CBT and found tools that while making sense to me, also made a massive difference on my day to day life. I found the positivity & direction I needed to go back into the world. I’m working again, part time, in a closed-environment role away from people & service and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ll always talk about the shit in my head. We all should. Somebody will always listen.

You can follow Simon on both instagram and twitter - @stokiesimon 

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