Gregory's Blog

World Mental Health Day 2018

Hi, my name is Gregory and I have anxiety.

Today is World Mental Health Day, or Mental Health Awareness Day. Either way it’s a day I fully appreciate. As time goes by there is more and more awareness and education about Mental Health issues and that can only be a good thing. The more people understand = the less stigma there’ll be = the easier it will be for people to open up and get the support they need. Simples!

I usually manage my anxiety well with medication. I have previously had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I have a wonderful network of friends and family who are always happy to talk to me should I need to. I rarely need to, as I much prefer internal reflection, but I appreciate their support regardless.

At the moment I am going through an exacerbated period of anxiety – the cause of which is currently unknown. I have been to my GP and have been signed off work for two weeks; she felt that some time for myself would be beneficial and I agree.

Today I took a book, my phone and my laptop, hopped on a bus and sat in Starbucks, which is a place of comfort to me (it’s usually Costa but today I’m feeling fancy). The noise, the smell of coffee, the temptation of cake is all lovely; twin this with the almost certainty that I will go unnoticed amongst the students also lost in technology and you have a winning combination.

Picture the scene: I am feeling content, happy and safe. To my right there is a man using his laptop to do a conference call about World Mental Health Day, the barista spelt my name correctly (I don’t mind Gregg, I understand Craig, I am baffled by Graik – yes, this really happened once), and I’ve just found the perfect meme.

I feel comfortable enough to socialise so I invite a local friend to join me for coffee. We are good friends, and we get on well. Today was no different; he arrived, we chatted and laughed and were happy. I care very much for all of my friends and, as a natural worrier, I worry when I see even a slight glimmer that they’re not content. During our conversation I think I see the glimmer and I start to overthink. In my now frayed state I tell him how I feel and, in a misjudged move, force my opinion onto him in an effort to support him; it appears to not go down well and he appears a little upset. There’s assumed tension, further conversation, but then he tells me he’s going to go home and walked out. Politely, but with purpose.

Then it happened.

GIF taken entirely out of context but fairly descriptive of how I felt. (Source: Get Out (2017). Dir: Jordan Peele)

I can’t move. My skin prickles and I get very warm. I’ve fallen into the pit of my own stomach. I open my laptop to distract myself with Facebook (never a good idea). I focus on my breathing. I reach out and frantically message my friend. There’s a discussion. After a back and forth it is apparent that there’s been a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, and I have reacted far more extremely than is entirely necessary. He’s a good egg; whatever annoyance he had with me for meddling has been brushed aside for him to reassure me and calm me down. At that moment he was the antacid to my anxious stomach acid.

Crisis averted.

I’ve just got off an emotional roller-coaster but my body is still coursing with adrenaline. Starbucks no longer feels safe for me. I no longer feel comfortable and chipper. The notion of getting up from my seat and walking out of the door feels less than ideal however I do so regardless. I stand up, pack up my stuff and head for the door. I smile and thank the man who holds the door open for me, and take a deep breath of refreshing Portsmouth smog.

Did anybody in Starbucks know what was going on?

(Source: “The Obama Show” Sketch (2013), Saturday Night Live)

My entire journey today happened inside my head (with the exception of the bus journey to Starbucks). If I hadn’t reached out and expressed my feelings with my friend nobody else would have known, but that does not make what happened any less real and any less scary.

For the past few days I have felt scared to leave the house because I fear running into someone from work who may judge that I look fine, and that I should be at work. Today’s events temporarily disabled me. I couldn’t breathe properly and I couldn’t make my legs work. I rest assured knowing that my employer is supportive and respects mental health issues.

Mental health can be crippling. Let’s not make these issues worse with ignorance.

Love you, bye.

Gregory Lawrence.

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