Push through Anxiety or You'll Seize Up

RuPaul quite rightly says “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else”. That same love can be applied to care and support; if you don’t help yourself, how the hell can you help anyone else?

Arthritis can be an incredibly painful condition and those who suffer from it should be admired. They push through the pain using coping strategies and medication because if you don’t mobilise those joints, they could seize up and the pain would be worse. In short, use it or you’ll lose it. Anxiety is a similar beast.  Anxiety wants to isolate you. It wants to clamp you down. It wants to shut you up.
There are days where it is exhausting just to open the curtains. There are days you can get to the local shops and back.  But whether it is agony in your knee or a burden on your mind, you have to try. 
The CDC (a department of the US government) encourages those with arthritis to take up their SMART challenge. I think the same can be applied to Anxiety and mental health in general.
Start low, go slow.
Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.
Activities should be “joint friendly.”
Recognize safe places and ways to be active.
Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

"To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on."- Dave Pelzer

Start low, go slow.
Find an activity you can dip in and out of. Maybe something you can do for 10 minutes and take a break. Something where you can slowly build up and join in gradually.. Don’t expect to run a 5k on the first day. Consider activities like a walking club, singing for fun club, maybe part of the backstage team at your local drama club or even just volunteering at a care home or school.
Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.
If you all becomes too much (whether joints or pressure on your mental health) you can slip away for a while. If you can run 5k, you might not be able to do it every week. If you can’t run the 5k, do a little run instead. If you feel like going to singing or yoga this week is hard or you are already drained, maybe ask the leader if you can come for the first half and see how it goes. Sometimes the hardest part is getting over the first hurdle and once you are there you have the support and fun you really need.

Activities should be “joint friendly”.
For mental health, perhaps this is open to your interpretation. It might be that joining the local Drama Club provides you with the same ‘escapism’ it gave me or the idea of being on stage isn’t your thing, there are many groups like ‘Men In Sheds’ and ‘Library Games Club’ where you can be part of team taking part in casual activities. There is something to be said though for joining a sports activity and while it wasn’t for me personally, something like Netball or Lawn Bowls could be brilliant for physical and mental health. Being part of a team, a supportive team, can be very rewarding whether you win or lose.
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With thanks to the Membership team at Mind, the mental health charity
Recognize safe places and ways to be active
For me this links in with the above activities but this also includes safe places where you can get support. Does you library offer a local drop in service? Is there a local Mind? Some cafes also offer a mental health afternoon. If there isn’t, could a chat with your local Costa manager help set on up? Another aspect of this is where would you go in an emergency? Or a time of crisis?
I really recommend an app called “Hub of Hope” which does a great job of signposting you to local services whether it is in a crisis such as Samaritans or more routine support. They have a website also at:  https://hubofhope.co.uk/

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist
Have you recently spoken with your GP? Have you been referred to a NHS Mental Health services or to a community service?
Many areas now accept self-referral so if you find talking to your GP hard, taking the first step to NHS support can be as simple as filling out a form. There is a long wait in most areas. Sometimes month just to have an assessment appointment before your referral makes it way to the right team. I understand that the long wait puts people off. I completely get the “why bother” feeling especially when you think you are stable. In reality, you might be slowly declining – for anxiety you might be slowly isolating yourself more and more – and it’s so gradual you don’t realise until there is a crisis. Refer yourself at the start and even if it’s only a light level of support … preventative is better than reactive.
I know the above might seem daunting but with mental health, you do have to practise and gently push yourself. If you don’t, it makes it harder to even accept or use the help you can get. 

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."- Dalai Lama
Thank you for reading my blog – especially if you have followed me on Twitter or liked my Facebook page. A big welcome to all my new readers – your input, opinions and sharing my links is very welcome.

As you can see below, I became a page three model this month as our story went nationwide in the summer edition of Mind’s Membership magazine. It has been lovely to hear your feedback and Mind even sent us a wedding present which is really sweet of them. If you live in Bucks, you might have even seen us in the county newspaper.
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With Thanks to the Bucks Free Press

Are you desensitised to Suicide?

This post has been bouncing around the back of my mind for a while now. It started with a post on a local Facebook group wondering why there had been no news following a suicide at a local train station. Some of the comments were angry – why would there need to be news? What is there to be said? The person making the post was sincere in the reply they didn’t need the gory details but felt that a death like that is shocking moment and there should be some memorial or acknowledgment to the person who has passed.

Not just some sterile note that services were briefly delayed that day.

This has been bugging me. At times, I am actually quite furious about this. If the person had been subject to bad Doctor, it would be a shocking newspaper story. If the person had been attacked in the park, the press would have sounded the rallying cry for better policing and in turn better funding.
So, where is the article and the shock that our mental health system is failing? Where is the rallying call where we bang on the doors of those MPs who feel their duck pond is more worthy than our brothers and sisters?

Do we really now live in a world where a Suicide on our railways is no longer a tragedy, but just a delay to the chaos commute? Is that the kind of world you want to live in?
In 2016/17, 237 people took their lives on the railway – the lowest number since 2010/11.

Small Talk Saves Lives - Click here for the Network Rail campaign

I’ve touched upon this before on my blog. I remember the revelation when I found out that suicide is and has been the biggest killer of men and teenage men for decades. Mental Health isn’t some new problem. This has been going on for decades. As a society, we took the fight on with TB, Cancer, and AIDS. Where is the anger and revolution to take that social fight to mental health?

In my own story, I’ve broached how if it was 2019 and not 1999, then safeguarding would have triggered a response by the School, NHS, Police, and Council. Perhaps this will save some of the youngsters from entering the desolate paths that lead to the adult mental health crisis – or at least give them a more stable route with better chances.

Is suicide so common that we don’t actually care anymore? The World Health Organization says that ”Suicide is a global phenomenon”. Globally, it is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29-year-olds. Why have we just accepted this?

Things are changing. Change isn’t always quick. Statistics for 2017 showed that certain suicide rates were down – some even at the lowest recorded.

Suicide is preventable. A short conversation with someone who may be struggling to cope can go a long way, and might even help save a life.

My Mum's boyfriend took his own life in the few months after my Mum's death at a train station. As an adult, I searched his name. Maybe records from 2004 aren't interesting enough for the internet, but the only trace of his existence was as a mark on a chart. A chart showing suicides by train station by year in the UK. He wasn't even a person anymore. Just a statistic. I understand families may want privacy but perhaps local press could publish a celebration or memorial to that person so the wider public feels that the delay to the 08:29 was actually the end of life, not just a nuisance.

Talking is one of the biggest ways you can make a difference. Whether it is asking someone, twice, if they are OK or maybe reiterating this article, talking is a key way that you can help save these lives.
In 2015, I was at my all-time low. I had nothing left to lose so I gave life a chance. We need to help people before it reaches that stage because I’m very lucky I’ve managed to recover to where I am now.

Find out more about my story in the article I’ve written for Brides Magazine. I’ve also written an article on the Mind website.

We're Married!

When you get an Uber and you are alone, do you sit in the front or the back? That is my current level of social anxiety.  A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get in the car let alone survive that awkward “are you busy today?” chat. 

It is amazing how far to think I have come in the past few years and the last few weeks since our wedding has been the perfect time to reflect. The months leading up to the big day can be so stressful but it is important to have friends and family around to support you. Please, reach out, you are not alone.

The vast majority of your friends and family will be flattered or over the moon that you want their help or input into your special occasion so don’t be shy to ask.  I’m so glad we asked for help and I owe those nearest and dearest so much. Maybe it's asking for help setting up the favors on the table or even a special reading. It is the little personal touches, that you and your closest family bring to the day that makes it important, unique and memorable. 

Does anyone else have a pork pie in their wedding photos?
Who else had a big red bus for the closest family to ride?
Who else had a flash mob after their first dance?
 Just us. 
It might be a little 'out there'. But that's us. We're special. Unashamed.

We had a 'Mind' theme photobooth!
Could you support a charity important to you on your big day?
Since mental health has been such a huge part of our lives, we wanted it to be part of our huge day. In fact, I've written a blog for Mind which will hopefully appear soon on their website.
While 2015 was the worst year of my life, it was the catalyst for so many good things. Getting support and diagnosis on the NHS helped me get the right path to recovery and trying to stay healthy. For me, having a diagnosis of EUPD meant I had something to learn about and focus on; it wasn't a horrific shadow or even unknown.

Mind helped me to find a voice and to take ownership of my story – rather than letting my story or my mental health own me.

With the help of Mind, I’ve told my story on BBC News and to The Guardian. They also introduced me to the Mind Media Awards where I have helped shortlist entries for 3 years.

During this time, I also became reacquainted with a friend from school, Caroline. We had drifted apart, as you naturally do after school. Caroline had a difficult time and suffered her own frightening mental health issues at university. However, those experiences helped us see past each other’s flaws and into our future. We weren’t damaged or scarred. We’d survived and were starting to thrive on the adventure of a lifetime. Within a few months, I knew I could never be without her and on New Years Eve, I asked her to marry me.

We were married on 6th April 2019 at our local church where we both grew up and we are thrilled to share some photos with you here. We used Mind wedding favors, name cards with pins, on our tables. On the back of our order of service, we asked people to make donations to Mind via the website. We also had leaflets, flags, and donations around our photo booth.  

I don't know if we raised much, but it felt nice to have a positive story linked to mental health.

If you had asked me in 2015, I couldn’t see a future. Yet the right help has helped me on a path to where we are now. Mental health doesn't have to be a bad news story. Good things, like happy endings, can happen too.

Find out more about my story through my blog or browse the different interviews I've done at www.MattStreuli.uk
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Order of Service designed and produced by MattStreuli.uk