Fighting Back Against Depression and Anxiety

I know there are a lot of blogs on here giving advice about mental health and a lot of those Facebook posts with saying ‘the kettle is always on for you!’ but I just wanted to write about my depression and anxiety and what I’ve been doing to keep the black dog at bay. I have been encouraged to write this and hopefully it will help at least one person reading this. 

I won’t bore you with my background but it’s been officially thirteen years that I have been dealing with both anxiety and depression, where is first began a couple of years after my Father passed away in front of me one Saturday afternoon. But like everyone else, when you look back on everything you can see that you had it a lot longer than that. 
Now there is one piece of advice in this blog (before I carry on with my story) that I want you to take. Tell your friends and ask for help. Remember your friends all love you and they will understand and will help you through it all. Speak to them when you are down it’s surprising how even a simple text message conversion can ‘pick you up’. I better move on with this before I start singing You’ve Got A Friend by Carole King.

Right, I will skip forward a few years. My journey to changing my attitude towards my depression was when I worked with a friend. We would chat at the end of the day about how I was coping and using very dark humour which helped a lot. Laughing at it made it less scary, it was then we decided that I would start having ‘Ego lessons’ to help me believe that I could do whatever I set my mind on doing and that whatever the state of my mental health was at the time it would not stop me doing what I wanted to do. One of the things I did was to set myself a lot of small and achievable goals. By making that list of goals, it give me something to work towards and because they were achievable it helped build my confidence. It started with going to a gig in Cardiff on my own. Not wanting to miss the band because my normal gig going friend couldn’t make it. I decided that I would give it a go and if I couldn’t cope then I could always come home early and I would have at least tried. With encouraging messages that night I made it through the entire gig! Well, that one gig on my own lead to another and another. It might not sound like much to some but its a massive achievement to others including myself and I proved to myself that if I put my mind to it I could overcome my depression and anxiety.

Having made this big step I decided to challenge myself even more. One night I was browsing through the gig listings and noticed that a band that I recently gotten into from America was going to tour the UK with the dates announced later that evening. The excitement soon ended when the closest gig to Wales was London, England over 150 miles away. That’s when the ‘Ego Lessons’ kicked in and I decided I was going to make this bold move to take the trip on my own and stay overnight. After a conversion about “could I actually do it?” and being told that I was really brave in trying and it would be a life changing moment for me not letting this illness dictate to me what I could or couldn’t do, it wouldn’t beat me.

The reason I’m telling you about this is that the day we set the little goals for me to complete to help give me confidence snowballed into this. Setting goals to get you through a morning will soon turn into having a good day. Once you get a couple of days under your belt its then a week before you know it. Soon the bad days will get further and further apart.

I got through that trip on my own with no panic attacks, even though I went on the packed London Underground. I say that I was on my own but I was in constant contact with friends helping me take my mind off what I was doing and stopping me from having that moment where I would be calling my friend screaming to them ‘Oh my gosh! I’m in London on my own! What the hell was I thinking?!’ Now I’m not suggesting people go off travelling to the other side of Great Britain to see a band on their own to beat their anxiety, that was my particular hill to climb. Whatever challenge you set yourself, you will have so much pride in yourself for completing it and one thing anxiety and depression doesn’t like is you feeling good about yourself.

The last thing I will tell you about is my greatest achievement in all this. Way down at the bottom of my list was to lower the dosage of my antidepressants. Something I never even dreamed of being possible. You’re almost dependent, believing you can only feel good if you take these tablets. The medication has helped me a lot, massively even, but it’s not something you want to rely on for the rest of your life. Around March 2019 I decided after speaking to my doctor and friends that I would lower my dosage down from 30mg a day to 25mg, I would try it for a month to see how it went and if it didn’t go well at least I tried. This is a truncated version of events to keep this to around 1200 words and not to bore the life out of you. Luckily for me this went well with no side effects and down days only what was sort of expected, you know it will never go away completely you just have to stop it controlling you.

The next part of the plan was to drop down another 5mg the following Easter, but 2020 had other plans and along came Covid-19, the reason we have been walking around with our glasses all steamed up for the last 18 months! After talking it over we decided to wait until a vaccine was found for this horrible disease, as we had no idea how long we would be in lockdown and how being shut indoors was taking away our escape route of going out and about when we needed to just leave the house or go to live events and as I have perviously written about in another blog, going to the football (or to any other sporting event).
Thankfully with restrictions being lifted in Wales this July (2021) and with my long summer break coming up I decided to give the second drop a go. It’s now September and thankfully no side effects (touch wood).

I wrote this as I mentioned at the start, that I was encouraged to with the hope that someone will read this and think they can do something similar and not let this illness rule their life, it won’t beat us. I’ve been very lucky having really good friends who have help me through this. Hope you have some one who can help you, don’t be afraid to talk to people.

Take care/Cymerwch ofal.


Missing More Than The Match

Now there has been a lot of sadness in 2020 and a lot of disruption to normal life due to COVID 19 and if like me you deal with depression and anxiety every day you know that small changes can affect you as much as major changes. One of these small changes for me has been not being able to go and watch football matches. I know a lot of people reading this will understand missing going to football matches, I know some of my friends do and I also know that some of my friends don’t like football and as one of my best friends described it as ‘it’s boring, just men kicking a ball around and falling over’ but I know that even so she understands what it means to fans of the game and especially us Cardiff City and Wales supporters. For the people who don’t like football or any sport come to that might not understand why we watch it, please stick with me as I will try to explain that it’s more than just a game and I am missing more than just the match.  

As I said please stick with me here, I’m not going to talk about the actual football matches as being a Cardiff and Wales fan for most of my life they have been heartbreaking with every 5 years or so you get one of the most amazing days of your life. I’m going to tell you about what I am missing and didn’t realise how much it has helped me over the years until it’s been gone for just over 8 months.  

I am a season ticket holder with Cardiff City and the equivalent with Wales, which in case you didn’t know what that means, it’s that I have a ticket for every home Cardiff and Wales match and in fact I even have the same seat every time for both. Cardiff plays at home normally once a week, so I have something to look forward to each week from August to May. I’ve mention at the beginning of this that the black dog of depression follows me with its friend anxiety. So, having something to look forward to each week is a major help when things are not going well or even just having a bad week in work. Now it’s the something to look forward to is what I am missing the most, with gigs being cancelled for most of 2020 there hasn’t been much I’ve had to look forward to with the expectation of the weekly Zoom Pub Quiz with my friends which has been great.  

We all need that something to look forward to help us get through the week; going out for a drink on the weekend, going to gym, gigs etc. Everyone as something, so hopefully you will understand what I’m missing. I will give you an example of what a day is like and don’t worry I won’t talk about football, so if you hate football please keep on reading. 

A tough week in work and everyone cannot wait till the weekend with the hope of doing something to let off steam. I know that if I’m feeling down during the week it’s only a few more days and I’ll get to have my day out. More often than not I go to a game on my own and I know it might sound strange that I would want to be on my own but an hour in the car driving to ground is relaxing, even when I’m stuck on the motorway. I will catch up on podcasts that I haven’t had time to listen to or play an audiobook (sometimes just play music loud and sing along).  

I park the car about 5 minutes’ walk from the ground and even though I’m on my own, I’m walking with a few hundred people and even though we don’t know each other there is a togetherness like when you are at a concert. Yes, walking with hundreds of strangers helps my anxiety, don’t ask me how but it does.  

As you can gather, I stick to a routine and it’s the routine that helps. My walk to the entrance I need to go to takes me through the players car park and I always say hello to the players on their way in and yes, I still get excited at meeting them as I did when I was a kid. 

Then I even miss this part, putting the card in the wall and the turnstile turning. The next part I know everybody will understand missing, buying a Vegan burger and chips to take to my seat to eat and usually dry off as it always rains and I normally get soaked. 

I mentioned that I have the same seat, well the same goes for the people around me. It’s almost like a big family in those seats, three generations sit behind me who always ask how I am doing and how my family and friends have been, the father and son who sits to the left of me who always makes sure we have sweets (mince pies at Christmas). It’s easy to see my I miss that part, hopefully they will all be there when we are allowed back. As it gets close to 3pm we all stand up and sing Men of Harlech (you know, the one from Zulu) and the players come out on the pitch. 

I promised I wouldn’t take about the game so I will stop there. Hopefully you can see what I meant when I said I’m missing more than the match. I’m missing the hour drive, the five-minute walk, the burger and chips, the togetherness of the seven people sat around me and the 33,000 other people. I know people are missing more important things like their family, but this was my light at the end of the tunnel and I’m sure everyone who is reading this has that light that they are missing.