Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

So this years theme “Kindness” and let’s be honest with lockdown in almost its 10th week as I write this we could all do with some lovely kind words.

Kindness

We are going through the unknown we have never had something like this in my generation .

Which means we don’t really know how to react or think . We are told by social media and the news to stay positive but on the same sites told of doom and gloom or worse you witness hate as people argue their points not willing to be wrong or knowing the damage they cause to others .

My question is why not just be kind or as I tell the children pay a complement,make someone smile or if you are annoyed take a deep breath and talk about it. Surely you would prefer to brighten someone’s day rather than ruin it. Often by being kind you will get someone to open up you may even find out you have helped them what a great feeling.

A prime example of kindness is our Thursday night routine of banging our pots and decorating our windows in support for key workers some gestures that bring people together when in isolation. What I have noticed is the smiles it brings to peoples faces .

This leads me onto my thoughts of kindness why are we kind ?. For me when I link it to my mental health . I want to be kind to help people. You never know what someone is going through are they suffering. You can look amazing and be faking it to Oscar level but inside be crumbling and drowning.

I guess we have had all experienced kindness and unkindness. Think of how you felt when you received this kindness I’m sure it was 100 time’s better than the unkindness you received.

Think isn’t it so much nicer to be kind

Think you can make people feel that by supporting someone or just listening to what someone is going through . You may of been through something similar. So if you can choose to be kind.

I want to round this off with why mental health awareness week is so important to me. It gives us a chance to talk about mental health so hopefully we can end the stigma behind. Obviously this takes time but my big driving force is Thea and working with children I want them to feel safe and secure when talking about their feelings.

Lockdown this year is going to have a massive affect on them anything up to maybe 5/6 months of missing school,nursery, playgroups is a massive amount of time to miss out on.

Missing out on social interaction and new experiences

I know lots of my training in Early Years Education was on the importance of social interaction for 2-6 year olds especially and what can happen if they miss out on this .

They will need our kindness over the next few months even when lockdown is raised . Our kindness will keep their chins up and encourage them to be open about their feelings and help us understand them.

But why stop with children if we can be kind to children we can be kind to each other too. During the next few months lots of us may go through difficult time’s let’s build each other up by being kind instead of tearing each other down . I think you may find it beneficial to yourself and the people you are helping

Don’t be a dick be kind

Having Dyslexia and not knowing you have Dyslexia

At the age of 29 years old I did a check/ test with Dyslexia Scotland to see if I had dyslexia or in my words “I’m I just thick and lazy” like many of my teachers had implied.

After the test which involved puzzles , sequences and words . The report I got basically said moderate / to severe dyslexia and I also had a processing delay , I found it hard to understand instructions and problem solve. I had felt that for years I would be asked to do a task but it was like I was being spoke to in a foreign language . I never said anything and took the jokes or the annoyance of co-workers or managers.

Why did I do nothing?.

Imagine every school report and teacher say your lazy, doesn’t study , complete homework and isn’t teaching their potential. To say my confidence was shot is an understatement , I’m actually getting quite emotional writing about it. 13 years of education the best time of your life, I don’t think so I hated it and have an anger towards the education system how could they let this happen and then the teachers yes it was the 80’s and 90’s but the way the spoke to me and treated me was a disgrace and has definitely affected my mental health as a teenager and young adult . How can you put a child constantly down and not help them?.

Right enough of feeling sorry for myself and ranting.

How my dyslexia and processing delay affect me ?.

I’m going to start with how it affects my Instagram . When writing a post it can take several attempts . Why well I sometimes miss out words and even when reading it through I won’t know it’s missing. You see my reading is horrible if I’m reading a book I need total silence or I just don’t take it in. I often read the same line or page over and over again. So my posts can take an age to put together.

Onto spelling , I could say I can’t spell but that’s not totally right. I can but it’s like my brain muddles up the words and spits them out back to front and plays tricks on me. It looks right to me and I have the right letters but in the wrong places. It is incredibly frustrating as I often can’t use words I want to as I have no idea how to spell them or I’m scared I will be pulled up for my mistakes .

When I’m writing I struggle to make it all link together , I struggle with the grammar and punctuation I just sometimes miss it out.

I think this can be related to my audrity processing delay. I struggle with instructions verbally but also understanding skills like writing. I remember trying to learn about writing skills in school I had no idea what the teachers were asking of me so I had to self teach myself and come up with defence mechanisms to survive . God forbid the teacher asked me in class or read out my work talk about an anxiety bomb.

So how do I cope for college I had a scribe I would tell them what I was trying to say and they would put it in to proper English I also got funding for a proof reader which was fantastic. I unfortunately never got this help at university . I felt they wanted us to be robots “to pass this course you must write the way we want you to” this was never going to work my content and understanding was good but it didn’t read like university papers I soon dropped out.

Day to day I will ask family and friends to check my work but I can’t do this for every post it just wouldn’t work. Also when somebody checks your work they change it . It no longer sounds like me.

Honesty I am up front now on forms I put down I will need support or extra time and in work situations I will tell people. I may take a little longer to respond . I feel this helps me relax and what else can I do ?.

I love writing and posting it’s amazing for clearing my mind and moving on. It stops me from overthinking and keeping my anxiety in check . I also have journals with lists and thoughts but sorry they are just for me .

I hope this post helps you understand the difficulties I have when writing and maybe encourages some others with dyslexia to start writing or share their experiences.

Featured

Returning to Work after having a Child

When Thea was 1 years old I have to admit , I was in not a great place. Due to a hell a lot of things but I have to say my work life was hell.

I had fallen out of love of the education system and needed out. Harriet had just started to work for herself so we decided for myself to take a time out and stay at home with Thea . I mean I was trained in early years so why not . I stayed at home for almost a year and loved it. I built an amazing bond with Thea and it let Harriet’s business grow and flourish .

While at home I did some chaperoning which is looking after children on set I really enjoyed it and when in June I got the opportunity to work on a new BBC kids drama (The Demon Headmaster check it out on CBBC on Monday’s at 5pm )full time it was to good to turn down. I thought going back  to work would change our home life  but it really changed and I guess that’s the same for all parents returning to work .

There is good points and bad points to this so here’s what have found out since returning to work .
Let’s start with the positives :

Money Money Money – Having another income is great we can save ,book a holiday and have treats with Thea at the weekend.

Adult interaction – It’s great to spend time with other adults saying that we behave like children most of the time .

Self worth – working for me builds my self esteem bringing a wage into the family home . Also the self satisfaction of working on a project from start to finish feels great .

Reflection- working long hrs makes you realise what is important in life. It also focuses myself .

Mental Health- I feel mentally much stronger . My confidence is growing meaning my self worth has gone up. On top of that putting myself into new and stressful situations has helped control my anxiety .

Right next up the negatives :

Being away from Thea at 1st it wasn’t bad, but now she knows. When I’m getting ready to leave I get “No No” and sometimes a slap and that’s if she is awake . Sometimes I only see her in the middle of the night to change her nappy that’s hard .

Physically knackered : Being out the house for 14-15 hrs a day brutal . It takes a while for your body and mind to get use to that. Walking 20,000-25,000 steps a day your diet has to change 

Quality time : I say I don’t see Thea it’s the same with Harriet . I’m knackered when I’m back home at the moment so it can be quiet in the house. Meals out and days out haven’t been happening as much. I need to change that and get in a better routine. 

Guilt- what do feel guilty about literally everything at first, but I feel this passes and once you talk about it that helps .

Stress/mental health I’m putting this in as I know in the past my work I hated and it brought on this. Thankfully on returning to work I haven’t suffered this. Why most likely it’s down to being  in a better place. I mean that’s why I went back to work . I’m also on medication so I’m guessing that should get some credit too. If your mental health is taking a battering at work please talk about it to someone straight away don’t let it affect your home life .

Right so overall :

I can sit on the fence and say just do what you feel is right , but deciding to be a stay at home parent or a parent returning to work has a major impact on not just you but your partner and your children .

A prime example is this I had a dad in the an old nursery doing a visit his child was going to start nursery full time at one years old. He couldn’t answer any of the questions I had but told me they had another on the way and the child had to go to nursery .

I’m not saying don’t work , don’t send your child to nursery , but you need a balance and you need to think what you really want. We all have different goals and priorities it’s your choice but remember they are not kids forever .

I like being self employed it’s flexible , I’m my own boss and it works for me and Thea . Could I earn more money yeah but the more you earn the more you spend in my experience . But I do think Day release sorry work is good for the soul and mind which will is good for you and also your family

Anxiety Over The Christmas Period

The Christmas period is busy busy with lots of parties and social gatherings.

For most these are things to look forward but for some with anxiety they can become overwhelming. It’s far to easy to fall down that anxiety hole and lets be honest Christmas time with kids, do you really have time to climb out that hole.

What caused my Christmas anxiety

My routine is gone I’m overwhelmed and I start to feel slightly empty and my mind goes into over drive.

I didn’t notice my anxiety levels going up until I spoke to friends online and started to workout why I was feeling off centre.

My warning signs of anxiety creeping up:

Insomnia- Takes ours to sleep my mind racing about future events

Can’t get out of bed- see above can’t sleep too much sleep can’t win .

Mr grumpy returns – I was becoming grumpy because my mind won’t switch off I’m stressed, tired and beating myself up.

Sweating – Day or night I sweat a load more.

So my anxiety levels are due to my routine being out and not having clear goals.

Christmas time to me feels like a riot lots of parties, social gatherings, pressure of getting everything right for everyone.

But without a doubt I’m in a better place than previous years to deal with it.

why?, the fact I can write about it and realise what is happening and discuss how I’m feeling means I can tackle it.

So how do I tackle my anxiety over the the holidays?.

– Talk about it with the ones closest to me, having thoughts spinning in my head aren’t going to go away.

– Positive Vibes only it’s only me who can change I how feel. I think of all the positive aspects of my life Thea, Harriet my health , my career, owning a house and write them down.

– Going into social situations sounds really simple try to relax, do some stretches go for a walk. You don’t want to be tense, twitching and sweating which I have done all at the same time within 10 minutes your knackered.

– Fuck it off right you can’t fuck everything off but if it’s something you don’t have to do, will cause you a meltdown, overstretch you fuck it off. You can’t go through life making everybody else happy if your not.

– Its busy but self care is so important if you forget about it. Your mental health can go downhill fast. I won’t get to the gym much but will do jump in for a sauna and steam for some me time. It could be something simple like a walk,podcast,meditation whatever centres you. If you don’t make time at some point you may become overwhelmed.

But remember if you don’t talk about it or admit to how you are feeling you won’t be able to do any of the above.

And remember try to enjoy the holidays and if you need a chat about your anxiety but don’t want burden anyone you can DM me on Instagram therealworkingdad.

5am Parents Club Who wants to Join ?.

“5am Parents Club a club for anybody that is woken up between 4.45-6.00 by the children wherever you are in the world”

On becoming a parent I was warned it would be life changing “Tony you will never get a minutes peace”. To say I wasn’t prepared for being woken at 5am or earlier 75% of the time is an understatement.

It’s so bloody early Breakfast News on BBC has not started . I remember the good old days of getting in at 5am after a kebab or pizza and a night of drink and dancing the night away. Instead I’m waking up to a baby gremlin shouting and shaking her cot Butter wouldn’t melt but minutes before it was like a zoo the noise she makes to get me up.

You wake looking at your partner praying it’s not your bloody turn while your partner is nudging you get up baby needs her nappy changed,baby needs a bottle , baby needs Peppa Pig. Bloody Peppa Pig daddy needs Bloody sleep.

So as I navigate getting out of bed without falling over the obstacle course of baby toys and equipment made all the more difficult as my eyes have not adjusted to the light or by being rudely awaking . I have one thought coffee.

Baby has another thought I pick her up and pray her nappy is wet and not soiled the last thing I need is to try to change a 10 month old when my brain and body is functioning at less than 50%.

Into the living room I go get baby on the changing mat dash to the TV get it on get Netflix on and that bloody pig.

This might calm Thea enough for to get through changing her

Netflix and chill is hardly the term I would use for “5am Parents Club” Netflix is an essential survival tool. Once Netflix is on this gives you a window . This window is vital for getting through the hour. Once Peppa is on get the coffee on this energy boast is vital as you prepare babies breakfast and keep them entertained as Netflix will only work so long.

As I said entertainment is vital otherwise you get a noisy angry gremlin sorry baby if you have the energy go wild use your imagination be creative do some messy play or even art work very funny i here you say.

If not read a story and try not to fall asleep or maybe get on the ground and ruin your back more than it already is by playing with toys or just try to survive until daylight hits, your partner wakes or until your little one falls back to sleep.

If this sounds familiar you may want to join the club. But there are some side affects:

Tiredness

Grumpy ness

It can age you

You lose sense of time

You can injure yourself as your working under a lack of sleep

Headaches the noise the constant noise

Sometimes it feels like your in war and it’s only 6.30 am.

But I can offer you benefits :

Great chat with fellow parents going through this war.

Knowing you are not alone and you don’t have a devil child that wakes you at 5am every morning

Self satisfaction of getting through this time unscathed

You are bonding with your child and making memories

Some days you will be a superstar and get loads off your to do list well maybe

You are gaining an extra 2 hrs of the day you would never of had

Its free follow therealworkingdad share the #5amparents club and help each other through this time

My Journey with Anxiety

Mental Health awareness week maybe over for 2018, but im determined to keep talking about my mental health. Why?  I found the week very inspiring I heard stories from people from all over about their mental health. It gave me the confidence to talk about my own problems with anxiety for the first time since being a child 25 years of bloody anxiety. No wonder my nails are shredded. It gave me the confidence to open up to my parents about how I feel on a daily basis, it has brought us closer together and I have learned more about my childhood and family which helps me understand my anxiety.

Since it has been a few weeks of opening up my mood and anxiety has changed. At first I spoke about it went to the doctor and felt a massive weight off my chest , but as time has gone on I have felt my anxiety come back slightly each day.

Maybe I havent been honest enough with people since that week or maybe not even pro activte enough. I have good days and bad days but deep down my anxiety is still there and my self worth is low. I find writing it down a relaxing process giving me time to reflect and work through my thoughts (having dyslexia and a delay in processing information I write notes and plans all the time).

So here we go…  I am currently signed off work with generalised anxiety after a discussion with my family I resigned from my new job it was completley out my comfort zone and when working with children they need a routine and felt this was the best decision . I go and see the doctor every couple of weeks but they are saying at the moment my confidence and self worth is very low meaning. Im having panic attacks over even small events outside my routine. I am not on any medication at the moment in the past I have been on propanlol and diazepam with different levels of success. I want to discuss my options with the doctor see if there is something that can assist in keeping me with a more consistant and leveled mood. My doctor wants me to work on my confidence and self worth and has suggested CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therpy). What is CBT  ” a type of talking treatment which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems”.

I have been to CBT on the NHS before in Glasgow and it was not for me I was rushed in and out and it felt like a tick exercise so I paid for two separate private therapists again I just didn’t make a connection. I had about 20 sessions in total so did try and was honest but felt that I was told to focus on being more assertive and confident whilst remaining calm which even after 20 sessions felt overwhlemimg and still outwith my grasp. So what I am I anxious about my life, health, family, change of routine, noise, to name a few sounds crackers right or maybe it doesn’t and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me.

Having anxiety for so long I have several defence techniques or things I do to calm and centre myself I get up and go out for a walk put my headphones keep my head down and walk for miles pushing the pram and let my mind wander I find sitting still can make my mind feel like its going crazy. The gym I like to keep fit it makes me feel good about myself I like to run longer and lift heavier weights it helps me feel good and builds my confidence for the day. Mediation not in a centre just on my phone do a full body check, get my breathing together, centre myself and battle through. I don’t do this enough life with a young baby there are not enough hours the day.

Writing this blog is a new experince, one I stopped writing as soon as I left school I hated it as I felt I was crap at it. I did’nt get diagnosed with dsylexia and processing delay until I was 29 years old. Throughout school I was called lazy and told I didnt study enough I still get upset looking at my reports I need to stop doing that. Writing this blog however somthing I am interested I enjoy the whole process.

Spending time with my family, I love spending time with Thea and my wife Harriet going out on trips outdoors getting away from the city we often go down south to see family and Thea’s Godparents I feel like a different person being in the countryside without the hustle and bustle of the city. Even though I grew up in the city I don’t know if I belong here and I think about that often maybe too much. I also had ME (Chroinc Fatigue) for a number of years leading to a hopsital stay two weeks after my wedding, my healh plays on my mind most days but I will save that journey for another blog post im going off course now.

Im due to go back to the doctors soon and feel Im ready to tackle my anxiety full on Im fed up of it being at the forefront of my life. I want to find myself and not let my anxiety control me. How will I do that I dont really know yet apart from what I have said above keep talking, do what makes me happy , take care of myself and listen to the advice of the ones I love and my doctor. It’s not all doom and gloom even by writing this I feel in a more positive frame of mind and ready for the day tomorrow. Dont suffer in silence millions of people are going through the same issues if you dont talk it will eat you up and you can go to some very dark places which I dont want anyone to go too.

Living with Anxiety

Anxiety-A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

Or Psychiatry A nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks

These are the definitions of anxiety according to the Oxford Dictionary.

So this is what I am living with but this barely scratches the surface.

Anxiety can creep up on you or hit like a bolt out of the blue. Your not safe anywhere even your own bed. My sleeping for several months was a very unpleasant experience I just could not drift off. My mind would be full of thoughts bouncing around like lighting bolts. What was i thinking about anything and everything from when was I going to get the shopping done to what if the traffic was bad in the morning. This may not sound important but my this resulted in my body tensing up so much my back would ache,my teeth would start to grind and I would sweat uncontrollably. I don’t know how I got to sleep but I did only to wake up with my clothes soaked in blind panic that I may have slept in. Now I have baby Thea I know that will never happen. So you could say i was worried and stressed about life in general which can bring on anxiety but just because you have rough idea what is causing it doesn’t mean you can control it.

Another major symptom of anxiety was dread as bad as doomsday. For myself this was social events if I had a social event to go to I was a nightmare I got cranky like really cranky I was not nice to be round. I hated myself for feeling this way that I could not go out enjoy myself with my wife. I would then hate myself as I would become snappy to the ones closest to me it was a horrible cycle. I then became embarrassed and my self esteem would drop as I couldn’t bring myself to tell people how I really felt I would beat myself up and all that does is make the situation worse and your mental health worse.

You cant get out of all social events so here is how an evening with Tony would go. I would start to get ready several hrs before the event. Then pace around the house like a man off to court not a party. I may change my outfit several times as I would worry I might have same outfit on as somebody else. I could only wear white or black as I was so uptight I could not stop sweating. The tension in my body would be unbearable like rigid and my hands cleansed. Mentally I was scared I was scared I would have nothing to say and just think of the worst scenarios possible to man. Once at these events in the earlier days I would drink to relax me that was not the answer it just fucks you up and then you feel depressed not good. Instead I would stand in the corner keeping my jacket on hoping that my wife would not leave I did not want to be alone and try to  make small talk. If it was a successful night I would persuade Harriet to leave early we wouldn’t talk and I would go off to bed in a right state being in that state of mind knackers you unlike any gym workout.

If was a bad night cue “Panic Attack” these are bad your chest feels like it is about to exploded like someone is pounding on it. These occurred when nothing bad was happening physically but mentally my head had gone. I would feel faint and dizzy and I had to get out you feel like the room is closing in on you. Tremors my hands would shake constantly as I would always be anxious and so tense they would be sore. I could see people looking at my hands and feel ashamed which just intensified the anxiety. This often lead to me being sick and generally feeling ashamed that I couldn’t enjoy myself or let go. While this is happening though all you can think about is letting everyone down. You feel overwhelmed and out of control like Alice falling through ….Anxiety gets you all over it is horrible.

So if your feeling like this you most likely have some anxiety.

What brings it on can be a number of things including:

Stress

Past or childhood experiences

Physical and Mental Health problems

Current life problems

But knowing why you have it is not going to end it.

There is several ways to get help and its easy for me to tell you about them. But when you suffer from anxiety none of these are easy. As you are having to deal with your own fears or anxieties. In my case I contacted my doctor first, well that was an experience first thing he wanted me to do was to go anti depress ends which i was not happy with as i was not depressed just scared and the side affects were terrible but they may work for you. This put me off the doctors and made my mental health go into a spiral I actually got quite angry for a while. Then a friend recommended boxing which at first was stressful I found it great for releasing tension.

Thankfully I have strong network around me and an especially strong wife who took me back to the doctors to see a different GP. Who said no way are you depressed. I opened up to her and my family and started Group Cognitive behavioural therapy on the NHS. Having anxiety and sharing to one person is hard enough to a group I thought was crazy. It was an experience you had the angry man who said he would not talk as he could not be responsible for his actions and left and 4 women taking selfies and making a Whats App group oh yeah and me having another panic attack just wanting to escape out the window. After this experience I paid for a private 1-1 therapy  this was where i started to understand my anxiety and start to cope with it. Talking about it with somebody who is not too close to you,you can break it down and realise that it is your mind playing tricks on you and your anxiety voice in your head is not real and not Mystic Meg it can not predict the future. Its not easy to open up I felt ashamed and embarrassed at first as if wasn’t good enough but as i went for more we worked through my problems and started to relax. By talking in therapy i could then have the confidence to tell my family to which they felt relieve. I still get anxious I am anxious typing this just now  what will my friends and colleagues think will it affect my job prospects.

Anxiety can hit me anywhere and everywhere walking down the street or in busy places like bars. But I can’t let it control me.

So talking helps. I have also found mindfulness/meditation to be very helpful it centres me when I panic.I still get dark thoughts but l have worked on my breathing slow it down and take control of the situation. For example I touch a table or a wall I know sounds crazy and say to myself I am fine the thoughts are in my head I am standing in a room touching a wall controlling my breathing. I use the Head space app for this in and around Glasgow there are also lots of meditation centres you can pop into after work to clear your mind and reset your body. This may not be for you as every bodies anxiety is different. But world has a major problem with mental health as the below figures show and I felt as a dad and and someone who works with children I had to speak up. Anxiety can affect anyone and are we doing enough I’m not sure but the very least we can do is talk about it and work together to help each other through it.

My anxiety is still here and will it ever totally go away I do not know, I just know by talking about, opening up and admitting I needed help it is improving.

One in 10 people in the UK are likely to have a disabling anxiety disorder during their life.

13% of adults will develop a specific form of anxiety known as a phobia during their life.

At present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety.(AnxietyUK)