*I seek not sympathy nor praise. If anything this is a selfish act, dealing with something partially unfinished. If it helps in any way…great.
This is the first of two times in this piece you’ll read this…I’m just a guy who works in a gym writing some stuff. That’s it.
One of my many flaws is I’m quite introvert when it comes to talking about my past and feelings and stuff (I am a man).
Paradoxically, I did just about enough to get myself out of a hole I was in many years ago.
I’m 34 soon, every time my birthday comes around it reminds me of the ones I pretty much have no memories of – fond or otherwise (this isn’t a bad thing, it makes me EXTREMELY grateful for the people I have around me now).
I can’t remember a whole lot from my early 20’s.
You’re probably thinking ‘me neither, I did quite a lot of partying back then’. It’s mostly for different reasons though, albeit I did have a few drinks back in the day as well.
I can remember some things pretty vividly IF I sit down and really try to focus and think back, but it’s not my favourite thing to do. For me, those years should be THE BEST of your life. The world is at your feet, you’ve got very few responsibilities and a wide circle of friends.
If you roll the dice and don’t like the number that comes up – roll again.
Realistically, as you get older you can’t re-roll so much. Damn you adult responsibility.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles about ‘life flipping things’, and ‘cold hard slaps in the face’. When you’re a 20 year kid, and that’s what you are at 20, life is meant to be for living.
You’re in your prime, at your most confident right?
I don’t have any pictures of me traveling the world at that age. I don’t really have any pictures of anything from that time (yes, there were cameras around then). I remember some stuff.
I remember the most crippling, unbearable state of anxiety having me by the throat 24 hours a day.
No peace. No breaks. No let up.
An unrelenting feeling of despair. Not ‘I feel down on myself’….. just overwhelming, utter despair.
I remember not being able to leave my room for months (I can’t put an exact figure on things as it’s something I don’t try to think about too hard).
I remember dropping out of college and taking extended leave from work.
I remember not being able to look anyone in the eye when I talked to them. This was crushing for me, because nothing says ‘something is really wrong with that person’ more than complete lack of eye contact.
I remember shaving my own head because I couldn’t step outside to go get a hair cut. This might not sound like a big deal (I’ve shaved my head before when I didn’t have the price of a haircut) but it basically meant crowds, queues, people.
I remember the devastating effect it had on my parents. ‘Did we do something wrong?’…it was never said, but I’m pretty sure it’s all they thought about.
Anxiety and depression is a fucked up thing, and it’s something I think will touch everyone at some stage in their life.
It’s also highly personal, and while I’m telling you part of my story it’s important to understand what I’m describing is not a solution to anyone’s problem.
Everybody suffers in their own way, everybody’s path to recovery is different. I’m just a guy who works in a gym and is writing some stuff about what happened to me.
I think everybody is slightly damaged in some way. Don’t be offended by that.
You didn’t have great parents and your upbringing was tough.
Your parents were great, but maybe you got bullied in school.
Life was great, but then someone broke your heart.
Life was great, love was great, then someone who meant a great deal to you passed away.
There’s some trauma somewhere that will have a profound effect on who you are. We all carry emotional scars.
I remember saying to myself every single day that I would do everything I possibly could to help myself get better. This is important.
It was my key to overcoming everything. All the support in the world will mean nothing unless you help yourself.
This is how I felt, as much as it was like trying to push against a tsunami of grief every second of every day.
I did have, and needed, great support though. My parents, close friends, the support of a counsellor and to a small extent medication helped.
I remember the first haircut I went to get after I had recovered in some way.
The complete and utter fear over a haircut.
One of the worst things about anxiety attacks is the fear of having one in front of people who don’t understand what they are. What could be worse? – yes, in front of a bunch of people in a small room.
I had gone from 24/7 anxiety to actually being able to go outside. I somehow convinced myself the ‘patchy, self shaved head’ look was out.
Maybe a hair cut would make me feel 1% better about myself? I had to start somewhere.
Every second in that chair seemed like an hour. The barber making small talk, me replying to every single thing with a one word answer. ‘Tough crowd’, I’m sure he thought.
I couldn’t look myself in the eye in the mirror.
It got to the point where I couldn’t handle it and started to panic BADLY. To anyone who doesn’t understand this roughly translates to ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE IMMEDIATELY AND AWAY FROM PEOPLE/I’M GOING TO DIE’.
Just as I went to get up and run out (mid haircut) a car alarm went off outside. I was half way out of the chair when the guy cutting my hair said ‘is that your car?’, assuming it was mine and I wanted to go switch it off.
Somehow, and I don’t know how, I paused for about 5 seconds (halfway out of the chair) and the alarm stopped. It took absolutely EVERYTHING from every single piece of me as a human being to sit back down and say ‘yeah, it’s grand now’.
It wasn’t my car.
If you think that moment magically cured me of everything you’re wrong. I’d say my next 50 haircuts were the same, and I’d say every time the guy saw me coming he thought ‘here’s the weird nervous guy’.
I told him years later what had been going on. I never mentioned the car alarm bit, just the trouble I’d been going through and how hard it was to sit in that seat for 15 minutes. He laughed when I told him about shaving my head at home. Not in a bad way, we were having a laugh about the whole situation!
Talking heals, no matter how trivial it may seem.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to get to the point where I recovered, but then to be able to tell that guy what I’d been going through – relaxed, calm, happy, sitting in the same chair.
It may seem like a stupid story, but that memory will stay with me until I’m in the ground.
I still get my hair cut in the same place. I go in every week. Yep, seven days rarely pass between haircuts for me.
Some of my friends rib me over this ‘you’re mad… you don’t need one, it’s a waste of money’ etc.
Maybe I don’t need one….but maybe it’s something I need to do. Maybe it makes me feel 1% better.
I look back and think that person, or that shell of a person, has come so far since that point 14 years ago.
I’m pretty sure I know what happened to trigger my downfall. Whatever happened sent me on a path to happiness, to an appreciation of the people who matter and the things that matter.
Today, life is good.
I still get days where I get anxious. Yesterday was probably the worst day in years (it made me sit down and write this).
But I own it now.
The road to recovery can be long, but you have to want to walk it. If you’re lucky like I was, you won’t be alone on that arduous trek.
If you have something you need to get sorted my advice would be ….talk to someone you know cares about you.
Life is short, remember that. It should play a huge part in making decisions.
Some day you’ll be the one sitting in the chair getting your hair cut…calm, relaxed, happy.
You’ll look yourself in the eye and think …. ‘I won’.