Most men (and women) find it a challenge to talk openly about how they feel and how they cope, but on this World Mental Health Day I have decided to share my experience, my feelings and my thoughts.
My life has lots of different pressures and stresses. From Chairing YF and all that entails to a job that can be an emotional rollercoaster at times to my involvement in politics to friends and my personal and family life. Keeping a level head and the black dog at bay is a challenge. But I’m lucky. I’ve learnt to cope and have some amazing people around me.
Talking about emotions as a guy I always say is best done with two or three pints inside you. Just enough to lower that barrier to entry when a blokey bloke needs to get something off their chest.
Most men (and women) are pretty terrible at talking about our inside voices and what troubles us. Staying up far too much thinking and worrying or getting too easily distracted because there is too much to think about.
I have been in the deep hole before and it’s not great. It’s part of the reason I take on so much, head up and keep running - don’t look down. Fill the time. There'll be more than a few people who read this and know they do the same.
At 31 I’ve just about learnt to deal with it and whenever you see me, I’ll always be happy and chirpy because that's how I have decided to be. I’ve learnt to be honest with myself and try not take failure or what people say and think to heart. But that doesn’t always work and they’ll be days and weeks where I won’t want to get out of bed. Same with all of us.
I had it good during lockdown with a job, good flat mates, a wonderful partner, shared living space and more than enough to be getting on with the Young Fabians. But I worried for people that didn’t have all that and the extra burden it put on my friends and colleagues. Not sure I could’ve done it. Hopefully I did enough to support where I could.
The culture we live in is changing. It’s ok to talk about mental health, encouraged in fact. But that doesn’t actually help as much as we like to think it should. Life’s pressures still mount up, especially in the political world, and there are always going to be bad days or weeks. There will always be people wanting to pull you down and put pressure on you, and sometimes that’ll work because some people are just dickheads.
I have a simple response to them, get fucked.
Do me a favour and just stop. And that’s my advice to you. If you feel down because of something or someone or because you’ve had a shit day, in your head tell them to get fucked and get a life. I find it mentally helps me to move onto the next thing and even have a little laugh to myself. It took me a long time to learn to not care too much what people think. It's definitely come in handy.
Most importantly though, be honest with yourself. If you need to make changes then start small, but start nonetheless. I was 22 and had been depressed out my arse for a few years. Life seemed so shit and with a never ending stream of shittyness that just wouldn’t stop. So I decided to make some changes and take some gambles and eventually it paid off. Nearly ten years later I have a life I’ve built brick by brick that it is fair to say I enjoy. I try and live my best life. It’s not perfect but the black dog doesn’t visit as often.
If you need help, find someone who’ll listen. The person I sat down with after I had a complete breakdown in my early 20’s was my Mum and we ended up taking a drive to see an older poker friend Danny Toffell who gave a kick up the arse. Then I went to go and speak with a old guy and friend called Steve Critchley who gave me some good life advice and a bit of inspiration, which I’ve remembered simply as ‘don’t worry if you fail, everyone does. Just have a dream and shoot for it. Don't put mental barriers down.’
People are generally good, I find. And they’ll listen to a certain amount.
Remember to let yourself laugh as much as you can. Take important things and your life seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously - life is too short to think you’re god's gift. You’re not, you’re just another person and that is great. Give yourself a break, we all fuck up (I mean I fuck up a lot) and other people are bound to give you a hard time but don’t double down on it and hate yourself.
You’re amazing and you’ll do amazing things. Just keep that in your mind. And when you fuck up, just know that it will pass and to have the contrition to be humble. Good people are forgiving if you're honest with them and show you care.
Everyone copes in their own way and learning how best works for you, and addressing the root causes of unhappiness one bit at a time, are the way we all get out of it. Part of mine is to help others as much as I can and be as happy as I can be, and that is my offer to people having a hard time. I’ll always help and I’ll always listen, and if it takes two or three pints with you down the local, then that I guess I’ll just have to get the round in.
Some useful links and numbers to call, and a charity to donate to are below:
For information on support go to https://www.mind.org.uk/
Call Samaritans for help if you need then on - 116 123If you feel more comfortable you can text the Shout line on - 85258
And if you can donate, I ask you to support James’ Place - https://www.jamesplace.org.uk/get-involved/donate/
Adam Allnutt is the chair of the Young Fabians.
He tweets at @AdamAllnutt.