Mental health first aid kit – By @currantjones
By Tommy Currant
Mental health first aid kit
I’ve had two bad periods of anxiety in my life.
The first was in the first week of January a few years ago. I found out that someone I liked had slept with someone else. A relatively small trigger but what followed was a week of an elevated heart rate, a constant feeling of sickness and a lingering sense of fear. The worse I felt, the less I did and the more I retreated into myself. At the end of the week my sports club reopened and I went and trained for the first time in several weeks. By the end of the session I realised I felt normal again. I felt like me for the first time in a week.
Horrible experience survived, coping mechanism discovered.
The next experience I had came earlier this year. At after-work drinks I insulted my boss. What I thought was drunken candour was taken very poorly. I went into work the next day but over the weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My heart rate increased, my breath caught. I took Monday off and tried to regroup. I’d beaten this thing once before, I knew what to do. I went to the gym and an hour later I asked myself how I felt. Still nervy, still scared. Well damn, time to try something else.
I picked up my journal which I hadn’t written in for a few months. I wrote down everything I was worried about, big and small, and when I was finished the weight on chest felt slightly lighter. New horrible experience, new tool in my mental health first aid kit.
I’ve come to a new stage in my anxiety journey, one that has arrived with the SCA. Several times a week, often on a Sunday afternoon, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours, I start to get anxious. Given that I’ve dealt with anxiety before I shouldn’t have any problem dealing with these little hiccups but that isn’t how mental health works. My anxiety paralyses me into inaction. The thoughts echoing in my head rob me of some of my rationality. I don’t do the obvious thing. Until I do, of course.
Time management has helped a lot, particularly having a calendar with a precisely scheduled day. I don’t have to think about practising mindfulness or going for a run or writing in my journal because my smartwatch buzzes and tells me to do it. It’s not foolproof. My brain still gets overloaded sometimes. I’ll snap back an answer to a simple question, I’ll feel like crying during Bake Off. All of this, I have decided, is part of the SCA learning experience, or at the very least, my SCA learning experience.
By the end of this year I hope I can make some slightly better ads and I can deal slightly better with the anxiety making those ads causes.