November 22, 2016

The human brain is the most complex, intricate and unexplainable thing in the entire universe. We know less about our own inner control tower than we do about the winds and tides, solar systems and Kim Kardashian’s sexual history. There’s your first problem right there. How can we fight an issue we don’t know enough about?

I don’t know, but I think we can use similar tactics humans have used for thousands of years to solve these challenges. Support and sharing of information. When we lived in caves and had to fight off sabretooth tigers on the daily, the only way we survived was by helping each other out. Tech companies for years have worked on the principle of sharing information whenever possible. They’re idea is that if they learn as a community, they’re entire industry benefits. When the entire industry benefits, they all benefit individually. I strongly believe that every person who adds they’re knowledge on how to cope with any strain on the mind, could potentially be saving a life. Even if by sharing your story you make someone feel a little bit less lonely in their struggle, you will have achieved something spectacular. It is in that spirit; I write this post.

I’m what you would call a neurotic person, meaning I’m more likely to experience negative emotions, like guilt, anger, jealousy, anxiety, all those awful things. Because of this predisposition, I’m at risk of developing many disorders we’ve all heard of, depression, anxiety, and actually substance abuse disorders, alcoholism etc. Also, neurotic people tend to be shy and self-conscious. Self-consciousness, confidence and self-esteem issues are what I’ve dealt with mostly. It’s a scary thing to hate yourself. If someone doesn’t like you, you tend to avoid that person. When you don’t like yourself, it feels like your living with someone you love who constantly tells you that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never be good enough and they tell you that 24/7, 365.  We all love ourselves. To the root of every person, is the belief that they can achieve great things. Somewhere along the way, we can lose that, and if you have bad self-esteem, the droning noise of negative thoughts can become overwhelming, where those thoughts start to dominate your consciousness. If you feel that way about yourself, no amount of compliments, reassurances or even achievements can convince you of your worth.

Compliments appear as ironic insults, reassurances sound like well-intentioned condescension signifying nothing and achievements only serve to remind you of what you haven’t done. Your relationships can begin to deteriorate as well. It makes sense that if you don’t like being with you, why would anyone want to be around you. You get back what you put into this world, and whether you know it or not, when you’re uncomfortable in your own soul, you are broadcasting that to everyone you know. They feel that energy; they sense it in you if it isn’t clear by your behaviour.  For me, when these feelings come on, I tend to retreat into silence, afraid of my life if I speak ill let slip how I feel. I want to live in a society where a few lads are having pints and one goes; “ye, no, just a bit off like, not feeling too good about myself at the minute”, and his mates don’t slag him, or even worse, sit in festering awkwardness. My hope is one day those men will have the compassion to say, “sure, where here for you if you ever want to talk, we all go through it”. That’s what we have to work towards, but we’ll never get there if were not really honest about the current state of male to male discourse. I’m as guilty as anyone for this, but lads we have to be real here, we hate showing weakness, and almost as bad, we can’t tolerate weakness.  It’s not all our fault. Anthropologists would say we’re genetically and socially hardwired to display toughness and dominance. Ok, but it’s not helping. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. A cold, jarring fact. Also 75 percent of people who take their own life are male, meaning guys are three times more likely to commit suicide than girls. So, the gender that struggles to show their emotions, never mind talking about them, is killing themselves three times more than the other.  That’s a cut and dry correlation there fellas.

Here’s the good news. We can do something about this. I don’t have to feel horrible about myself forever, I can do something about it, we all can. These are the things that have helped me cope with my challenges, I hope they help.

Food and exercise

Forget your body is a temple. Your body and mind are an engine, and if you give it bad fuel and don’t turn it over often enough, it will start to break down. Eating healthier and working out will help almost immediately, and it’s something you can control. You can take that step. Training everyday can seem pointless. For most of us, no amount of arm curls, sit-ups and kale juices will make us look like Cristiano Ronaldo, but I guarantee it will make you feel better. There’s people out there, male and female, myself included, with body issues. A cursory look at Instagram ‘#b0dygoalz’ models turns people off the gym, convinced they’ll never look  like that. And they probably won’t. I’m encouraging training, not for aesthetic, but for well-being. About a year ago I stopped training for six months, and I’ve never been so low in my life. Thankfully, I’m back on track, fitter than ever, mentally and physically. Diet has a lot to do with it also. It’s not opinion, that your body hates crisps, coke, chips, chocolate, beer (basically all the good stuff), its fact. In small doses, all are harmless, however they’re clever devils are those delicious treats and consuming them makes you want more. And if your saying to yourself, ye sure I don’t get fat when I eat them so what the problem. Well, dropping your phone in water doesn’t change the look of it, but it’ll do some decent damage to its insides.


I was saying earlier that lads need to start talking more about their feelings (by the way, hardly the most miraculous revelation you’ve ever read but it still doesn’t happen so...). I believe that, but I’m also a realist and know it’s going to be a while before its totally socially acceptable. In the meantime, I think we need to encourage expression in all forms, especially in young men. I find it hard to talk about this kind of stuff, so I write. Every night I write about how I’m feeling, what happened in the day, how I could of handled things better maybe. It’s incredibly helpful for me. I play guitar as well. Gripping the axe, closing your eyes and belting out a tune like your Christy Moore at a country wedding is actually quite therapeutic. Those are my ways of expressing myself. Sport is a great form of expression. Practicing skills, training (again, I feel strongly about that) and playing with your mates is a great way to build up esteem. School of Hard Knocks, a programme on sky sports which teaches young males, with little opportunities, life lessons through rugby, has had incredible success helping many of the participants with their mental health. It can be any sport though. Art is an obvious one. Subconsciously spilling your soul onto canvas not only makes for beautiful creations, but it allows people an avenue to get their feelings off their chest in a way that’s comfortable for them. Kids, finally, are seeing that art and artistic expression is cool. That’s important, it shouldn’t have to be seen as cool but it’s helpful. It saddens me when I think of some of the painters, actors, singers this world lost because being an artist was considered ‘gay’. What a horrific notion. I believed it when I was a kid. Thankfully, that trope is a dying one, and participation in drama classes etc. by boys is skyrocketing. It can only help our society if people express themselves more. It’s definitely helped me.

So that’s my two cents.  I’m still finding out little tips here and there to get me through the day.  Feelings of depression and anxiety are seldom. I struggle daily with my self-esteem, but it keeps getting better. I titled this post, fantastic beasts and how I cope with them. I want to focus on that first bit, fantastic beasts. Mental health challenges are just that; challenges. They are difficult, require hard work and discipline and often take a long time to overcome. However, most challenges have rewards at the end. The carrot at the end of the mental health stick, is priceless. Once you’ve been to the bottom of the well and come back, you gain this incredible perspective on life. you begin to appreciate family, and their unconditional love. You become more tolerant, loving and helpful of others because you wish only to make others feel how you feel. Furthermore, you realise the same issue you had, that fantastic beast that lives inside you, can become fuel for success. The same problems you have, are often what make you unique and special, and if we learn to love the beast within, we gain power beyond measure. So, walk tall, and know that you’re not alone.

To borrow a phrase from the King, Kendrick Lamar:

I dream of reality’s peace,

I blow steam in the face of the beast,

The sky could fall down, the wind could cry now

The strong in me, I still smile.

I love myself

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