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Liam shares how heading home and taking the time to reflect in the hills of Pembrokeshire helped him to learn about his own mental health and make changes to improve himself because of it.

I’ve always been too hard on myself. Always expected too much from myself. Always tried to hide my weaknesses.

I suffer from anxiety, depression and self consciousness (I have a weird thing that I can’t leave the house without doing my hair – its a fundamental), but for years I was too ‘man enough’ to admit any of these sufferings to the most important person, me! My inner thoughts kept telling me to pull myself together.

I spent years unhappy, living in a city I resented because I was only there for work.

Which is all my life was: work. When I wasn’t working my release was alcohol until I dropped, never an alcoholic, but binge alcoholism. With this came poor decision making, which led to mistakes, constant worry and an empty pocket. This ultimately led to what many term, a break down.

2016 was where the lobster shell cracked, I went numb and gave up. Mr Workaholic, Mr Normal, Mr Strong was now Mr Vulnerable. I was away from home and felt like I was finishing last in the rat race.

I missed my home, the lovely Pembrokeshire in Wales. It’s where you’ll find some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, a fresh sea breeze, and in my case, family and childhood friends. So that’s where I headed to get away from the City and rebuild.

I’m lucky enough to have a family who instantly opened themselves up to support me.

No stigma, no awkwardness, just normal open conversations about how I was feeling and guidance on what I could do. Their only instruction: switch off and relax! With the mother’s home cooked food, the family dogs showing my constant love and an abundance of coastal walks on my doorstep I had the perfect environment to rebuild. And I did just that.

Me and my step father went on coastal walks for 5 days straight. We’d chat, we’d laugh, and we’d……… REFLECT. Sometimes we’d walk for miles without a word, but then we’d suddenly get into a deep conversation about feelings, experiences and coping strategies.

This. Was. The. Turning. Point.

After one week I felt mentally cleansed and ready to make some changes. Firstly, I asked myself what I could have done differently? (But there it is again!!! The being too hard on yourself. How about a pat on the back for trying to fight the demons inside for so long, alone with little support. Yeah! That’s better!)

Instead of criticising myself for what I hadn’t done I changed my mindset (through support and counselling) to reflecting on what I had done and building the foundations of a better life. But where would I reflect? It started on the Pembrokeshire coastline, in peace and in beauty. Unfortunately that wasn’t on my doorstep so I needed a plan.

Where do I reflect now? Well, I’ve got a list: before I fall asleep at night, on my morning commute, through talking to people who care, when I’m helping people who are interested. I could go on…

I still work a lot, I still have anxious days, I still get depressed and I still do my hair before I leave the comfort of my own home. But I’ve taking the pressure off myself by reflecting everyday on what I have done rather than what I haven’t. It’s now a habit and we are all capable of introducing this tiny habit into our lives. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive with mental health, the ability to spot the signs and prepare yourself for the challenging periods. Reflect, reflect and reflect some more!

 

If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to cai.burton@freedomofmind.org.uk

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.


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