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'It overwhelms me totally. I physically shake. The tone of my voice changes'

Few men interpret anxiety as a mental health disorder or believe they have this condition, writes Neil Kelders.

Neil Kelders Personal trainer and See Change ambassador

IT’S LIKE AN unwanted guest popping up anytime, anywhere. It overwhelms me totally, both body and mind. It builds. Negative thoughts accelerate as does my heart rate. I physically shake, the tone of my voice changes. It just keeps building. I become completely on edge. I can’t sit still.

When this happens, I feel that if I don’t physically move it will become progressively worse. My feet tingle, my mind is racing. Exhausted my focus wanes, and – bang – the day is gone. Welcome to anxiety.

Depression and anxiety

Over 21 years I suffered at the hands of both depression and anxiety. I know am not alone in this – but many of us are suffering silently – either due to lack of awareness and education around the topic or due to stigma.

Interestingly according to a recent poll commissioned by See Change, as part of their Green Ribbon campaign, men are significantly less likely to link mental health difficulties with anxiety compared to women.  55% of men link anxiety with mental health difficulties compared to 73% of women.

That’s a difference of 18%. On average, the male/female divide on other mental health difficulties was just 8%.

This is very interesting because let me tell you this, anxiety is just as crippling as depression. With anxiety, however, hiding under the darkness of your duvet doesn’t help. Exhausted you just try to ride it out, however long it may be.

Anxiety is a mental health difficulty

Many of my days have been lost to anxiety. It is however, very understandable as I too, initially, never linked my mental health difficulties to anxiety. So what does prevent men identifying anxiety as a mental health difficulty?

Looking back on it, I never considered myself having anxiety, again as I explore why, a few ideas spring to mind.

  • It was overshadowed by my depression. I was so low for so long, depression was all I knew.
  • If I was to have a mental illness, well it seemed more ‘acceptable’ or ‘manly’ for me to have depression. Anxiety is an issue we assume females have. How wrong was I?
  • I probably misinterpreted it as stress. An easy mistake to make.

What’s the difference?

On the last point, you may be asking, as I did, what’s the difference? How is anxiety different to just feeling stressed or worried?

Well in a nutshell anxious feelings are a normal reaction to a high-pressure situation – for example, meeting work deadlines, sitting exams or speaking in public. However, for some people (as has been the case with me) these anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue long after the stressful event has passed.

These anxious feelings can seem uncontrollable and can make it hard to cope with daily life.

So it is no surprise to me that, according to the See Change’s recent poll on mental health literacy, so few men interpret anxiety as a mental health disorder or believe they have this condition.

A new me

Since I unmasked my true mental health and revealed about my depression and anxiety I have grown as a person. It has opened me up to a new life, a new me, something I never thought possible. It is far more important for me to look after myself than to be worrying about what people or society may think.

You may be thinking this is easy for me to say, but I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth, I struggled alone for over 20 years, I wanted to end it all.

Now, being open and able to talk about my issues has served me well and inspires me to go on and look forward to my future, now that I have one. It’s time to accept and talk.

Neil Kelders is a personal trainer and See Change ambassador.

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About the author:

Neil Kelders  / Personal trainer and See Change ambassador

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